Audio-Visual Communication Review 5 - UMdrive

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Seels (1989) states that educational technology "has developed through
the contributions of many disciplines". The roots of the instructional design
movement can be traced back to the systems approach used during
World War II for military training. One of the pioneers of this movement
was James Finn. Seels claims that he:

was a father of the instructional design movement
because he linked the theory of systems design to
educational technology, and thus encouraged the
integrated growth of these related fields of study. It was
Finn who made educational technologists aware that
technology was as much a process as a piece of
" .
This is a seminal statement from James Finn in 1960, and why he is sometimes
considered the father of Instructional design and technology and why I chose him as
an important IDT leader.

A teacher shortage, large classes and need for quality instruction forced
education into mass instructional technology. Instructional technology is
governed by such systems as television and films which can reach more
students with fewer teachers. There is a trend toward individual instruction
utilizing teaching machines. If a combination of instructional technology
and individual instruction is formed, the teacher and the school system
could be eliminated. Future developments of instructional technology
could be…teaching machine programs moving from the verbal type
program to the audiovisual-branching type program, in which the student
can select additional material for further explanation if the machine informs
him of this need. Airplanes carrying multiple television transmitters to
broadcast signals over greater distances than conventional tower
transmission systems. This current technological trend should be
controlled so that the proper objectives may be served with the human
being remaining central in the process. The concept of negative entropy
will then hold. The educational system will become highly organized and
less random in nature.”


Finn (third from left) and fellow USC buddies in the late 1950’s.
James Donald Finn was born in Great Falls, Montana in 1915.
He received his M.A. degree from Colorado State College of
Education. He received further graduate study in educational
radio and motion pictures at several institutions and research
centers prior to World War II. After the war, he received his
Ph.D. in Education at Ohio State University. He later resided
in Whittier, California.
During WWII, Finn served as Chief, Instructional Aids Service
and Assistant Director for Training for the Command and
General Staff School at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
James Finn was Professor of Education at the University of
Southern California from 1949-1969. He was Chairman of the
Instructional Technology Department.
He had more than 100 publications and his “The Audio Visual
Equipment Manual”(1957).
McBeath, Ronald J., ed. (1972)
Extended Education through
Technology, Selected Writings by James D. Finn on
Instructional Technology
, Association for Educational
Communications & Technology.
James Finn’s early career dealt more with the mechanics of
media and equipment, and making sure everyone knew how
to operate their audio-visual machines. His “The Audio-Visual
Equipment Manual” was a standard.
Finn was an early advocate of the integration of instruction
and technology. He later wrote on systems design and
instructional technology. He started many debates that
continue today. He proposed mass instruction delivered at
the same time before the invention of the internet. He
proposed standardization and mass storage of instructional
media. He was literate in field of education, world literature,
history, and several sciences.
James Finn was a prolific writer and lecturer for several
decades. He was as advocate for the power of education in
American society. Finn was a futurist, and produced a great
deal of the vision that has carried our field forward in the last
50 years.
Public Life
James Finn directed several national studies in the 1960’s.
The Technological Development Project of the national
Education Association was designed to investigate and assess
technological developments and trends in education, and was
followed by the Instructional Technology and Media Project.
Both projects were funded by the U.S. Office of Education.
James Finn also developed the National Information Center in
Educational Media, which prototyped instruction materials for
the Job Corps Training Centers.
He also worked with many state departments, universities
and teachers’ associations and school districts as a consultant
in instructional technology.
McBeath, Ronald J., ed. (1972)
Extended Education through
Technology, Selected Writings by James D. Finn on
Instructional Technology
, Association for Educational
Communications & Technology.
Scholarly work
Finn wrote, taught and lectured during the period of Sputnik,
the introduction of B.F. Skinner’s behaviorism, and the post
war baby boom. He responded to these social phenomenon.

The following citations are taken from a number of James
Finn’s works.
Why Johnny Can’t Read
made a huge impact on American
society and education. It’s author, Rudolf Flesch, wrote about
many issues on how education was conducted in America and
how children in European education were two years ahead of
American children.
Finn said the pragmatic test of any method of teaching
reading ought to be: Does reading help the student achieve
constantly greater meaning and maintain his interest so that
he becomes increasingly independent? Teaching tools will
help do this job, phonetic analysis will help to do it, sight
methods will help to do it. Everybody ought to get off their
respective soap boxes and get to work.
Finn, J. (1955) The Sound and the Fury of Rudolf Flesch.
Teaching Tools,

(3), 91.
James Finn wrote a series of articles from 1957 through
1960, entitled “Automation and education”. He was
responding to several impacts in American society. The
most notable were the launch of Sputnik by Russia and the
American post war baby boom.
It was widely felt that America needed to respond to
Sputnik with better math and science education. At the
same time, because of the baby boom, there was school
crowding and a teacher shortage.
Finn, James ( 1957). Automation and education, 1. General
Audio-Visual Communication Review 5
(1), 343-360.
In his first article of this series, Finn describes automation as
an intellectual system in 1957. He outlines five characteristics
of automation and its associated processes and systems.
These characteristics are:

The concept of systems. The education process is a set of
systems and they must be fit together, as automatically as

The flow and control of information. Information on each
step of education must be recorded and fed back into the main
system. This collective information helps future decision
making and then any alterations that must be made.

An increase in the need for wise decision making. Finn felt
that new thinking was needed to grow out of our outmoded
educational bureaucracy.

Scientific analysis and long range planning. Finn felt all
fields, including philosophy must be encouraged to develop in
this age.

High level technology. Computers and other devices must
constantly become more advanced.
Finn, James ( 1957). Automation and education, 2.
Automating the classroom.
Audio-Visual Communication
Review 5
(1), 343-360.

The good old days are gone; approached with intelligence and
zest, the days of the future will be better.”
Finn proposed major changes to American education:

The introduction of mass audiovisual experiences.

Leaving the systemic aspects of teaching to transmission
over audiovisual media, and leaving the developmental
aspects to be handled by other classroom personnel.

Large classes as audiences and then students working in
small groups.

Developing a group of master teachers to prepare and
deliver lessons via mass audiovisual transmission.

Highly systematized lessons.

Fewer regular classrooms.

Raising the quality of teaching because the master teachers
will be the experts, in content and presentation; and possess
specialized knowledge not available to the line teacher.
Finn, James ( 1960). Automation and education, 3.
Technology and the instructional process.
Communication Review 8
(1), 5-26.
Technology is a process and a way of thinking.
The American educational system taken as a whole may be
seen as a society.

Trends toward technologies of mass and individual

Programming for teaching machines will move from the
verbal Socratic-Skinner type to the audiovisual-branching type.
◊ Instantaneous broadcasting of instruction was tested at this
time. In 1960, this was referred to as stratovision. Finn also
predicted video film that was instantly developed, and an
automatic classroom controlled by the teacher.
Audiovisual technology is now re-defined as learning
Finn, J. (1961). The Tradition in the Iron Mask.
Audiovisual Instruction,

(6) 238-243.
Finn used the novel “Man in the Iron Mask” as a euphemism
for the relationship between the field of Instructional
Technology and Education.
Instructional Technology is the field in the Iron Mask. Finn is
saying that audiovisual tradition is the victim of its dictatorial
twin, the literary tradition.
Literary tradition states that if it
isn’t in print, it is worthless.
He stated that words alone and literary sensibility will never
solve our serious educational problems. “We must turn to
technology for the job. We don’t want to turn people or
schools into automatons and factories. We must wield
technology to help solve the problems of education.”.
Finn, James (1965). Instructional Technology.
Instruction 10
(3), 192-194.
Finn (1965), in an article entitled “Instructional Technology”,
explained that educational media can be thought of as existing in
several categories or levels. These are:

The tool level.

The data level.

The behavior control level.

The meaning level.

The research level.

The systems level.
Finn, James (1966). The emerging technology of education.
Educational implications of Technological Change, Appendix
Volume 4
. Technology and the American Economy. Studies
prepared for the National Commission on Technology,
Automation, and Economic Progress.
Finn explained the current differing theories of learning. Brunner,
was stressing methods of discovery or inquiry and Skinner’s
view was that a learner ‘s behavior was shaped by positive
reinforcement administered under certain contingencies and
following certain schedules.
Finn also covered the cybernetic viewpoint and neurophysiology
studies that stressed electrochemical processes and memory.
Technology could not follow any single theory of learning or
instruction, but must be adaptive.
Finn went on to predicted standardization of materials, more
developments in hardware, including computer interfaces,
advances in information storage and retrieval, and more
breakthroughs in educational psychology and methodology.
Finn felt our field was at a crossroads and must prepare for the
Finn suggested the field’s name be changed to
instructional technology
Finn, James (1967). A possible model for considering the use of
media in higher education.
AV Communication Review, 15
James Finn passed
away in 1969.
Finn, James (1957). “The Audio Visual Equipment Manual”.
Finn, J. (1961). The Tradition in the Iron Mask.

(6) 238-243.
Finn, J. (1955) The Sound and the Fury of Rudolf Flesch.
Tools, 2
(3), 91.
Flesch, Rudolf.
Why Johnny Can't Read—and What You Can Do
About It.
New York: Harper, 1955. Reprint, Harper and Row, 1986,
Finn, J. (1957). Automation and education 1. General aspects.
Audio-Visual communication Review, 5
(1), 343-360.
Finn, J. (1957). Automation and Education, 2. Automatizing the
Classroom-Background of the effort,
Audio-Visual Communication
Review 5
(2), 451-467.
Finn, J. (1960). Automation and Education, 3. Technology and the
Instructional Process.
Audiovisual Communication Review, 8
McBeath, Ronald J., ed. (1972)
Extended Education through
Technology, Selected Writings by James D. Finn on Instructional
, Association for Educational Communications &
Seels, Barbara (1989). The instructional design movement in
educational technology.
Educational Technology, 29
(May), 11-15.