Look what came in the mail today! Now, how do you put it together?

Be honest. When was the last time you actually read the neatly-folded, paper instructions to assemble something? In Google IT, I couldn’t recall the last time I had held a paper map. But I do remember the last time–and I mean the last time–I ever held paper directions in my hands.

My wife and I have been very blessed with generous family and friends. Before and after our first child was born, many gifts were delivered to our home. We were so grateful! However, I must confess that I had a hard time putting some of them together. In fact, sometimes I had to pause mid-assembly, and marvel at the entire process.

I’m putting together a pack-n-play and a crib.

Why was this so hard?

I was having a really hard time putting the pack-n-play together. I had to go back and reread the instructions a few times, use context clues and inferential thinking, and–believe it or not–I even asked for help after multiple fails.

It wasn’t until we were finished putting it all together that I finally realized what was happening.

Why–In today’s world–was I trying so hard to assemble a three-dimensional pack-n-play with two-dimensional instructions? I even remember holding the paper directions at an angle and feeling the other side of the paper, apparently seeking depth to guide my perspective.

Shortly thereafter, my father-in-law and I put the crib together.

And this time? You can forget reading two-dimensional directions on paper. Instead, I just googled our crib until I found an awesome how-to, youtube video.

I found it so much easier following directions through video, where I could pause, rewind, and replay, than through decoding images, step-by-step, on paper.

In my recent experiences, the medium made all the difference.

I can’t help but think of how media directly and indirectly impact student learning.

We live in the age of video–and beyond. One day, there will be no more paper instructions with still images–Just a video link on the side of the box or packaging.

And all will be well with the world.