Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

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.




2 Replies to “Some Assembly Required”

  • I had a similar issue when trying to assemble parts of my new lawnmower. While I didn’t resort to video, I did have to phone a friend and wait for help to arrive. I got as far as I could with the poorly labeled “directions”. While I am proud that I didn’t throw a tantrum out of frustration, I wonder if it’s less to do with video versus 2D instructions than just poorly written instructions. After all, comics were first implemented in the military to help soldiers know what to do in the field, despite a variety of literacy levels.


  • This is an interesting bit, Kyle, that has me thinking.

    I really DO turn to YouTube for darn near everything that I need to know how to do today — whether it is folding a dress shirt, making chicken salad, or building a deck. Those video directions are approachable and easy to access and available for darn near anything I’m learning to do.

    But I don’t CREATE those same kinds of opportunities for the kids in my classroom. Instructions and directions are still primarily in text. Now, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t tinkered with video directions — but it isn’t something that I do all the time for every lesson.

    And maybe I should……


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