Sunday, January 2, 2011

2013 TKR: Education: The Secret of the Instruction Manual

If you want to keep a secret, 
put it in the instruction manual
When all else fails, read the instructions. 
This advice is reassuring. At least to those of us who don’t read the instructions until we have to. Here, in an effort to shed some light on thinkering, I present the four methods of handling the instructions when some assembly is required.
Use your head! They always tell you that. They never tell you how
1. Leave the instructions in the box. Put the thing together the way you think it goes. See if it works. Throw away the box. Wonder what you did with the instructions.
2. Carefully take the instructions out of the box. Put them on a nearby table. Put your coffee mug or beer on them. Complete the assembly as above. Look around for any leftover parts. See if the instructions tell you what you should have done with the leftover parts. If possible, do what they say.
3. Carefully read the instructions from beginning to end. Begin the assembly. Realize that you have no idea what the instructions told you to do with the parts you now have in your hands. Be mildly irritated at the implication that either you can’t understand what you read or the instructions are not clear. Conclude that the instructions are not clear and put them on the nearby table. Put your beer or coffee mug on them. Complete the assembly as in Method 2. As a variation, spill your coffee or beer on the instructions.
4. Look over the parts. Some parts will look as if they fit to each other. Look through the instructions for suggestions about those parts. See if the instructions have anything useful to say about other parts you see lying around. Put together some of the parts where you and the instructions agree. Then look for more parts. If you run out of parts at the same time you run out of instructions, you win.
You may have noticed that the experience points up the limitations of the talking channel.  You can read those instructions.  You feel that they know what they say.  But you soon recognize that you can't easily translate the instructions into action.  
What is wrong is the assumption that being able to talk about something means that you are able do it.  Translating talk into action demands collaboration between the part of your brain that handles talking and the parts of your brain that handle doing things.  That's where teamwork comes into the picture.
- Once you hear a lecture on swimming, you never forget what you learned about lectures.

Clue: You learn from practice. In school, if they made you sit still and listen, you learned to sit still and listen. Good preparation for watching television. Not for doing things.

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  1. This post is my favorite, so far; glad you hyperlink to your own must have read the Internet user's manual!

    1. Thanks. Curation keeps blog content alive.