Sunday, October 7, 2012
Blog Post 6
Randy Pausch's Last Lecture
Watching Randy Pausch's Last Lecture was so inspiring! Randy Pausch was a professor at Carnegie-Mellon who had cancer in his liver. He gave one last lecture on Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. He talked about each of his childhood dreams including being in zero gravity and becoming a Disney Imagineer, and how he went about achieving each of them. He then discussed how he enabled the dreams of others. Finally, he talked about lessons he learned as well as advice on how others can achieve their dreams and enable the dreams of others.
Throughout the lecture, there is a ton of great teaching advice built in. In the section of the lecture about enabling the dreams of others, Randy tells the story of a course he created at Carnegie-Mellon about building virtual worlds. It is a project based course for which students must complete a group project every two weeks. The groups change for each project. This is how students earn a Masters of Entertainment Technology two year professional degree. He emphasizes that there is no book learning in the course. To me, this seems to be an extremely effective method of teaching. Students will remember more from actually doing something instead of reading a book and memorizing facts for a test. Project based learning allows students to learn along the way and apply everything they have learned to create a finished product. In my opinion, this not only forces the students to learn the material really well, but also to learn and remember it better. As a bonus, students in Randy's classes loved what they were doing! This reminds us that learning does not have to be a chore, but rather, it can also be enjoyable.
Something that Randy did at the end of the course each semester is have students rate each other as far as contributions to the groups and easiness to work with. He then compiled each students score into a bar graph so they could see how they stacked up against each other. I think that a peer rating such as this would have far more impact on students than a teacher simply telling them they need to contribute more. This encourages self reflection, and students need to be able to do this. I think it is important for students to understand that not every single thing they do is their best work, and there is always room for improvement.
Since the course and masters program took off so successfully, it was decided to start educating kids and getting them excited about computer programming at a younger age. An Alice in Wonderland themed program was developed in order to create what Randy called a "head fake" to teach these skills to a younger crowd. The idea behind head fakes is to disguise learning with fun. I am a huge supporter of this, and I hope to incorporate this into my teaching as much as possible.
Throughout the lecture, Randy discussed running into brick walls when trying to achieve something in life. He says that these brick walls, "are there for a reason: they let us prove how badly we want things." This is great advice for teachers as well as for students. Things are not always going to go the way you hope or plan, but as the old saying says, "where there's a will, there's a way." This is something else that I think is important to instill in students not only for academics, but also for all other areas of life as well.
A piece of advice in the lecture that I found to be fantastic is to always appreciate corrections when you mess something up, because as soon as someone stops giving you corrections, it means they have given up on you. As a future teacher, I am setting a goal right now to never give up on a student. As soon as Randy said this, it made perfect sense. Especially as an elementary teacher, the kids I will be teaching will be receiving some of their first tastes of education from me, and I sure would not want to be someone who makes them think they do not have potential to be successful.
Finally, Randy gave some great advice at the end of his lecture. He first says to be good at something and work hard. I think this is great advice for teachers. Every day as a teacher is not going to be sunshine and rainbows, but I do believe that working hard at anything makes it more worthwhile and enjoyable in the long run. Next, he said, "find the best in everybody, no matter how long you have to wait for them to show it." This is of utmost importance for teachers in regards to their students. Every student is good at something, the teacher just has to figure out what that something is. Finally, he said to, "be prepared: 'luck' is where preparation meets opportunity." To me, this means that you need to prepare yourself to reach your desired goal by working really hard for it. Then when opportunity comes along, all you have to do is wait for it to happen. If it doesn't happen the first try, prepare some more and try again.
Overall, I really enjoyed watching this lecture. I gained some great insight into teaching as well as life in general. I hope to incorporate his advice and great attitude in my classroom one day.