Dr. Pausch is a Spartan.
Dr. Randy Pausch's last lecture on "Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" on the surface seems like a trip down memory lane for him. He outlines his childhood dreams and how he achieved, modified, or attempted to fulfill them throughout his life. However, underneath the entertaining and somewhat humorous anecdotes, Pausch is sharing his philosophy on teaching and learning. As part of this presentation, he talks about "enabling the dreams of others." What else are we supposed to do as educators but enable the dreams of our students? Through his experience as an educator and a student, Pausch shares with the audience some of the ways that he enabled his own dream fulfillment and the dream fulfillment of his students.
First, and most importantly, the foundation for his teaching philosophy is "head fake" learning or indirect learning. He says, "The best way to teach someone something is to have them think they are learning something else." I think that is what EDM310 is all about in a way. This class is teaching us to use non-traditional tools not only to equip students with technological skills they formally did not possess but also to incorporate the curriculum in these exercises. For example, the video we watched about using video games as a tool for education. This is what Dr. Pausch did with Project Alice; he created a tool that educators use as a "head fake" for learning. Students think they are writing a movie script but they are actually learning Java. It's an ingenious concept. Along with the concept of the "head fake" is learning something hard but having fun. I only hope that I can effectively implement this attitude into my classroom.
Secondly, he talks about freedom being the key to success in many of his projects, particularly the ETC (Entertainment Technology Center). He says, "Inspiration and the permission to dream is HUGE." I could not agree more. I think the success of Pausch's programs shows that with a little imagination and a lot of academic freedom, students will always exceed your expectations. He talks about how surprised he was at his student's Virtual Reality projects, and he was given the advice to tell them they could do better. He gave them the freedom to do what they wanted to do, and the outcome was higher quality work. When pushed harder with more leeway, students gave even better results. I found this to be truly eye-opening. I have always thought I would be an advocate of a rigid and controlled subject study. However, I now realize that I too have probably underestimated the ingenuity and ability of my future students. I know that freedom in the classroom combined with indirect learning will produce the results I want for my students: learning and inspiration.
Third, I feel a huge part of his teaching philosophy includes feedback and evaluation, although he does not explicitly highlight this in his lecture. He does say that, "The best gift an educator can give is to get someone to be self-reflective." He also talks about utilizing spreadsheets that quantify group members feedback about a particular student's agreeableness in a group setting. I have learned from this class that not only getting feedback but giving myself feedback in a constructive way enhances the quality of my work. I know that will also be the case with my future students. It is a challenge to get students (especially in middle school) to take an analytical look at their own work to evaluate its merits, but I think the effort will be well worth it. Self-evaluation is a tool that students can carry with them for the rest of their lives, academic and otherwise. I also want my students to know that I care about them, and that sometimes includes showing them what they are doing wrong.
Lastly, I wanted to include some other enlightening words of wisdom I gleaned from this video that I will incorporate in my own life and teaching philosophy. The last three points he makes in his presentation are: 1) Choose whether you are going to be Tigger or Eeyore, 2) Never lose childlike wonder, and 3)Help others. Basically he is saying to stay positive, inquisitive, and caring. As teachers I think that those three attributes can make for a great educational experience in your class. He also talks about brick walls (obstacles) in our lives demonstrating how bad we want something. If we give up the first brick wall we hit, we didn't really want it in the first place. I must ask myself if I really want to achieve the goal of making a difference in the lives of my students, because I know I will hit many major "brick walls" on the way to that goal. I will definitely remember this analogy when I get there. Thank you, Dr. Pausch. Your legacy lives on.