Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blog Post 6

What is the "head fake" teaching method espoused by Randy Pausch? He explains with humorous enthusiasm in his last lecture entitled Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. His last because unfortunately Pausch died of pancreatic cancer in July of 2008 at a young 47. This "last" lecture was given September 18, 2007 at Carnegie Mellon University where he was a professor of computer science. Although he spins a wonderful tale of how-I-got-to-where-I-am, his final comments give away the head fake. And you will have to listen to find out.

I can however talk about the head fake approach. I suspect this is Dr. Strange's approach as well. The idea is to have fun while you learn. Not that simple to implement. One of the ways that Pausch did it was to create a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon composed of five projects in two years in teams creating virtual worlds. In the process, you learned computer coding. His legacy project is Alice v3.0 teaching javascript via movie scripts. Over the years at Carnegie, Pausch devised classes that demanded more out of students while giving them free reign to create. My favorite story he shared was in the first year of undergraduate work, he had his students do a two-week team project to create a virtual world. They exceeded his expectations. What could he tell them to do next? He contacted his mentor Andy Van Dam and explained his dilemma. Van Dam told him to tell them great job, now go do something better.

The one piece of advice Pausch shared that resonated with me was brick walls are there to show us our dedication to our childhood dreams. In other words, just how much do you want that dream. In each of the six childhood dreams Pausch spoke about, he described the brick walls he ran into trying to accomplish them and how he got around those brick walls. My favorite was how his dream changed from being Captain Kirk to meeting Captain Kirk. If you hang in there, it is amazing how your dreams will come true, albeit in ways you cannot first imagine.

To give students free reign to create while teaching them something worth knowing takes one very special characteristic that Pausch exemplified. You have to want to share what you know, and be open to what may happen, like the student who used a pretty cheesy stunt to "apologize" for his virtual world project crashing. Pausch's delight in relating this story touched me. Perhaps to me his best legacy. He loved being a mentor to his students. His belief that if you do good things, good things come back around to you influenced his students to bust through their brick walls.

As an educator, I want my students to want to learn. It is my deeply held belief that my job is to point them in the right direction and then stand back and see what they can accomplish. Pausch's last lecture can be a virtual mentor for me since he obviously walked that talk.


  1. Thorough, thoughtful, well done! Thanks.

  2. Terri,
    Dr. Pausch was a well-spoken man. Everything he said he didn't say out of a theoretical inkling of its working - he said it from experience. He worked hard to achieve his dreams - well, as close as he could get on some - and along the way he learned valuable lessons to pass on. Not only did he work to achieve something great at Carnegie Mellon(in the Entertainment Technology Center), but his life lessons of doing the right thing, and being a good person left an enormous legacy. We should strive to emulate him - not only for ourselves, but for others in our lives. Great post!

  3. Hello Terri,
    I enjoyed reading your blog on Randy Pausch. It is unfortunate that this video was his last. Could you imagine how much more information he could have provided to future students and teachers? I can also agree that “head faking” is an effective way of teaching students certain values without directly addresses them and I do agree that Dr. Strange is using this technique to ensure that his students learn valuable information concerning the use of technologies in the classroom. Furthermore, I have the same opinion as you when it comes to a brick wall. These walls need to come down so that we can overcome any obstacle that is in our way.