Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What can we learn about teaching and learning from Randy Pausch?

picture of a brick wall with graffiti flowers painted on it
I found it difficult to listen to Randy Pausch's "last lecture" from the viewpoint of an educator. When you are listening to someone speak about their life while knowing that they only have a few short months to live, it's hard to listen from any other perspective than that of simply a human being who's trying to gain some tiny bit of knowledge about how to better live this life, but I think the point Randy made most clearly that can be applied to all areas of life is to just have fun! No matter what you are doing, have fun!

I think, for him, a part of having fun was doing the "head fake," and I can see why. Isn't that the best way to learn? If you could learn really difficult material and just think you're having fun, wouldn't you want to do it that way? That presents a challenge for educators. How can we make learning fun for our students? I think there are several ways we can do this, but first we need to get to know our students and what interests them. Once you are armed with that knowledge, you can begin to find ways to incorporate their interests into lessons, and before you know it, you're all having fun!

Another lesson we can learn about teaching from Randy Pausch is not to set the bar too low for our students. Like him, I think I'd be blown away by what students can produce by giving them more freedom and not setting limits for them. I am most excited about this theory because I found myself always giving very specific directions about what I wanted my students to produce and that's exactly what I got! Sometimes, I didn't even get that much! What if I hadn't told them what to give me? What could they have done? I'm excited to see!

Finally, I think Pausch's notion of "hitting brick walls" happens to the best of us. We've all hit that brick wall, but that doesn't mean we should stop pursuing our dreams. Brick walls are there to separate those who really want it from those who sort of want it. Brick walls build character and strength, and these are also the kinds of lessons we can help our students learn.

When faced with brick walls, we should spray them with graffiti and keep going! Now, that's having fun and showing that brick wall a thing or two! I think Randy Pausch would have agreed!


  1. Chea,

    I love, love, love your idea of spray painting brick walls! What a great way to look at a problem.

    The conundrum here is giving students the freedom to choose more while still maintaining a clear rubric and position. I enjoy giving my students the opportunity to learn while being creative. I love what they can and do produce. They are so imaginative. They can (and sometimes do) do anything!

    Great post! I love Randy's outlook too!

  2. Thank you, Gina! Randy did have a great outlook. Attitude has a lot to do with our success or failure. I also agree with you on the conundrum. Giving more freedom to students is a tricky thing to do and will probably require some experimenting and a lot of patience from the teacher! :)

  3. Chea,
    I really enjoyed your blog post. I laughed when you mention spray painting the brick walls. I think we all should have that outlook on life. I also agree that as educators we should make learning fun for students. When students enter the classroom everyday should be a new adventure for them. As educators, we should work hard day and night to make sure that our students are enjoying learning.

    We should all follow Randy's example and enjoy life everyday no matter what comes our way.

    1. T'Keyan, thank you for your comment. Don't forget to have some fun among all that working "day and night" stuff you mentioned! ;)

  4. You are the first person in any EDM class to suggest a spray can for brick walls! :)

    1. Dr. Strange, where's the "like" button? :)