Monday, September 24, 2007

Make Your Childhood Dreams Come True

A parent passed this lecture on to me today and I'm so glad she did. Randy Pausch, virtual reality pioneer, gave this speech at Carnegie Mellon University last week. His inspiring words are something for all of us to consider. Here are links to the video and a published article He focuses on his childhood dreams and how all of us can make our students (and our own) dreams come true.

A Beloved Professor Delivers
The Lecture of a Lifetime

September 20, 2007;PageD1

Randy Pausch, a Carnegie Mellon University computer-science professor, was about to give a lecture Tuesday afternoon, but before he said a word, he received a standing ovation from 400 students and colleagues.

He motioned to them to sit down. "Make me earn it," he said.They had come to see him give what was billed as his "last lecture." This is a common title for talks on college campuses today. Schools such as Stanford and the University of Alabama have mounted "Last Lecture Series," in which top professors are asked to think deeply about what matters to them and to give hypothetical final talks. For the audience, the question to be mulled is this: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance?

It can be an intriguing hour, watching healthy professors consider their demise and ruminate over subjects dear to them. At the University of Northern Iowa, instructor Penny O'Connor recently titled her lecture "Get Over Yourself." At Cornell, Ellis Hanson, who teaches a course titled "Desire," spoke about sex and technology.

At Carnegie Mellon, however, Dr. Pausch's speech was more than just an academic exercise. The 46-year-old father of three has pancreatic cancer and expects to live for just a few months. His lecture, using images on a giant screen, turned out to be a rollicking and riveting journey through the lessons of his life.

He began by showing his CT scans, revealing 10 tumors on his liver. But after that, he talked about living. If anyone expected him to be morose, he said, "I'm sorry to disappoint you." He then dropped to the floor and did one-handed pushups.

Clicking through photos of himself as a boy, he talked about his childhood dreams: to win giant stuffed animals at carnivals, to walk in zero gravity, to design Disney rides, to write a World Book entry. By adulthood, he had achieved each goal. As proof, he had students carry out all the huge stuffed animals he'd won in his life, which he gave to audience members. After all, he doesn't need them anymore.

He paid tribute to his techie background. "I've experienced a deathbed conversion," he said, smiling. "I just bought a Macintosh." Flashing his rejection letters on the screen, he talked about setbacks in his career, repeating: "Brick walls are there for a reason. They let us prove how badly we want things." He encouraged us to be patient with others. "Wait long enough, and people will surprise and impress you." After showing photos of his childhood bedroom, decorated with mathematical notations he'd drawn on the walls, he said: "If your kids want to paint their bedrooms, as a favor to me, let 'em do it."

While displaying photos of his bosses and students over the years, he said that helping others fulfill their dreams is even more fun than achieving your own. He talked of requiring his students to create videogames without sex and violence. "You'd be surprised how many 19-year-old boys run out of ideas when you take those possibilities away," he said, but they all rose to the challenge.

He also saluted his parents, who let him make his childhood bedroom his domain, even if his wall etchings hurt the home's resale value. He knew his mom was proud of him when he got his Ph.D, he said, despite how she'd introduce him: "This is my son. He's a doctor, but not the kind who helps people."

He then spoke about his legacy. Considered one of the nation's foremost teachers of videogame and virtual-reality technology, he helped develop "Alice," a Carnegie Mellon software project that allows people to easily create 3-D animations. It had one million downloads in the past year, and usage is expected to soar.

"Like Moses, I get to see the Promised Land, but I don't get to step foot in it," Dr. Pausch said. "That's OK. I will live on in Alice."

Many people have given last speeches without realizing it. The day before he was killed, Martin Luther King Jr. spoke prophetically: "Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place." He talked of how he had seen the Promised Land, even though "I may not get there with you."

Dr. Pausch's lecture, in the same way, became a call to his colleagues and students to go on without him and do great things. But he was also addressing those closer to his heart.

Near the end of his talk, he had a cake brought out for his wife, whose birthday was the day before. As she cried and they embraced on stage, the audience sang "Happy Birthday," many wiping away their own tears.

Dr. Pausch's speech was taped so his children, ages 5, 2 and 1, can watch it when they're older. His last words in his last lecture were simple: "This was for my kids." Then those of us in the audience rose for one last standing ovation.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

More Reasons to Love Flickr

As if I didn't love Flickr enough already... Yes, I use to upload and post images of happenings at school. Yes, I can send the link to inquiring parents and other teachers. Yes, I love flickr toys and have made an occasional magazine cover or two. However, it was only today that I realized how great it would be for digital storytelling.

As I was compiling my digital storytelling resources, I remembered how many times a student would say to me, "I don't know what to wri-ite" in a tiny sing-songy whiny voice. I would have to run through the whole litany of, "How about a birthday party? A Kennywood ride? The first day of school?" followed by a bunch of head-shaken nos. So, today, after uploading a bunch of photos from the first weeks of school and my road trip to Fallingwater yesterday, I came across photo after photo that sparked my memory of a variety of events: baking cookies when I almost burned the house down, having my hair braided in 68 braids, going through my grandma's button box, etc, etc.

Perhaps that by having students make collages of photos that spark a memory for them might be a great way to create a storybank of ideas. I copied photos (using the Creative Commons licensing) and pasted into a powerpoint slide and then "Skitched" an image of the slide...Took 10 minutes...most of the time spent weeding through pictures. I just might make this a recurring thing...There are that many cool photos on flickr.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

National Board Certification

I'm just winding down after a marathon day filled with meetings, duties, meetings, consultations, more meetings and culminated with a 3 hour introductory class to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards--NBPTS as it is affectionately known to those who have to type and/or say it on a regular basis. Sharing the process will help me to reflect and get as much out of this intense process as I can!

The NBPTS has 5 core values--in basic terms they are: commitment to students, knowledge of content, assessment/management, reflection, and professional responsibilities. I believe these are values and skills all teachers should have (as I do) but understand that I am not strong in all five areas. This becomes the personal reason for going through this process. I know I have to work on professional reflection and managing student learning. In my role as a librarian, I feel that getting students excited to learn and providing them with tools to learn in different ways is an important job. However, I do understand that I am also responsible for moving students along and doing some progress monitoring.

Even though we have homework and the fact that the original class was supposed to be 45 minutes closer to my house, I'm looking forward to learning more about myself as a teacher and becoming the best teacher I can be.