Professor's Last Lecture: Part 3

We developed a bunch of things with the Fire Department of New York, a network simulator for training firefighters, using video game-ish type technology to teach people useful things. That's not bad. Companies did this strange thing. They put in writing, we promise to hire your students. I've got the EA and Activision ones here. I think there are now, how many, five? Drew knows I bet.

[Drew Davison, head of ETC-Pittsburgh, gestures with five fingers]. So there are five written agreements. I don't know of any other school that has this kind of written agreement with any company. And so that's a real statement. And these are multiple year things, so they're agreeing to hire people for summer internships that we have not admitted yet. That's a pretty strong statement about the quality of the program.

And Don, as I said, he's now, he's crazy. In a wonderful complimentary way. He's doing these things where I'm like, oh my god. He's not here tonight because he's in Singapore because there's going to be an ETC campus in Singapore. There's already one in Australia and there's going to be on in Korea. So this is becoming a global phenomenon. So I think this really speaks volumes about all the other universities. It's really true that Carnegie Mellon is the only university that can do this. We just have to do it all over the world now.

One other big success about the ETC is teaching people about feedback [puts up bar chart where students are (anonymous) listed on a scale labeled "how easy to work with" ] -- oh I hear the nervous laughter from the students. I had forgotten the delayed shock therapy effect of these bar charts. When you're taking Building Virtual Worlds, every two weeks we get peer feedback. We put that all into a big spreadsheet and at the end of the semester, you had three teammates per project, five projects, that's 15 data points, that's statistically valid.

And you get a bar chart telling you on a ranking of how easy you are to work with, where you stacked up against your peers. Boy that's hard feedback to ignore. Some still managed. [laughter] But for the most part, people looked at that and went, wow, I've got to take it up a notch. I better start thinking about what I'm saying to people in these meetings. And that is the best gift an educator can give is to get somebody to become self reflective.

So the ETC was wonderful, but even the ETC and even as Don scales it around the globe, it's still very labor intensive, you know. It's not Tommy one-at-a-time. It's not a research group ten at a time. It's 50 or 100 at a time per campus times four campuses. But I wanted something infinitely scalable. Scalable to the point where millions or tens of millions of people could chase their dreams with something. And you know, I guess that kind of a goal really does make me the Mad Hatter. [Puts on a Mad Hatter's green top hat].

So Alice is a project that we worked on for a long, long time. It's a novel way to teach computer programming. Kids make movies and games. The head fake -- again, we're back to the head fakes. The best way to teach somebody something is to have them think they're learning something else. I've done it my whole career. And the head fake here is that they're learning to program but they just think they're making movies and video games.

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