bob sprankle
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Let’s Have Lunch!

(cross-posted at TechLearning)

It started small, but now I have company during most of my free lunch times at school. Word got out about a couple of student gatherings, and now there are regularly scheduled “groups” having lunch with me weekly.

What can one do? The students want to keep learning.

That’s right. I have students coming to me to set up groups that will keep them learning during their lunch time.

The largest group is my “TED Academy” group. This group started when one student asked me if I knew about “Kahn Academy.” I told her I did, but was more interested in how she knew about it. Kahn Academy is an amazing—HUGE—repository of instructional video, but definitely geared towards higher grades. This was a 3rd Grader asking me this question.

After a brief discussion, she asked me if she could come show me some of the videos she had watched. I happily agreed and told her to bring several friends. The next thing I knew, most of her class was at my door the next day.

We watched a video from Kahn, followed by an amazing conversation. I asked if they’d be interested in checking out some of the videos over at TED as a possible alternative to Kahn for future lunches (due to their grade level), and they were eager to check it out.

So now, every Friday, I enjoy lunch with a group of 3rd graders while watching an amazing TED video and listen to their incredible discussions that follow.

Their discussions are:

  • focused
  • exciting
  • filled with personal connections
  • engaging
  • relevant
  • show deep understanding of what they just watched
  • connected to global issues
  • focused on how they can make the world a better place, based on what they just learned
  • completely independent of me

Usually, I work right through lunch (updating the school’s website, finding parent links, planning for lessons, etc.). This is so much better.

I definitely feel like I’m getting a break in my day (TED’s done all the work). I just eat my lunch, watch the students digest and then dissect the videos, and enjoy their discussions more than they will probably ever know.

Learning doesn’t have to stop because of assigned time slots, and in fact, we know it doesn’t stop (we’re learning all the time). It is a world of hope and celebration when students approach a teacher and ask for additional learning resources. What more could a teacher ask for?

At this point, the students are going home, previewing the TED videos, and bringing in recommendations for the group. They are entirely in charge of these learning lunches. I just provide the computer and the projector. And the cafeteria provides the food.

There are so many opportunities for continued learning on the web for students asking for more. There’s TED, there’s Kahn… and here’s a link to a great article called, “10 Open Education Resources You May Not Know About (But Should)” that I just came across giving you even more resources for continued, open learning.

Bon Appetit!


1 Janice Friesen { 05.12.11 at 7:44 am }

This is so exciting. Thanks for sharing. I will be passing it on to other teachers I know that might be interested.


2 Camilla Elliott { 05.12.11 at 8:07 am }

You’re a wonderful educator Bob, and yes, I have to agree that students love to learn during their out-of-class time. Our library is bursting at the seams at lunchtime. This week a Vietnamese student has been so excited at the open education resources I’ve introduced him to. He’s taking them home to his family (here in Australia) and is sending the details back to relatives in Vietnam so they can improve their English language and other skills. Today he brought another student with him. It’s as if I needed to say — it’s OK for you to learn with these resources that are not your classroom textbooks – now the floodgates have opened.

3 Jane Howland { 05.12.11 at 10:57 am }

Meaningful learning with technology, Bob! :) Interesting to see the comment from Janice Friesen. She was here in Columbia, MO, years ago but I’d lost track of her. Keep up your great work and sharing!

4 Marcello { 05.28.11 at 2:27 am }

Hi Bob,
This sounds like a great opportunity to connect with kids in a meaningful way. I teach 2nd grade, and would love to run something like this. Do you have any kind of list of TED talks that are appropriate for younger kids? Thanks for the information and more importantly for the inspiration.


5 Bob Sprankle { 05.28.11 at 1:32 pm }

Hi Marcello,

Definitely pre-check the vids before showing students, but here’s a great spreadsheet that breaks down subject/author:

Hope this helps!

6 Laurie Bartels { 05.29.11 at 8:28 pm }

Hi Bob,
I have been thinking of asking teachers to join me for TED Talk lunches, but your idea to lunch with third graders and TED Talks is wonderful! Indeed, reading your post and visiting your many helpful sites motivated me to begin my second wordpress blog. So a double thank you for the TED/Third grade idea, and for refiring up my juices!
Cheers, Laurie

7 Kids have the darndest ideas! « Digital Wave { 05.29.11 at 9:20 pm }

[...] got a kick out of because we have actually been to Wells, ME! He blogs at bit by bit, and the link from Fred is to an intriguing post about having lunch with third graders who join Bob to watch and [...]

8 Bob Sprankle { 05.30.11 at 10:12 am }

I think you’ll be “blown away” from what your 3rd graders will bring to the discussions. I know I am! Can you share your second blog with us?


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