Last week we had final exams to wrap up the semester. Well, in one class most of the students finished very early and this gave them plenty of time to talk and get into an interesting discussion about whether a hot dog could be considered a sandwich.

The discussion quickly turned into an all-out debate as students took sides and passionately defended their reasoning. Students began to research and draw out their arguments in order to substantiate their position. First, they looked up what the technical definition of a sandwich was. From there, they drew out a flowchart of a sandwich and a hot dog and how they compared. They even listed out exceptions to each such as open-faced sandwiches, sub sandwiches, and Chicago-style hot dogs (loaded with toppings).

Watching the debate unfold, I was mesmerized. I found myself excited about joining in on the action. Even though I had my own opinion, the students came up with compelling arguments for both sides. I decided to contribute by starting a Twitter poll to ask what other people though on the topic: Can a hot dog be considered a sandwich? This quickly spread to other students and I found myself responding to opinionated tweets.

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Notice how many votes we got! And many more replies of people’s views on the topic. 

Meanwhile, there were students still debating out loud and others researching for more information. At one point, a student found an article claiming that a hot dog is not a sandwich but another student quickly pointed out that this was not valid because it came from the Hot Dog Council, clearly a biased source!

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I was in awe at the display of passion and hard work these students demonstrated. All I could think was that this was true learning in action.

I learned something from this as a teacher: learning can happen anywhere and on any topic. The most mundane can become the most intellectual so long as students have the motivation to push it there.

I also learned that giving up the control of learning and letting students run with their passion is much more fun. I had a blast watching the students lead the conversation and defend their sides. I just wish I taught an entire class that could be based on this type of instruction!

So what do you think, can a hotdog be considered a sandwich?