How do we grieve the loss of good friends who have died in an age of social media? Hopefully the same way we would have grieved before technology arrived to draw us even closer: By celebrating their life and remembering the good memories and experiences we had together. By gathering together and praying with and for loved ones who are left behind to miss their dad, husband, friend, co-worker, teacher and mentor.
My friend and educational technology mentor, Bob Sprankle, is dead. Maine state representative Robert Foley shared this news tonight on his Facebook page. (Update: The Portland Press Herald published an article on December 9: “Former Wells teacher Bob Sprankle, chronic pain sufferer who fought for disability reforms, dies at 52.”) I’ve spoken with Cheryl Oakes, Darren Kuropatwa, Maria Knee, and Colleen King who are also friends of Bob. I last spoke to Bob on the phone Saturday afternoon, we texted on Sunday. I’ve been in closer contact with him than normal the past two weeks… and I’m deeply saddened by this tragic news. Bob has been in a dark valley of pain and suffering for the past ten years, but tonight he is free of pain. He is and will be dearly missed.
As those of us who knew Bob process this news and grieve in our own ways, in our time, here are a few photographs and wonderful memories of Bob I treasure and will keep always.
#1 iPad Launch Day: In 2010 when the iPad was released, Bob and I purchased our first iPads together in Portland, Maine, standing in line at the Apple Store. Apple fanboys indeed.
#2 The Maine Diner
In 2011, Bob introduced me to the amazing restaurant, “The Maine Diner,” in Wells, Maine. We met a group of his teachers from Wells Elementary there, and I had one of my first lobster rolls… definitely my first one for breakfast. Several years later I was able to take my own family there to eat. I am sure we will return again. And when we do, we will remember Bob.
#3 The Seedlings Podcast
One of my favorite educational podcasts of all time has been Seedlings, hosted by Bob Sprankle, Cheryl Oakes and Alice Barr. I have an LL Bean “Seedlings” polo shirt which I wear with pride. In 2010 our middle daughter, Sarah and I, traveled to Maine for a conference and got to hang out with the Seedlings. Bob, along with David Warlick, introduced me to educational podcasting / radio shows via his Room 208 podcast in 2005. I’ve literally spent HOURS virtually with Bob, Cheryl and Alice, learning on the podcast. Those are GREAT memories. So much learning and inspiration! I also spoke on the phone tonight with Eric Langhorst, who never met Bob in person, but feels like he knew him intimately because of all the podcasts he published over the years. Bob was an exceptional teacher and taught so many people throughout the years. I am blessed to have learned from him and to be his friend.
The 2008 K-12 Online Conference keynote presentation by Bob, Cheryl and Alice, “How Can I Become Part of this ReadWriteWeb Revolution” is an all time favorite. I’ll be watching this again this week as I remember and celebrate Bob’s life and impact on so many educators. Perhaps you’ll want to watch it too, and share it with other educators you know. Still lots of practical advice and wisdom in this video, even though it’s seven years old now!
#4 Room 208 Podcast
No list of great memories of Bob Sprankle could be complete without mentioning again the Room 208 podcast. Bob’s “Room 208 Vodcast Movie” from 2006 tells part of the story of the podcast in six minutes.
#5 ACTEM 2009
The 2009 ACTEM Conference was a big highlight for several reasons. I think this was the first time I had a chance to meet Bob in person, after listening to his podcasts and learning from him for four years. We had a memorable dinner out with Marco Torres (a personal educational technology hero to us both) and also got to hang out with other amazing Maine #edtech legends like Kern Kelley. Good times in the early days of the “read write web revolution.” 🙂
#6 Digital Citizenship Lessons with Bob Sprankle
This post is leaning toward a meme I discussed this past summer but never started with Darren Kuropatwa: #BobTaughtMe. That’s something we might consider still doing now: Recording a short video, audio podcast, or writing a blog post about things Bob taught you during his life. Then tweet the link to it using the hashtag #BobTaughtMe.
In 2011 I had a chance to hang out for a day with Bob in his classroom at Wells Elementary. I loved how Bob focused on digital citizenship and preparing students to make good choices on the interactive web, in age appropriate ways.
That year Bob sponsored a periodic lunchtime opportunity for students to watch and reflect on powerful TED conference videos. Bob always had such high expectations for what students could do and understand… and he was very focused on STUDENT VOICE. Great memories, learning from Bob in his computer lab and classroom. This short video clip from 2011 is full of practical ideas for computer lab teachers as well as smiles from Bob. Oh how wonderful it is to hear his voice in this video, to hear his passion. It’s crazy to think he’s no longer with us in person.
See my December 2011 post, “An Exemplary Elementary Computer Lab Setup, Website and Lesson Plans” for more on that day of learning.
Memories of Bob now immediately bring to mind the issue of “digital legacy.” While the Room 208 podcast is still online along with Seedlings, there is no guarantee they will remain online and accessible forever. I was in the process of helping Bob migrate his websites from his current web host to my own hosted server, so he didn’t have to keep paying his hosting costs… and we were planning to actually discuss that in more detail later this week. Hopefully this is a project I can continue so Bob’s digital legacy is preserved for future generations.
The recent texts on my phone are poignant to read tonight. Even though we were half a continent away, in New Hampshire and Oklahoma, thanks to digital technologies we were just a phone call or a text message away. Right there. Just two days ago. And now he is gone.
I miss you my friend, Bob Sprankle. Until we meet again. Vaya con Dios, hermano.
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