Thursday, December 10, 2015

Bob Sprankle, Creative Genius

For a few months this year, Math Playground had the good fortune to collaborate with Bob Sprankle on a number of projects. While the team may have only doubled in size, its passion and creativity more than quadrupled. Bob's energy seemed limitless and his enthusiasm was powerfully infectious. I was excited about Math Playground's future in a way I hadn't felt before. Passion was the very essence of Bob. He gave 100% to everything he did. You heard it in his podcasts. You felt it during his presentations. You saw it in his art. That was one of Bob's greatest gifts. His passion inspired all of us to do better, to accomplish more than we ever imagined possible.

My very first encounter with Bob was a bit unusual. The year was 2007 and, like many in the ed-tech community, I was spending a lot of time exploring the potential of virtual worlds. One day, an avatar named Bisto Bock flew into my neighborhood and landed on my roof. We started talking about children and programming and the many ways that technology was going to transform education. Eventually, I learned I had been talking to Bob Sprankle who I'd known from his Bit by Bit blog and podcasts. Shortly after, we had the opportunity to meet face to face at the BLC conference in Boston. We stayed in touch over the years, keeping up with one another's projects.

About a year ago, I began to notice Bob's artwork. I told Bob how much I loved his drawings and asked him if he'd like to create illustrations for children's games. Boy, did he ever! Bob could hardly contain his excitement. Over the next few weeks, our simple collaboration grew into a partnership and Bob became the Creative Director at Math Playground. He was on top of the world. Bob found a job where he could do the things he loved, for the students he loved, from the comfort of his home. It was a blessing for both of us. I was thrilled to be working with someone as creative, passionate, and knowledgeable as Bob. We poured our hearts and souls into this new collaboration - math podcasts, the Zainy Brain series, animated puppet shows and math comics. I could hardly keep pace with all the innovative ideas Bob shared. It was an exciting time.

Over the next couple of months, Bob's pain grew increasingly difficult to manage. Eventually, he had to stop working altogether. This realization was hard on Bob. He had such high hopes and our collaboration seemed to be the answer to so many of his concerns. The silver lining was that our friendship was able to grow in new ways. Without work to discuss, our conversations turned to music and movies, art, books, Golden Retrievers, philosophy and religion. We became good friends.

For the past two days, I've done nothing but grieve the loss of my friend. I've felt an incredible emptiness. I've been hard on myself for not doing more for him. But now it's time to be grateful. I thank God that his suffering has ended. I'm happy that Bob is finally at peace. I'm grateful I was there for him during the most difficult and painful year of his life. Bob, in turn, has left an indelible mark on me. I'm a far better person for having known such a sweet and gentle soul. 

And Bob has left an indelible mark on the world. Thanks to caring friends like Wes Fryer, we will forever enjoy Bob's podcasts, writings and creativity. His music, art, and photography will likewise be preserved. As a result, Bob will continue to inspire educators for years to come and countless students will benefit.

Rest in peace, my friend.