More Changes…

The following post is from my wife, Jody. Unfortunately, we are needing to reach out to the wonderful, global community that I have been so privileged to be a part of, seeking help for my family. You can either read the letter below, or go to our YOUCARING site and see/hear my wife’s video statement at:

Thank you so very much.


Hello, my name is Jody Breneman.

I am reaching out to you today on behalf of my husband Bob Sprankle. My hope is to advocate for his health, his rights and his dignity because the life he once knew has been turned upside down.

First by a debilitating medical condition that has robbed him of his ability to teach, and second by the Maine Public Employees Retirement System, which has inexplicably rejected his repeated attempts to apply for the disability benefits that he has invested in, that he deserves and that he now desperately needs – to help him medically and to provide for our family.

Bob Sprankle has devoted himself to caring for and educating children for over 25 years – In 1998 Bob began his 17 year career at Wells Elementary School,  in Wells, Maine. He was a well-loved and well-respected classroom teacher whose work inspired students, families and fellow educators.

He was a prominent voice in education who earned honors and international recognition for his work advancing the integration of technology in our schools. Bob lived to be in the classroom, helping his students explore the world of ideas and discover what they were passionate about.

If you google “bob sprankle,” or visit you will get a sense of the depth and breadth of his work and his impact, not only in education, but through his art.

But in a nightmare that began in 2007 in an operating room to repair a hernia by implanting polypropylene mesh, he now suffers daily, debilitating neuropathic pain and other health complications that make it impossible for him to perform the job he loves; and worse, has rendered him, in his own words, a “ghost” of his former self.

Unfortunately, Bob is not alone in this. Through years of research and reaching out for help, we have come to learn that thousands of people suffer severe complications due to polypropylene mesh. We have talked to them, we read their daily struggle in our online support groups and discussion forums, and we know all too well how their lives have become consumed with trying to find answers, receive medical support and deal with the incredible pain that comes with this condition.

After years of dutifully and courageously trying every medical intervention recommended – both traditional and alternative, from Maine to Boston – it became clear to his doctors, co-workers, friends and family that he simply could not sustain his teaching career any longer. Bob was the last to be convinced because teaching was what he lived for.

Bob applied for disability from the Maine Public Employees Retirement System three times. To the utter disbelief of those who have witnessed his decline, his applications were denied twice, and a third time “administratively dismissed.”

With each denial, Bob tried to return to work, both in his classroom and at a less physically taxing, home-based job for an educational website, but was unable to sustain these positions due to his condition. (Bob is no longer able to work for, as mentioned in the post above).

Yet somehow,  MainePERS and their medical review board determined that the opinions and diagnoses of Bob’s doctors and our eight years of unceasing efforts to find out why he experiences so much pain did not provide compelling enough evidence to approve his application.

We trusted that this system was there to help us. So to be told at one point that my husband, who is literally consumed in pain throughout much of each day, suffers “no functional limitations,” was devastating. Why would a man who had invested so much of his life in teaching the children of the state of Maine, choose to apply for disability unless he felt it was his only option?

Today, we are regularly asked why Bob doesn’t apply for disability under the federal Social Security system. What most people don’t know or understand, is that teachers and other state workers in Maine are required to pay into the MainePERS system and are prohibited from making contributions to Social Security.

This means that not only has Bob lost his job and all of the benefits that it provided him and our family, but also that he cannot receive ANY kind of disability compensation whatsoever -  now or in the future.

And so, in hopes of raising awareness and support, not only about Bob’s plight with this devastating medical condition, but about the unfair treatment he and many others receive as they reach out for assistance, I, with the help of dear family and friends have built a page for Bob on the crowdsourcing site YouCaring:

We call it “Teacher Bob Sprankle Needs Your Help.” Please go to the site and spread the word so that together we can raise the awareness and funds needed to help Bob.

I thank you so very much for taking the time to listen. Thank you so very much for your support.


Jody Breneman

Please visit our Facebook Page for Bob:

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Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve written on this Blog. I’m dusting off the old server to officially announce some changes.

As some of you know, due to health reasons, I haven’t been able to be in the classroom since November 2014. Over the past years, my health condition has made it increasingly more difficult to carry out my very best instruction in the career that has brought me such joy. Teaching has been my calling for decades and it is with a heavy heart that I have finally made the difficult decision to leave the classroom. I feel like a piece of my heart has been ripped out of me. I thought I would teach for the rest of my life. I thought I would be at one of the most amazing school districts in the nation until I retired.

When one door closes, another one surely opens.

Though I will no longer be in a classroom setting, I am incredibly fortunate to be able to continue teaching and committing my best to students and colleagues, but now, in a different role. It is with extreme pleasure and overwhelming excitement that I post my next step as an educator. I am honored to announce that I have joined Colleen King’s amazing team as Creative Director at

The work that Colleen has done for the past 12 years has been awe-inspiring as she has offered students and educators a plethora of free math games, instruction, support and resources. I have used Colleen’s resources for years in my classrooms and always had complete confidence in her integrity and subject knowledge. Colleen has worked incredibly hard to ensure that her site is fully COPPA compliant and is extremely dedicated to offering her resources in an environment that is safe for children. All of Colleen’s math activities are aligned with the Common Core and her site has been a staple in my students’ learning, as well as my own.

I wanted to share this exciting news with all of you to not only update you of my “whereabouts,” but to also extend my sincere appreciation for your support, encouragement, and professional collaboration. This blog will certainly be morphing as I share my new learning experiences and continue to share teaching resources with you - math and otherwise.

If you haven’t checked out recently, come join us there and on our Facebook page. Many new and significant changes to the site are right around the corner as Colleen and I strive to make it the very best math resource for students, educators, and parents.

I am thrilled to be “opening this next door.”


“I couldn’t be happier to have Bob Sprankle join our team at Math Playground. I’ve long admired Bob’s creativity and presentation style and tuned in regularly to hear the latest Seedlings podcast. Bob’s unique talents and extensive classroom experiences are perfectly suited for his new role as Creative Director at Math Playground. I have no doubt that Math Playground will reach new heights given Bob’s creative vision and technical expertise. Most importantly, millions of students worldwide will benefit from the passion and imagination of a truly inspirational educator.”

by Colleen King, Math Playground


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Grade 2 Animal Book

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site ( in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.


Grade 2 students have finished their animal research and are working on creating a combined iPad Book with their research facts. This book will be shared with next year’s Kindergarten and 1st grade students. It is an “interactive” book (created with “iBook Author”) where readers can click on the video presentations from the students, and look at pictures gathered from the site,

Students were filmed during their presentations. They worked on: speaking clearly, loudly, and slowly. The group of students then chose which pictures worked best with their facts.

An example page from the Animal Book.
An example page from the Animal Book.

The finished “book” will not be published on the Internet, but will be installed on the iPads in the Computer Lab, and any other classroom iPad upon teacher request. Sharing the knowledge with younger students gives the 2nd Grade students an authentic audience and provides an “audio/video” book to listen to facts that might be too difficult for them to read.

Things you can do at home with your student:

  • Ask your 2nd Grade student about the animal facts they remember.
  • Ask your 2nd Grade student what was the hardest part of the project? What was their favorite part? How do they feel about their finished work?
  • When watching their own video, many 2nd Graders reported that they sounded “funny” on the video. This is due to not having much experience hearing their own recorded voice. If you have an iPad at home (or any recording device), provide opportunities for your student to record his/her voice and then listen to it!
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Google Earth = GOOD!

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site ( in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.


Multi 1/2 and Grade 1 students have started exploring Google Earth — first as a whole group with me, and then in smaller groups in Centers. Google Earth is truly an amazing tool and never ceases to “wow” students.

Students first explored the application in what is known as “Sandbox Mode.” In Sandbox Mode, students get to explore and play with the tool before they get any instruction from a teacher. There are many reasons to do this, but primarily, it helps build students’ confidence in starting to figure out the application by themselves, and also gets them immediately in the “driver’s seat,” rather than painfully waiting through a direct instruction lesson before they can finally get their hands on the tool! Students explore the tool in a “low-risk” setting (have fun!) and take on the role of “instructor” as they share their discoveries with peers in partnerships, and then later when we come back together as a group.

When we come back as a whole group, I start by showing how to search for our school in Google Earth by entering its address. One thing students see right away is that usually Google Earth can’t find the exact location to our school… It puts us down the road a bit:

this way

I next show how by clicking and dragging on the map, students can “walk” along the road to find our school:

our school

Students realize how relevant the pictures in Google Earth are when I show them my own car in the parking lot behind the school:

my car

Once they see that, students start asking if I can find their own house in Google Earth! (I assure them that they will have time when they get back to Google Earth and that I will help them type the names of their streets).

I show a few more things on Google Earth, and then ask the students to figure out where the pictures of Earth come from and “Why are there no clouds?” This opens up a whole new discussion about technology!

When students go into small groups, they will search for landmarks around Wells.

Things you and your student can do at home:

  • Download Google Earth! It’s FREE! It’s AMAZING!
  • Work with some of the “Layers” that are included in Google Earth. Check out New York City with the 3D Buildings on!
  • Find directions to relatives or friends and “fly” from your house to them to show how far it is.
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Yes, Your Kindergarten Student is Programming!

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site ( in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.


Over the past couple of weeks, Kindergarten classes have been using iPads in the Computer Lab. We first learned how to share them with a partner and how to operate them safely by playing a simple math game. Once routines were established, we moved on to learning how to PROGRAM.



Using an incredible, free iPad App—Daisy the Dinosaur—students learned the basics of programming. It is amazing to watch such young students approach problem solving without fear or hesitation, as well as witness what incredible readers they’ve become over the year (students had no trouble reading the commands to give Daisy, such as: jump, move, spin, turn, roll, etc). I showed the “bare essentials” of how to use the App, and then let students have a go. I gave them 2 challenges as well: see if they could program Daisy to go under the sun as well as have Daisy touch the sun. In order for students to do this, they had to figure out how to program numerous commands to get Daisy to cross the long field, and to give Daisy numerous “grow” commands until she was high enough to touch the sun. Some students figured out that they could also make Daisy “jump” to touch the sun!

The Challenge of
The Challenge of “Touching the Sun”

This week, we also learned how to set up “loops” to repeat commands, as well as “if, then” commands. An example of an “if, then” command would be: “If I shake the iPad, Daisy will SPIN.”

Daisy the Dinosaur is a free App that runs on the iPad:

IMG_7194 IMG_7196 IMG_7197

Things to do at home with your scholar:

  • Download Daisy the Dinosaur if you have an iPad!
  • Ask your student what his/her favorite part of programming with Daisy was.
  • Ask your student to describe how he/she solved the challenges.
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Programming: Driver and Navigator Roles

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site ( in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.


In the following video, you get to see a student and me modeling the roles of “Driver” and “Navigator.” This is how 3rd and 4th grade students work in partnerships while learning how to program at You also get to witness a student help the teacher get “unstuck!”

Navigator and Driver from wells elementary on Vimeo.

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First Grade and Multi 1/2 Move Into Their “Office”

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site ( in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.


1st and Multi 1/2 Grade students have been enjoying learning some basic “word processing” skills with the free application, “Open Office 4 Kids” (or, Ooo4kids). They love the idea that they can have their own “virtual” office where they can do their writing.

Students have been learning the following skills/information:

  • that there are FREE software applications that have been made by people who volunteer their time
  • how to OPEN a Word Processing Document
  • the importance of SAVING RIGHT AWAY! and SAVING OFTEN!

In follow-up lessons, students learn how to find and open the document they were previously working on.

We’ve been using the prompt, “Once upon a time…” for this first experience in using a word processing document. In follow-up, small-group Centers, students will return to the application and write without a prompt.

Things you can do with your student at home:

  • Download Open Office 4 Kids ( Note: at the time of this writing, only the French website has been accessible, but you’ll be able to find the English version for your computer’s operating system.
  • Ask your scholar what he/she has been writing about in the lab.
  • Encourage your student to SAVE OFTEN when using a word processing application at home!
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Update on Programming

Note: This year I am blogging weekly reflections at my school site ( in order to provide more transparency in my teaching for parents, students, and the community (local and global). I will be cross-posting most of the entries here at Bit By Bit as well. You can see the original posts at the “Reflections by Mr. S” blog.


There’s nothing more exciting for a teacher to hear than a student calling out, “I got it!” I hear it daily in 3rd, 4th and Multi 3/4 classes as students solve the “puzzles” at The programming centers in the Computer Lab are moving along at a fast and furious pace and students are having a blast.

Students are asked to find different partners every two levels they complete at, and share the roles of “Driver” and “Navigator.” The “Driver” is the student who is controlling the computer and the “Navigator” is the partner who is helping to solve the problem (with questions or hints for the “Driver”). The “Navigator” isn’t allowed to touch the computer and can only talk and point to show his/her suggestions. After the partners have done two levels together, they need to find different partners to work with. This is to mirror what will probably happen in many of the students’ future careers: they will be working with many different people, and need to build collaborative skills with different people now, rather than just choose the comfort of working with a close friend.

Many students are clearly continuing their programming at home. If your student hasn’t shown you, encourage him/her to at least sign in and show what level their on. Hopefully, your student will at least be inspired to repeat a level they’ve already completed and show you how the site works.

Why is learning to code important?

Check out the following video and infographic below:


Things to do at home with your student:

  • Watch the video and discuss the infographic (above) with your scholar to start a discussion about coding.
  • Ask your student to show you!
  • Ask your student why we’re learning coding at Wells Elementary School? How will this help students?
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