‘Room 208’ crew reunites for one last program

Post date: Dec 18, 2012 3:17:18 PM

On December 4th, 12 students from Wells High School came together for a special reunion at Wells Elementary School. These sophomores, juniors and seniors were back in room 208 to see their multiage 3/4 teacher Bob Sprankle and create one last installment of Room 208, a class project that became a weekly podcast or radio-like program available on the Internet.

In 2004, Sprankle, now Technology Integrator at WES, had students begin work on a ‘blog’ or electronic journal about their classroom learning experiences. This blog, seen by many students and educators around the world, turned into a podcast by late April of 2005. Almost overnight, Room 208 could be heard globally by anyone with Internet access.

Work on each episode began with a Monday morning brainstorm session for story ideas and who would do what. During production, students assumed the roles of producers, writers, interviewers and voice over announcers. When all material was ready, Mr. Sprankle would edit the program and upload it. According to Sprankle, the podcast proved to be a powerful learning tool for the students. He observed that many of them could not wait to get to school to work on their assignments.

Popular segments included Student News, Animal Corner, Word of the Week, This Week in History, and Sports. Letters received from listeners were read aloud near the end of the program. Many episodes also included a short radio play or a reading from a book.

The show’s audience grew quickly and the news media, including the Maine Public Broadcasting Network, came to WES to report on the students’ program. On August 3rd, a photo of three of the show’s producers appeared in the New York Times as part of a larger story about student use of new technology.

Sprankle said that all episodes of Room 208 are available online at his website, www.bobsprankle.com. However, for now, the reunion podcast can be found at http://bit.ly/VmEwb6 .

On December 4th another installment of Room 208 was recorded. As they did when they were ten and eleven years old, students sat in chairs forming a half circle around Sprankle. In the center was a special iPod recorder atop a microphone stand. Sprankle spent about an hour posing questions to students about their experiences creating Room 208.

"It’s not only the fact that we learned how to use technology in such a new way for third and fourth graders, but it's also that we learned how to take initiative in our own projects because we chose what segments we would do, such as animal corner and weird fact of the week,” said one of the show’s producers Zoë Onion. “Also, writing everything on our own and working in groups improved our writing and collaborative skills."

Those attending the reunion included: Mary Berger, James Detullio, Carrie Dore, Fionnula Duggan, Cassidy Healey, Cameran Libby, Zoë Onion, Zachary Pierce, Hailey Smith, Elizabeth Thompson, Bryanna Welch, and Tyler Wuerthner.

Also attending the reunion was Bill Rogers of the Coruway Film Institute, WHS teacher Cheryl Oakes and WES Principal Marianne Horne.

“It was wonderful to welcome our former elementary students back to WES for the Room 208 Reunion," commented Principal Horne. “It is evident that they recognize and appreciate the foundational skills that Mr. Bob Sprankle provided for them when they were in his 3/4 multiage class many years ago. We are proud of their accomplishments and touched by the way they have validated their early learning experiences at Wells Elementary School.”

Sprankle was thrilled and surprised by the turnout at the reunion. "I had no idea who was going to be here," he commented. "I expected them to communicate mostly on the Facebook page that they set up online. Instead, they gathered and planned 'face to face' in the hallways at their school, so I had no idea that we'd have such a large group."

He went on to add, "This was truly one of the greatest moments of my life: reconnecting with these students. It is very rare for an elementary teacher to be able to have a gathering years down the road, and be able to visit with former students and witness the amazing young adults that they have become. These students are, and will forever be my heroes. I have no doubt that they are going to be the leaders and 'change-makers' we need in the near future."

According to Sprankle the story of Room 208 continues to be told. He said that in a recently published book titled, Who Owns the Learning?: Preparing students for Success in the Digital Age by Alan November, the experiences of his former students on Room 208 was mentioned in the chapter, “How the Students of Room 208 Conquered the World”.

Caption: Clockwise, beginning with Bob Sprankle, are Carrie Dore, Cameran Libby, Zoë Onion, Elizabeth Thompson, Mary Berger, Bryanna Welch, Fionnula Duggan, James Detullio, Hailey Smith, Cassidy Healey, and Bill Rogers of the Coruway Film Institute. Rogers plans to use the footage in a television program called “Teach”.

Caption: Top row (l-r) Mary Berger, Zachary Pierce, Cheryl Oakes, Zoë Onion, Carrie Dore, Elizabeth Thompson. Bottom row (l to r): James Detullio, Fionnula Duggan, Bryanna Welch, Cameran Libby, Tyler Wuerthner.

Caption: Bob Sprankle interviewing students for a reunion episode of Room 208 at WES on December 4, 2012.

Caption: Zoë Onion (left) and James Detullio holding a copy of the New York Times from August 3rd of 2005 showing a photo of Detullio, Onion, and another student Emily Jones.