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'Joyful in the Trial': Bringing Play to Teaching and Learning

Pennsylvania Convention Center, Playground A

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Instituto Alpes San Javier
Sixth-Grade Math/Science Teacher
Mattanawcook Junior High School
@Crystal Burns
I’ve been teaching for five years. I teach sixth-grade math and science at Mattanawcook Junior High in Lincoln, Maine, a rural part of Maine. I am also the coding and robotics club facilitator. I enjoy bringing fun activities into the classroom and seeing the kids that often struggle with regular school work excel with computer science.
Azusa Pacific University
Dr. Jennifer Courduff is a Professor of Education at Azusa Pacific University where she develops courses and teaches in the Master of Arts: Learning and Technology program. She is an active member of the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE), and advocates for the needs of special education teachers in several professional learning communities. Her research and presentations focus on technology integration within inclusive learning environments and mobile learning.
Innovation Teacher
Redlands Unified School District
@Dwayne Cowles
A veteran school teacher with over 30 years experience of bringing current technology to marginalized group, I also served as a military veteran performing duties as a pilot in various aircraft.
Center for National Scientific Research
@NeuroPSI_saclay, RobotsLearning
Thomas Deneux did his PhD in Artificial Intelligence at Paris' Ecole Normale Supérieure and his postdoctoral research in Neurobiology, at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel and at the French CNRS. He now leads the Data Analysis team at the Paris-Saclay Institute of Neuroscience. There he conceived a learning robot to teach how Artificial Intelligence works and has founded the Learning Robots company that commercializes it. He leads new research in Science Education to question the benefits of teaching AI even from a young age, in terms of science & technics, science & society, and metacognition.
Blended Learning Teacher
Yealey Elementary School
Craig Dunlap was the 2021 KySTE Impact Teacher of the Year. He is the blended learning teacher at Yealey Elementary School in Florence, KY. Drawing on 30 years of teaching experience, he loves to open up the world of technology to students and teachers. He specializes in video production, robotics, and VR but loves a good Google Slide Show too. Craig is an ambassador for WeVideo, Cubelets, and Avantis and is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan. Craig lives in Covington, KY, with his wife (a 2nd grade teacher), 9th grade daughter, and two crazy pets.
Educational Technology Director
Himalaya International School of Monterrey
Graduate student
Educational Technology Director at the Himalaya International School Monterrey. More than 20 years of experience implementing technologies in schools and businesses. 15 years of experience as technology teacher in preschool through high school, Teacher at college in Systems Engineering. Robotics Coach, Apple Teacher, Apple Professional Specialist, Apple IT PRO, Microsoft Office Specialist. Electronic and Instrumental Engineer, Master's degree in Education.LEGO Education Academy Teacher Trainer.
Instructional Designer - Accessibility
Tarrant County College Connect Campus
Lindsay Foster has two decades of educational experience as an elementary classroom educator, a technology applications instructor, and as an instructional technology coach. As an Instructional Technology Coordinator, Mrs. Foster helps students & educators alike build meaningful & engaging learning experiences using technology across the curriculum. Mrs. Foster is a Google Certified Trainer, a LEGO Education US Master Educator, Book Creator Ambassador, and BreakoutEDU Trainer. Mrs. Foster loves to showcase student and educator experiences in the classroom, on the campus and across her district and state, and her speaking engagements have included ISTE, TCEA, MACUL, NCTIES, TCEA ETC, TCCA, TiA, and TXGoo.
Instituto Alpes San Javier
Instituto Alpes San Javier
Doctoral Candidate
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
@Ragia Hassan
Ragia is a doctoral candidate in Curriculum and Instruction at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She works as a Graduate Assistant and Guest Instructor at IUP's Department of Professional Studies in Education. Ragia's research interest focuses on using immersive technology to create an inclusive learning environment and using digital media and gaming in creating effective and functional digital Instructional materials for young students in general and disadvantaged students in particular. Ragia was recognized by IUP's Center for multisubcultural Student Leadership and Engagement for her outstanding leadership and contributions to the Indiana University of Pennsylvania during the 2021-2022 academic year.
Assistant Teaching Professor, Retired
North Carolina State University
I’ve been teaching at North Carolina State University for over 25 years, including almost 15 years of teaching online in some form or another. My Ph.D. is in Foundations of Education from UNC Chapel Hill, so I come at technology entirely from the humanities. My research is in the history of education, online teaching and collaboration, and pre-service teacher beliefs. I was on the ISTE TEN leadership team for several years, usually participating heavily in the ISTE TEN Playground. I am now an ISTE Community Leader. Occasionally, I like to make short class videos using puppets.
Editor, Creative Educator
Tech4Learning, Inc
Melinda is the Editor of Creative Educator magazine and the Deputy Director of the Constructivist Consortium. Melinda is also one of the founders of Tech4Learning. For the past 20 years, Melinda has led workshops at schools around the world and made hundreds of presentations at education conferences, such as ASCD and ISTE, on the topics of creativity, project-based learning, and open-ended technologies. She has been a featured speaker or keynote at MACUL, VSTE, MICCA, and ISTE.
PhD Student in Cognitive Science in Edu.
Columbia University
Jullia is a designer and researcher in education technology. The long-term goal of her research is to understand the technological and contextual factors that contribute to social-emotional learning in immersive and non-immersive virtual environments. Her recent works include an augmented reality (AR) simulation game for social skills. Currently, she's pursuing her PhD in Cognitive Science in Education at Columbia University.
Godwyn Morris is the Director of Dazzling Discoveries STEM Education Center in NYC and Skill MIll NYC, maker space style facilities in New York City. Her mission is to empower kids through hands-on creative experiences. She is the inventor of DazzLinks Cardboard Building Kits, co-creator of Engineering with Paper packets; projects that can be made with just paper, tape and scissors. Several of her projects have been published in the New York Times.
Teaching and Learning Consultant
All Covered Education
Judy, Teaching & Learning Consultant for All Covered, has been an educator for over 15 years. She previously taught in a 1:1 laptop environment at Rosary Academy. When Rosary adopted a campus-wide 1:1 laptop program, Judy accepted the position of Director of Educational Technology. In this role, she supported teachers with blended/flipped instruction and developed an online summer program. Judy passionately loves working with teachers to accomplish their educational goals. Currently, Judy has been partnering with teachers to experiment on effectively integrating 3D Building, Virtual Reality, and Augmented Reality into their curriculum.
Associate Research Professor
University Of Kansas, ALTEC
Amber Rowland, Ph.D. is an Associate Research Professor at the University of Kansas. She specializes in collaborative, practical and engaging adult professional learning with an emphasis on current instructional practices and the powerful integration of technology. She is Co-Principal Investigator on three USDOE grants focusing on designing powerful professional learning for educators, while also demonstrating student learning gains. Foci include virtual coaching and the application of the VECTOR model to increase coach effectiveness, VOISS, a virtual reality environment that teaches students social skills, and VOISS Advisor, a website that helps teachers support student generalization of learned skills.
University of Kansas
Sean J. Smith, Ph.D., is a Professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Kansas. Dr. Smith’s research interest focus on innovations and technology solutions to support struggling learners and those with disabilities, particularly interventions aligned with the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Framework. At present, Dr. Smith is the Principal Investigator on a federally funded project exploring the impact of virtual reality on struggling learners in the area of social emotional development. He also served as a Co-Principal Investigator on the National Center on Online Learning and Students with Disabilities.
Instructional Technology Coach
New York City Department of Education
Melissa Stark is a Special Education Teacher and Instructional Technology Coach in New York City’s Department of Education. She has presented at ISTE, Closing the Gap, EdxEdNYC and New York City’s Department of Education Technology Summits focusing on making curriculum more accessible to all. She is the recipient of the 2021 NYC DOE Excellence in Technology Award.
Curriculum designer
Tricia has over eight years of teacher coaching and curriculum development experience, and 15 years of experience in education as a teacher and administrator. As an educator, Tricia focuses on building the whole child, one who understands compassion and kindness and is academically proficient. Her areas of expertise include coaching teachers on best practices in enhancing the classroom experience, as well as professional development, technology integration and STEM. Tricia is also a competitive gymnastics coach and dance teacher.
Instituto Alpes San Javier
Instituto Alpes San Javier
Alejandra Vazquez is a passionate teacher that believes that learning can always be successful if teachers find a way to turn it into a complete meaningful experience that marks students' life. 15 years of experience in English teaching Certified Apple teacher Expert in poetry and oratory contest coaching Developer of extraordinary learning experiences that have fostered students' engagement in the English language Bachelor's degree in English Teaching and master's degree in Learning Strategies PK-12 English and Science teacher Project-based learning expert
Computer Science - Curriculum Specialist
Marquette University
@Heidi Ann Williams
Heidi Williams is a passionate coding and computational thinking advocate. She has over 30 years of experience in K-12 public education as both a teacher and administrator. She currently serves as a computer science curriculum specialist for Marquette University's PUMP CS grant in Milwaukee, WI. Williams has shared her passion for integrating coding and computational thinking into the curriculum at local, state, regional and national conferences, and many have leveraged her expertise for conference presentations, coding coaching, professional development and K-12 scope and sequence alignment of computer science skills throughout the curriculum (

Session description

Our playground is literally about play — about bringing joy to learning and teaching and incorporating the ISTE Standards. Teachers and teacher educators will share their ideas for learning through play. The ultimate goal is for students and teachers to engage in meaningful, interesting, thought-provoking and above all, playful experiences.

Purpose & objective

The purpose of this playground is for participants to explore how to engage their students through the concept of play, by playing themselves. As play is inherently less structured, one of the main challenges will be for participants to engage without quite as much guidance, facilitated by the presenters in such a way as to maintain interest and simultaneously allow participants to think ‘outside the activity’ to see it as their students might. Presenters at each station will suggest and use particular technology tools specific to the type of problem being solved, and solicit suggestions from participants (part of the empowering of learners) as to other viable approaches.

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We will have each of the presenters/members grouped into the playground areas by the kind of play they will be fostering. Some possibilities include:
Tools that Empower Students to problem-solve in an open environment
Learning through play and extrapolating to other situations (Minecraft, etc.)
Design thinking to solve physical problems
Gamifying learning through open play
There will be different presenters rotating through stations and also one section for live discussions or demonstrations. Generally, each station will change every hour, but some topics will repeat so that audience members can spend adequate time at each station. All stations will include peer-to-peer interactions and many will include device-based activities.

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Supporting research

Arnett, T. (2016). Blended learning can help students take ownership of their learning.

Briggs, S. (2022). 50 ways to empower students in a connected world.

Delida, D. (2010). Towards a pedagogy of critical happiness: Implications for teaching and learning.

Huizinga, J. (1938/2016). Homo Ludens: A study of the play-element in culture. Angelico Press.

Kuhn, T. (1962/2012). The structure of scientific revolutions, 4th ed.. U. of Chicago.

Mongillo, G. (2008). Play, Games, and Attitude: Student and Teacher Perspectives of Educational GamesJournal of Educational Technology, v5 n2 p44-54.

Scoffham, S. & Barnes, J. (2011). Happiness matters: Towards a pedagogy of happiness and well being. Curriculum Journal 22(4).

Tobin, T. J. & Behling, K.T. (2018). Reach everyone, teach everyone: Universal design for learning in higher education. West Virginia U. Press.

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Session specifications

Professional learning
Skill level:
Principals/head teachers, Teachers, Teacher education/higher ed faculty
Attendee devices:
Devices useful
Attendee device specification:
Smartphone: Android, iOS, Windows
Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
ISTE Standards:
For Educators:
  • Use collaborative tools to expand students' authentic, real-world learning experiences by engaging virtually with experts, teams and students, locally and globally.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Foster a culture where students take ownership of their learning goals and outcomes in both independent and group settings.