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Play as a Classroom Tool

Play in Education (PIE) Track

Below is what happened in 2018, info on 2018 coming soon! 

Navy Pier's 3rd floor, Rooms 325 and 326,

Halfway between Festival Hall B and Lakeview Terrace, Maps HERE

From building Lego trucks and playing Jenga at a party, play has a unmistakably large influence on our life. 

We are excited to partner with the Illinois Institute of Technology this year! 

In addition to great content participants will:

  • Enjoy lunch

  • Receive CPDU/CE Credits

  • Free entry for you and your family to the Fair

  • Chance to win prizes at the end of the Conference 

*Winner will be drawn at the end of the day and must be present to win. 


Registration Open! Seats will be limited - Don't Wait to Register!

Saturday, November 17th

10am - 2pm

Includes Lunch

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One Attendee Will Win a Giant Word Winder - Retail $495!

Donated by The David L Hoyt Education Foundation, formed to facilitate, enable, and develop play-based learning for students of all ages through programming utilizing expertly crafted games and puzzles. The Foundation strives to make learning accessible, interactive, inclusive, and enjoyable.

To see Giant Word Winder in play, visit this page.

Meet our Speakers!

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DAVID L. HOYT “The Man Who Puzzles America”

David L. Hoyt is the world’s most-syndicated daily word game creator and the inventor of numerous well-known puzzles, games and brain teasers including USA Today Word Roundup, USA Today Up & Down Words, Jumble Crosswords, TV Jumble, Word Winder, Just 2 Words, and more.

He is the current author of Jumble, the most syndicated daily word game in the world, seen in more than 600 newspapers each day. Hoyt’s puzzles and games are featured in newspapers, online, on mobile devices, in books and calendars and more.

Jennifer L. Miller, Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology, 

is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology, Illinois Institute of Technology. She teaches undergraduate courses in early development, learning theories, and introduction to psychology as well as a graduate course in learning, motivation, and cognition. Her research interests are focused on the development of communication in complex social networks. Specifically, she is interested in examining the social environment of individuals to relate how vocal and social learning produce effective communicative skills. To examine the complex social interactions, she uses social network techniques that have been commonly used in business applications. Her work has been conducted in both songbirds and children.

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Karen Tzanetopoulos, M.S., CCC-SLP is a speech and language pathologist, specializing in helping children with learning challenges find their best way of learning. She currently owns a private practice, and has previously worked in the public schools, the Chicago Institute for Neurosurgery and Neuroresearch, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.  Karen became fascinated with the role that language plays in learning mathematics, and subsequently the National Science Foundation awarded Karen two grants to study the problems that children have in learning mathematics.  She is a speaker at a variety of national and regional conferences on the subject of language and math.  As a result of her research, she has developed some toys to help all children learn math concepts naturally through play.

Janine Halloran, Founder at Coping Skills for Kids (part of Encourage Play, LLC), a licensed Mental Health Counselor working with children, adolescents and their families for over 15 years. Her goal is to support kids in their social and emotional growth, and to support the family members and school personnel to help meet that goal. Janine started Encourage Play, LLC in December 2013 to help children learn social skills through play to help people learn more about coping skills and strategies to help their children.  

Maria Metzler, Speech Language Pathologist and Founder of Totally Present Communication and Pyramid Communication & Technology.  Hybrid communication practice exploring, stabilizing and mobilizing the building blocks of effective and meaningful communication within the construct of emotions as the base for lifelong relating. Specialized in parent-child/family communication especially for the genetically vulnerable and environmentally fragile. 

Kirk Dietz, MPS Literacy, is an educator with over 18 years of experience working as a 6th grade English teacher in Sleepy Hollow Middle School in Tarrytown NY. Dietz likes incorporating games into his teaching because while the students are playing, they are unknowingly creating conversations about language. Dietz believes that using games like the Jumble in his classroom teach students to recognize and use the intricacies and subtleties of language, and these are necessary for their future success. Currently, he's been working closely with David L. Hoyt and his education foundation, to infuse play in his classes. The two collaborate in an elective class Mr. Dietz teaches called Learning Through Play. Students in this class play and create various games and puzzles to identify the aspects that make them educational, engaging and fun.

Claire Haasl, Executive Director of the David L Hoyt Foundation, grew up in Green Bay, WI and found her path to the University of Illinois at Chicago where she obtained a Bachelors of Arts in Art History, in 2004. After working for a development corporation for two years, Claire moved to Los Angeles where she earned a Masters in Public Art Studies from the University of Southern California.  After graduating, Claire and David moved back to Chicago where she began working as an operations and development manager for a non-profit working in Arts Education. Years later, when David created GIANT Word Winder, Claire saw the potential of the GIANT games and began working with David as an Outreach Coordinator of Word Winder Inc.  In 2015, Claire and David created the David L. Hoyt Education Foundation together because they recognized an increasing need for Social Emotional Learning in young people and knew they had a way to make learning fun. In her spare time, you will find Claire and David hanging out with their dog, Daisy, in Lincoln Square, or globe trotting to all the places on their bucket lists. Claire loves to hike, read, and cook. Recently, Claire became a mountaineer after summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in January of 2017 --a 19, 341 ft peak! 

Jeff Knurek - Jumble cartoonist, is an award winning toy and game inventor, consumer product developer, graphic artist, illustrator, cartoonist, and puzzle creator. In 1989, Jeff invented the outdoor game, Spikeball -- his first invention to make it to market. Knurek’s other game credits include Family Fun magazine’s “Toy of the Year” award winners: "What's In Ned's Head?" and “Monster Under My Bed”. He also develops and licenses children’s magic tricks and products for Las Vegas headliner Mac King.  In 2008 Jeff Knurek became only the third artist to draw the cartoon for the popular Jumble puzzle which is seen in over 600 newspapers. Jeff took over the art duties when the great Henri Arnold retired. Jeff’s unique humor and style can be seen in the caricatures and fun pop culture references placed throughout his cartoons.

Tim Walsh, Fearless Leader at The Playmakers Tim is a game designer, author, filmmaker and professional speaker. The games he’s designed or co-designed have sold over seven million copies. His books have been praised by The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and NPR. The films he’s co-produced or co-directed have won “Best Documentary” awards in three US film festivals. His lectures on the value of play and connection are the culmination of a 28-year career as an entrePLAYneur. He and his wife have been married for 23 years and have two epic daughters. 

 Schedule of Topics and Activities

 9:00am     Early access to Chicago Toy & Game Fair for you and your family (if applicable).

                    Leave your family at the Fair to enjoy and join us at the Conference!


10:00am   Introduction and Welcome


10:15am   Janine Halloran and Maria Metzler - Purposeful Play in the Classroom


10:45am   Joyce Hemphill - The Power of Playful Learning


11:15am   Karen Tzanetopoulos - Play!  The Doorway to Girls Math Success

11:45am   Lunch and Hands on Play 

12:30pm   Tim Walsh - Play in Education News


12:35pm   Jennifer Miller - Digital Strategies in the Classroom 

 1:00pm    David Hoyt, Claire Haasl, Jeff Knurek, and Kirk Dietz - Social Emotional Learning Through Literacy and Math Activities

 2:00pm    Off to the Fair for more hands on learning!


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