EMC² Blog

Port Washington to Washington, DC and New Castle to Greencastle

What a whirlwind week it’s been for the EMC² Learning team! And just because we spend so much time talking about playful pedagogy doesn’t mean we don’t put in some pretty serious work helping all of this stuff come to life behind the scenes. As lifelong learners, we make a regular point of attending conferences, workshops, and school-based trainings to continue learning new and innovative ways to improve our teaching practice as we share our love for this student-centered style of instruction with educators all across the United States (and beyond). We believe that blending time-tested teaching strategies with all sorts of creative ways to bring playful pedagogy to life in our classrooms takes a real willingness to roll up our sleeves to get the job done right! And around these parts, we simply refuse to rely on low-level multiple choice games.

(Shots fired, right?)

Let’s face facts: most of the “gamified” edtech sites simply weren’t built by actual, working classroom teachers. And though they do a remarkable job of catching students’ attention with their fast-paced, video game-like design — the overwhelming majority of these solutions usually amount to little more than a rapid-fire battery of bar trivia-style multiple choice questions cleverly hidden beneath a bunch of brightly colored bells and whistles. But while they look like fun, we know that’s not what deep learning looks like. In short: we think students deserve a whole lot more than mindless button mashing, and that’s why EMC² Learning is engineered from the ground up with serious student engagement squarely at the center of everything we do.

We listen. We learn. And we create new ways to play.

Great teaching is, was, and forever will be made possible by forging authentic relationships between teacher and student. It begins by listening to the needs of the people that we serve, and then designing meaningful experiences that serve their interests and their curiosities. Perhaps the greatest secret a teacher can ever hope to master is simply listening to those we serve with the sincere attempt to understand. Because the simple truth of the matter is that our students will never understand what we’re trying to teach them unless they themselves feel understood. 

Over the past seven days’ time, we have had the incredible privilege of traveling across four states and more than a half a dozen events to take part in a wide array of teaching and learning experiences with fellow members of the 
EMC² Learning community of Engagement Engineers, Tinker Teachers, and Creative Corps. While the miles were many and the hours were long — it’s often said that when you love what you do, you never really work a day in your life. And if that’s the case, it has sincerely been our honor to play — err, “work” — with each and every one of you this week!

Here’s a quick recap of where we’ve been over these past seven days and just a small handful of the new (and old!) friends we’ve met and made along the way.


Friday, February 10
Michael finishes teaching his classes for the day just outside of his home in Port Washington, Wisconsin, then hops in the car and drives 90 or so miles to O’Hare Airport in Chicago, Illinois. Direct flight to Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC where John has his car engine running.

Total miles by air: 717
Total miles by car: 100

Saturday, February 11
John and Michael make the drive from John’s home just outside of Washington, DC to a Saturday teaching summit hosted at the Anne Arundel Community College in Annapolis, Maryland. The event attracts more than 150 educators representing a wide array of K-12 classrooms from throughout the county. John delivers the day’s opening keynote, and Michael and John each lead two breakout sessions in the hours that follow.

Total miles by car: 100
Total presentations: 5

Sunday, February 12
Michael flies back from Washington, DC to Chicago to arrive and prepare for his role as a featured “Thought Leader” breakout session leader at IDEACon 2023.

John puts the finishing touches on the presentations he’s scheduled to give for his full time “day job” as a Resource Teacher with Anne Arundel County Public Schools, helping to design curriculum and provide instructional coaching with a focus on Gamification and Innovation (and a splash of Artificial Intelligence).

Total miles by air: 717
Total miles by car: 79

Monday, February 13
Michael delivers two featured sessions IDEAcon 2023. Each session attracts more than 100 teachers in a standing room only crowd.

John returns to his “day job” working as a Resource Teacher behind the scenes with the County, and delivers three 75-minute breakout sessions regarding the rise of gamification in the world outside of our classrooms and how these trends might impact the future of teaching and learning.

Total miles by car: 57
Total presentations: 5


Tuesday, February 14
Michael attends a series of conference sessions at IDEAcon just outside of Chicago, breathing in the latest research and findings on a wide array of topics ranging from student engagement to cutting edge strategies for alternative assessment.

John drives from his home just outside of Washington, D.C. to Westminster College in New Castle, Pennsylvania, where he’ll be shadowing for the day and guest teaching tomorrow.

Total miles by car: 275

Wednesday, February 15
Michael wraps up the final day of sessions at IDEAcon just outside of Chicago and hits the road to head for home back in Port Washington, Wisconsin. Because even though speaking and presenting at conferences is a big part of our work here at EMC² Learning — Michael’s still very much a working classroom teacher, and he’s got a sixth grade class waiting back in Milwaukee who needs him. And that means that Michael is due back in class tomorrow, and can immediately start implementing some of the new strategies he’s learned during his whirlwind PD tour!

Meanwhile back on the east coast, John works supporting teachers behind the scenes, and so both his day job and his work for EMC² Learning offers a bit more flexibility and the opportunity for some remote work. At the invitation of Dr. Gwendolyn Deger, Assistant Professor of Education at Westminster College, John gets the incredible opportunity to shadow a living, breathing college introduction to special education class before returning back to his hotel to lead a virtual coaching session for the EMC² Learning Creative Corps. And once the virtual coaching session wraps up, he hops right back over to Westminster to serves as a guest facilitator in a fully gamified class for students majoring in education. Once class wraps up, he delivers an evening symposium to a standing room only crowd of college professors, classroom educators, and preservice teachers.

Total miles by car: 104
Total presentations: 3

Thursday, February 16
John makes the drive from New Castle, Pennsylvania (just north of Pittsburgh) to a school district in Greencastle, Pennsylvania (not too far from the Mason-Dixon Line) to connect with two incredible educators from the EMC² Learning community who he’d had the good fortune to meet two years prior when he served as a keynote presenter for the Keystone Technology Innovators Summit in nearby Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. At the Greencastle school district, he facilitates three brainstorming and Q&A sessions for teachers from each of the elementary, middle, and high schools about how we can use gamification to help create meaningful, memorable learning experience for students of all ages.

(Michael, of course, is already hard at work back in his classroom!)

Total miles by car: 306
Total presentations: 3


Everywhere we go, we are constantly listening to the students and teachers we serve in an effort to continue to improve the services that we offer and the resources that we provide. We often say that the smartest person in the room is the room itself! And the key to becoming a world-class educator is often a matter of finding a way to get yourself into the right rooms as frequently as you possibly can. More often than not, the best PD on the planet can truly be an honest conversation with a friendly face that’s working right down the hall.

Thanks again to all of the friendly faces and talented educators who have made our whirlwind week of travel and learning to be an absolute joy at every stop along the way! We are honored to connect with so many members of the EMC² Learning community in schools, conferences, and classrooms across the country — and we look forward to providing you with all sorts of new and innovative ways to continue bringing out the very best in your students for many, many years to come. 

EMC² Learning is home to more than 500 fully editable resources for any course or content area. Engagement Engineers and members of the Creative Corps enjoy a full year of access to each of these resources on demand. We hope you’ll consider joining us to unlock a full year of site access. For complete details including our exclusive limited time offer for annual site membership, click here.

"This site is a total game changer for both me and my students! Thanks for all the ways you level up my learning and classroom."
Carol McLaughlin
1-8 Teacher

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