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PLAYMAKERS is an exploration of the experiences and innovations that are leading the way for learning design in the twenty-first century. The videos in this series introduce you to a range of people working at the intersection of games and learning, from teachers who happened on the power of play through trial and error, to commercial game designers who set out to make one great game and ended up empowering millions of users to make their own.
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A Room Built for Improvement

Teachers Hone Their Practice in a Low-stakes, Feedback-rich Virtual Classroom 

For new teachers and accomplished instructional leaders alike, timely and non-threatening feedback on classroom practice is often promised, but rarely delivered.

TeachLivE is a virtual lab that mixes the world of the classroom and the features of a video game to create a safe space for teachers to get feedback on their practice. With artificial intelligence to analyze performance and the assistance of a very friendly band of teen student avatars, TeachLivE is a new simulator that puts educators into a whole new game – one where the improvement of their teaching is the only thing that matters.

With TeachLivE, professional development is timely, challenging and personal. Real life, essential teaching practices – from core management skills to differentiated instruction across content domains – are fine-tuned and analyzed in real time, with one simple but essential goal: educational improvement through more informed and responsive teaching.

TeachLivE is an innovative program that utilizes a playful, game-like environment to support pre-service and in-service teachers (especially those working in special education environments) in improving the way they build lessons and their in-class techniques. This virtual lab was developed through a unique partnership between education and computer science professors at the University of Central Florida. It provides prospective and experienced teachers the opportunity to interact with simulated students in a safe environment, reducing any risk to real students and allowing teachers to hone their craft in a fun and engaging way.

This video case study captures a collaboration between TeachLivE and leaders from the Kennedy Krieger Institute, an internationally recognized institution dedicated to helping children and adolescents with severe communication and learning disorders.


We asked the TeachLivE! team a few questions about what teachers can learn from their work. Those interested in what game developers can learn from TeachLivE project can find more at gamesandlearning.org.

Institute of Play: How does your approach to game-based learning connect to or build on established teaching practices?

TeachLivE: The work in TeachLivE allows teachers to do virtual rehearsal on targeted skills – either in an area they have been asked to work on, or in an area they would like to enhance their skills. They can work on the content they are delivering or pedagogical skills such as questioning or classroom management. The sessions can be more free play or very prescriptive, depending on the objective of the session.

Institute of Play: How does this program change teaching practice? What does the change look like?

TeachLivE: In our research we have found that in four 10-minute sessions we can change a targeted skill that is important to effective teaching (e.g., specific feedback, questioning). We also found that these teachers who were in the lab also had positive student learning gains. These changes often start low in the first session and often double to triple by the fourth time in the simulator. These skill levels have been found to transfer into the “real” classroom.

Institute of Play: What resources are available to help teachers implement game-based learning? Where can teachers find communities of practice that support implementation?

TeachLivE: The first place they should always look is in collaboration with their staff and even their students. Many K-12 students know of meaningful tools related to content or other areas. We have found having teams of teachers work in the TeachLivE simulator provides a safe but great place for practice.

Institute of Play: What kind of resources are needed to implement a professional development program like this?

TeachLivE: The system can be implemented with either a tech support person running the system. or many of our partnership sites use a coach in the environment (but not required). The site using it needs a decent computer system, a way to project the avatars (whiteboard, projector and screen) and a kinect. They then need to work with our tech team to install the software and to schedule to use the system.


About the Teaching With Games Series

Data from the 2012 Joan Ganz Cooney Center national teacher survey showed that few teachers are exposed to game-based learning in pre-service training, and that teachers usually provide their own ongoing professional learning on games and learning. This series looks at how teachers can be exposed to games through various forms of PD.  From a game-based approach to teacher education at ASU to play-based professional learning for informal learning environments at TASC, this series takes the viewer on a journey of innovative and novel approaches to teacher PD.

The series is a project of the Games and Learning Publishing Council and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  The series is produced by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Institute of Play.


PLAYMAKERS is an exploration of the experiences and innovations that are leading the way for learning design in the twenty-first century.

This series is made possible through the generous support of the
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.