About CTRL

The Creative Technology Research Lab (CTRL) is a research lab associated with the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. The primary aim of the CTRL is to investigate how to meaningfully engage all learners in technology-mediated learning, with a focus on computer science and computational thinking. The focus of the lab is on rigorous research, K-12 outreach, and advocacy.

Our Team

Maya Israel

Maya Israel

Associate Professor, Special Education

Faculty Page


  Maya Israel, Ph.D. is the research director of the CTRL. She is an associate professor of special education and an affiliate faculty of the Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching & Agency (DELTA) program at the University of Illinois. Her primary areas of specialization include supporting students’ meaningful access to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning with an emphasis on computational thinking and computer programming. She studies how to use instructional approaches such as Universal Design for Learning, metacognitive learning strategies, and technologies to help students become more successful learners.

George Reese

reese_george150507-04-731x1024

Director, Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education

Faculty Page


  George Reese is Director of the Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (MSTE) in the College of Education, and has been part of that organization for 20+ years. MSTE's goal is to promote bridge K-12 STEM teaching and learning via the usage of new digital technologies and university-community collaborations. Reese was a high school mathematics teacher in the later 1980s and early 90s before coming to the University of Illinois. He is currently Board President of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM). He has done a bit of C programming in his time, but he is learning Etoys and Scratch while working with others in the CTRL group.

Cinda Heeren

Cinda Heeren

Teaching Professor, Computer Science

Faculty Page - Personal Site


  Cinda has taught the data structures course at Illinois for 7 consecutive years. Her experience teaching computer science has proved invaluable to the CTRL's efforts.

Jelena Pokimica

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Doctoral Student in Education Policy, Organization and Leadership (EPOL)


  Jelena is a PhD student in Educational Policy, Organization, and Leadership. Her interests span across instructional strategies in integrative learning environments, research methodologies, and applied research. She is also interested in research team capacity building and mentoring younger peers.

Todd Lash

Todd Lash

Doctoral Student, Special Education


  Previously, he worked for seventeen years as a k-5 classroom teacher, interventionist, library media specialist and instructional coach for computer science and computational thinking at the elementary level. He is the co-winner of 2015 State of Illinois, Those Who Excel Award for Educational Teams and is the co-founder of EdCampCU, which aims to bring community members with diverse viewpoints to together to discuss education-related issues.  Todd’s research interests are around increasing equity in and access to high-quality computer science education for all students. Over the last year, he served as a writer for the 2016 Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) Standards Revision team and as a writer for the k12cs.org Framework project.  Todd is also an active member of the CSTA K-8 task group.‚Äč

Gakyung Jeong

Gakyung Jeong's portrait

Doctoral Student, Special Education


Previously, she worked as a special education teacher in Korea and as an general education instructional assistant in San Antonio, Texas. Her research interests focus on challenging behaviors of students with and without disabilities in inclusive education settings. Her focus is on effective teacher education to promote general classroom interventions on challenging behaviors for general education teachers, and increase academic achievement specifically area of science and math of students with challenging behaviors in general education classroom.

Quinten Wherfel

WherfelDoctoral Student, Special Education

  Quentin M. Wherfel is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Prior to entering the program, Quentin had been a teacher for seven years. He was a band director for three years in various schools in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago, where his primary instruments were the classical guitar and clarinet. He also was a middle school learning/behavior specialist in the Urbana School District #116 where he worked with students with mild disabilities. His research interests focus on collaboration between general and special education teachers in inclusive classrooms. Specifically, he is interested in teacher’s use of classroom assessments and other practices as methods for gathering evidence for student learning, and the instructional decisions made from the evidence to increase student achievement.