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

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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


Director, Office for Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education

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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 bridge K-12 STEM teaching and learning via 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 Past-President of the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics (ICTM). He is learning programming and works with others who also like math and/or coding.

Yasemin Cicek

Yasemin Cicek's portrait

Doctoral Student, C&I Department, Specialization in Digital Environments for Learning, Teaching, and Agency (DELTA)

After teaching mathematics to middle grades (from 5th to 8th grades) for one year, she began her studies in the Educational Technology master's program to integrate technologies into teaching effectively. During the master's program, she has been intrigued with computational thinking research efforts to enhance K-12 students’ content creation by using technology creatively and actively. Her research interests include integration of computational thinking practices into K-12 curriculum, effective use of technologies in school settings and designing technologically enhanced learning environments to promote all learners’ meaningful learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving skills.

Gakyung Jeong

Gakyung Jeong's portrait

Doctoral Student, Special Education

Gakyung is a doctoral student in the Department of Special Education.  Previously, she worked with students with disabilities as a special education teacher in Korea and as a 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.  Specifically, she is interested in teacher education, examining how to prepare both general and special education pre-service teachers to manage challenging behaviors in their classrooms.

Todd Lash

Todd Lash

Doctoral Student, Special Education

Previously, Todd 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 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

Jelena Pokimica


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 peer mentoring.

Past Team Members

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.

Quentin 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 teachers' 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.