Digging the Sandbox

03/12/2015 07:38 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2015

Maybe you recall Sy Sperling tagging his TV advertisements for "Hair Club for Men" with, "I'm not just the President, I'm a client." Thinking of that, it feels a little less self-serving for me to write a blog post touting the upcoming Sandbox Summit, now presented by PlayScience, because I can honestly say, "I'm not just an organizer, I'm a regular."


The Sandbox Summit at MIT has long been a favorite event for me, in large part because it's always been a gathering point for academics and industry leaders to meet and exchange expertise. In fact, Sandbox draws one of the most professionally diverse audiences of any conference. In 2015, the speaker roster alone includes the CEO of the New York Hall of Science, the President of KidZania, Google Play's Global Head of Educational Apps and Games, the President Emeritus of Lego Education, and a Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter/storyteller/author. The agenda ranges from the growth of AR and VR in kids' play to why the arts matter to remaking schools to what happens when you let kids help design and build playgrounds for their communities.

Sandbox always features a demo evening for emerging products and content, and this year I'm especially excited about two. First is StoryScape by MIT Media Lab Ph.D. student Micah Eckhardt, an innovative new storytelling and art platform that uses many affordances of mobile devices to support the child's imagination. It was designed for use with children with autism, but as it developed, the potential for supporting all kids' creativity revealed itself.

The second is a demo of an Intel 20" All-in-One computer with classroom management software by EXO U. I'm not only eager for this one because big-screen, multi-touch tablet/computers are going to be making a splash in schools (imagine how they might facilitate teamwork and play-based learning), but because (letting you in on a secret) we're going to give away two of the computers at the end of the conference.

These are official program elements that are most closely aligned with connecting academia and industry; however, Sandbox Summit has always been known for giving plenty of "hallway" time, so participants forge their own diverse alliances, too.

The theme of Sandbox 2015 is "What If... Imagining a More Playful Society." I've noticed that we seldom test the capacity of this blog's comments section, so let's see if we can give it a workout this week.

Leave a comment below with your "What if..." wishes on any or all of these questions:

What's your "what if..." for transforming playful learning? What about playful teaching?

What's your "what if..." for the changing world of kids media?

What's your "what if..." for making families or communities more playful?

and, finally

What's your "what if..." for your own playful living, in the coming year?

Hope to see you in Cambridge, March 23-24. There are still spaces left, so go to and register. If you can't attend, be sure to follow along and contribute to the social media stream at #sandbox15.