About me

Photo: Pia-Christina Roth

I have seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives. (T. Chapman)
Life gives you the chance to love, to work, and to play.

Adjunct Professor, playful and game-based learning, 2017, University of Jyväskylä
Ph.D. in Education
, University of Lapland, 2010
Master of Education, University of Jyväskylä, 1996

Completed non-academic programs:
REACH Acceleration program provided by Nordic Innovation House in Silicon Valley, 2018-2019, Palo Alto, California

Since 2003, my research has mainly focused on understanding teaching and learning processes in various innovative and nature-based learning contexts. Specifically, I’ve been interested in playful learning; the use of play, games and digital tools in learning. Playful learning pedagogy, students’ and teachers’ agency, teacher competence, playfulness and creative collaboration are examples of my research interests.

In Finland, I’m a forerunner of the research on playful learning, and a co-developer of a “playful learning environment” (PLE) at the university of Lapland. The PLE combines play and game-based elements with mind-on, hands-on and body-on activities (Kangas, 2010) to create an immersive learning experience for the 21st century learner. Recognized for my work in the field, my dissertation “School of the Future: Theoretical and pedagogical approaches to creative and playful learning environments” (Kangas, 2010) received the distinguished professor Lea Pulkkinen’s award in 2012.

Beyond academia, my commitment to educational innovations has led me to collaborate with several organizations and companies, such as Lappset Group Ltd., ROVIO Learning, YALP, The Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, YLE Lapset, and Save the Children. Together, we have been at the forefront of developing products, services, and digital and outdoor learning environments, tailored to empower and engage learners in the digital era. Equally important is my dedication to sharing knowledge and inspiring change. Having trained hundreds of teachers in Finland and the United States, I have had the privilege of igniting a passion for playful and game-based learning, and collaborating with schools in Finland and abroad. Since 2023, I have had the honor of serving as the ambassador for outdoor playful learning for Lappset Group Ldt. Lappset Playful Learning (youtube.com)

For me, playful learning is not just a concept; it is a way of life – a belief that education should not be confined to the conventional, but should celebrate creativity, exploration, and the joy of discovery. It is this passion that drives me to pioneer change and forge a new path for the learners of today and the leaders of tomorrow.

During university years, I have done research in many multidisciplinary research teams and  projects, funded by European Social Fund, Business Finland, Ministry of Education or Finnish National Agency for Education:

I am very inspired by pure nature in Finnish Lapland where I live.


  • 11.11.2021, Best Paper Award, Journal of Professional and Vocational Education: Upola, Kangas & Ruokamo, Towards working life skills – Vocational student as a learner in working life projects.
  • 29.6.2018, AACE Best Paper of Finland Award, EdMedia Conference: Keskitalo, Kangas & Ruokamo, Adult Playfulness in Simulation-based Healthcare Education. In T. Bastiaens et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of EdMedia: World Conference on Educational Media and Technology (pp. 2316–2324). Amsterdam, Netherlands: Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE).
  • 2012 Rewards for high-quality publications (€3000.00), University of Lapland: Kangas, M., Kultima, A. & Ruokamo, H. (2011). Children’s Creative Collaboration – A View of Narrativity. In D. Faulkner & E. Coates (Eds). Exploring Children’s Creative Narratives (pp. 63–85). London: Routledge.
  • 19.4.2012, Doctoral Dissertation Award, University of Jyväskylä, Finland: Kangas (2010) The School of the Future: Theoretical and Pedagogical Approaches for Creative and Playful Learning Environments.
  • 17.5.2010. ASLA Fulbright SIR Scholar-in-Residence Program Grant for 2010–2011: Finland–U.S. Educational Exchange Commission, Fulbright Center & J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Helsinki, Finland.
  • Most downloaded and cited journal article “Creative and playful learning: Learning through game co-creation and play in a playful learning environment” (Kangas, 2010) in the Journal of Thinking Skills and Creativity, during the years 2010–2015.