Welcome to our Teaching Skills that Matter – SkillBlox research home base. Here you can keep up to date on The EdTech Center @ World Education’s contribution to a multi-year study which aims to better understand the use of free and open educational resources (OER) and how such resources can help teachers use the Teaching Skills That Matter (TSTM) framework. TSTM was developed by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE). Our research activities are part of a larger research initiative led by our partners, the American Institutes for Research and one of six studies that make up the CREATE Adult Skills Network funded by the Institute of Educational Sciences.
Our contribution to the study focuses on two activities led by the EdTech Center: 1) developing new features for an application called SkillBlox and 2) facilitating service-learning experiences that support curation or creation of open and free resources to be added to Skillblox.
SkillBlox is a free application that teachers can use to locate and then organize instructional resources into a “SkillBlox,” a series of linked digital activities they can share with their learners or other teachers. The features that result from our design research will make it easier for teachers to complete these tasks and consequently, expand access to free and open resources to support TSTM-aligned instruction.
Our service-learning opportunities are called EdTech Maker Space (ETMS) initiatives. Teachers collaborate in support of each others’ learning and work together to build a collection of open and free resources. As we teach practitioners about how to curate, evaluate, and create digital resources during the ETMS workshops, we generate hundreds of free and open educational resources that any teacher can share with their learners through SkillBlox.
As we design and facilitate these initiatives, we are engaged in a qualitative and iterative approach to understand how to develop SkillBlox features that will help teachers and learners. Our data sources include questionnaires, semi-structured interviews, and focus groups of teachers and education leaders who participate in our EdTech Maker Space service learning and in our SkillBlox development. We include the learner voice in this research through interviews with learners who have used SkillBlox in their learning. The iterative nature of our data collection and analysis ensures that our questions and processes and our resulting resources and application respond to the needs of teachers and learners in adult education programs.
We are a group of researchers and professional development specialists who strongly believe that in order to make technology-rich teaching and learning equitable, teachers and learners need to be able to access quality, relevant, free, and open digital content.
Jen Vanek, PhD, is a researcher and teacher educator focusing on digital literacy, online learning, and English literacy and language learning. Jen is co-principal investigator (with AIR) on two US Department of Education/Institute for Education Sciences (IES) research projects exploring technology use in adult education as part of the Create Adult Skills Network, the largest public investment made in research on adult education. She leads the TSTM-SkillBlox team at World Education.
Stephanie Cronen, PhD, is a managing researcher at AIR and a nationally-recognized expert in research on adult foundational education—programming intended to improve adult literacy, numeracy, English language proficiency, and other skills needed for success in education or the workplace. Currently, she serves as a principal investigator for two Institute of Education Sciences (IES)-funded CREATE Adult Skills Network projects, including the network lead project and the Teaching Skills That Matter-SkillBlox Instructional Support Pilot Study.
World Education Core Team
Jeff Goumas is a professional developer and digital learning specialist whose focus is to help educators enhance instruction through strategic use of educational technology, supported by high-quality open education resources (OER). He supports the TSTM-SkillBlox project through EdTech Maker Space design and facilitation as well as managing new feature development for SkillBlox.
Rachel Riggs is a teacher trainer who specializes in building educators’ capacity to implement edtech, digital resilience, and open education resources. She supports the TSTM-SkillBlox work through EdTech Maker Space design and facilitation as well as aiding in SkillBlox research and development activities.
Jennifer Maddrell, PhD studies, teaches, and designs learning experiences as both a consultant and Instructor at the University of Virginia School of Education and Human Development within the Instructional Technology program. She joins the team at World Education to support the design, research, and facilitation of EdTech Maker Spaces.
World Education Specialist Consultants
Javier is a co-founder of Processim Labs, a company that develops advanced college-level educational games that allow students to learn through hands-on experience. He has over a decade of experience in managing software projects, mobile apps, and websites making him a go-to expert for organizations and product teams. Javier is an innovative leader with ample knowledge and proficiency in the tech industry.
Alyse Harris is a Consulting Research Assistant for the EdTech Maker Space projects where she supports data collection and analysis. She is also a current Ph.D. student at Indiana University. Her research interests include technology integration in Adult Basic Education and Adult literacy. Harris is an experienced instructional designer with a focus on job training and professional development in corporate settings. She holds a Bachelor’s in Communication Management and Design from Ithaca College.
Justine Schade is an applied linguist and researcher with a passion for digital literacy. Justine previously worked on the EdTech Center @ World Education and Portland State’s Literacy, Language, and Technology Research Group’s collaborative project, 21CLEO. She now joins the team at World Education to support the data collection and analysis of EdTech Maker Spaces.
American Institutes for Research Team
Neha Nanda, PhD, is a researcher who focuses on socioeconomic issues among the underprivileged, low-skilled and low-income families and adults. She has led the design and evaluation of multiple large-scale demonstrations and evaluation studies. She is the Project Director and the co-quantitative study lead of the TSTM-SkillBlox grant to develop, and pilot test a technology tool for adult education teachers to help them better align the skills and topics they focus on in the classroom with learners’ broader needs and interests.
Heinrich Hock, PhD, is a researcher who focuses on education, credentialing, and employment among underserved groups. As part of the TSTM-SkillBlox team, he leads a field pilot of new instructional supports for adult education teachers. His other research considers solutions to help people with disabilities improve their schooling and career outcomes, and enhancing the equity and effectiveness of workforce programs.
Cherise G. Moore, Ph.D., is a principal TA consultant at American Institutes for Research (AIR). Cherise leads OCTAE’s LINCS (lincs.ed.gov) and Teaching Skills That Matter in Adult Education projects for the U.S. Department of Education. She has extensive experience as a TA provider and practitioner in adult learning, career technical education and diversity, equity and inclusion
Marcela Movit, Ph.D., is a Senior Researcher at the American Institutes for Research. She brings with her expertise in the areas of adult learning, professional development and training, English learners, and standards development. She is the deputy director of the Teaching Skills That Matter in Adult Education (TSTM) project, for which she led the development of the project toolkit.
Amani Talwar, Ph.D., is a researcher with a focus on adult and postsecondary education. She conducts qualitative and quantitative research to support the TSTM-SkillBlox Instructional Support Pilot. Her other projects include implementation and evaluation studies involving adult learners. She has previously worked on an adult literacy research center and an adult education researcher-practitioner partnership funded by IES.
Deeza-Mae Smith, M.S. is a mixed-methods Researcher with a focus on education and evaluation data. She coordinates and conducts multiple data collection activities such as student assessments and teacher surveys to determine the impact on student achievement; and surveys to gather evaluative data on project products and services. She supports both the Create Adult Skills Network lead and the TSTM-SkillBlox Instructional Support Pilot Study.
The work of the TSTM-SkillBlox project is supported by the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education through AWARD R305N210014 to the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The work of the Network member projects is supported by the Institute. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent the views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.