Skillblox: Streamlining Our Search for Instructional ResourcesLindsey Cermak, Literacy Minnesota GED Instructor & ATLAS Numeracy Coordinator
Are you tired of taking the time to search the internet for the perfect resources to accompany your math instruction? Do you wish there was a searchable database organized by CCR standards and TABE 11/12 competencies to make lesson planning and packet compilation easier? You are in luck! A few years ago, Jeff Goumas, President & Treasurer of CrowdED Learning, conceptualized a resource that would do those very things. Let me introduce you to Skillblox!
What is Skillblox?
Skillblox is a tool created by CrowdED Learning in response to the question “What if instead of searching various books and sites for quality content, they were all organized in one place?” This database of content streamlines the process of creating targeted and individualized learning plans (online packets, if you will) for adult education students. Skillblox is a hub of Open Educational Resources (OERs), searchable by CCR standards, and soon TABE 11/12 competencies. Currently, this database of resources contains only math content, however the plan is to expand this tool to include other subjects as well once it is determined how educators and students want to use this resource.
How does Skillblox work?
First, go to Skillblox and set up a free account. Once you click on “Add a Skillblox”, you will see CCRS levels, domains, and subdomains. (Again, TABE 11/12 levels and competencies coming soon.) As you make your subdomain selections, activities, simulations, and materials from the resources (listed below) will automatically appear on the right of the screen. They will be labeled with specific standards, so you can easily make choices about which activities best fit the group or individual lesson you are creating.
Once you finish making your selection(s) of activities and materials, click Save. At this point, resources can be arranged in an order that makes the most sense for the learner’s progress.
The best part? Every time you make a Skillblox, a unique 6 alphanumeric code is generated. This Skillblox can then either be shared with one student, or with multiple students – no email addresses required!
See Skillblox samples here >>
(such as the sample shown to the right)
What resources are housed within Skillblox?
There are five main online resources that are housed within Skillblox:
- Khan Academy: Selected practice exercises are good for pre- and post-tests. If the practice exercises are used instead as part of instruction, links to one or more videos are included to clarify concepts.
- Ck-12*: Both activities and instructional material.
- Flexbooks*: Interactive textbooks for CCRS Levels D & E.
- Phet: Interactive simulations that target conceptual understanding.
- Math is Fun: Lessons, question sets, games, interactives, and more.
*Students need to create a FREE account to access materials.
Check out the wakelet bit.ly/blendmymath for more information on the resources listed above.
In addition to the five core online resources, a teacher can add print resources from their learning center to their Skillblox online library. By doing so, corresponding pages from these resources will also be generated to match the desired targeted standards. The published resources available in the online library currently include books from New Readers Press, Paxen Publishing, and McGraw-Hill Education.
How can I use Skillblox?
There are several ways to take advantage of Skillblox!
- Tailor a Skillblox set of resources to a specific student
- Create a Skillblox for each skill/topic you teach, with the same code that is accessible to ALL of your students
- Use Skillblox for instructional planning purposes, as a compilation of resources for teacher reference
- Use Skillblox in a flipped classroom setting and have students complete activities or instructional readings BEFORE coming to class (virtually or in person).
- Share only specific activities instead of an entire set of Skillblox activities
- When back to in-person classes, utilize Skillblox in a rotation of station work to incorporate digital literacy skills.
Personally, I am ecstatic about this new resource! In my class of GED students, I recently created a personalized Skillblox for a learner who requested help understanding fractions. As I get to know what my students’ individual needs are, I plan to create personalized Skillblox for other learners as well. In addition, I am looking forward to having this resource available to me as I plan my group math lessons!
Why is Skillblox useful?
Skillblox eliminates the search for mathematical resources that fit specific standards. This makes it easier to integrate OERs into instruction for both groups of students and individuals. Skillblox is also mobile-friendly, making it widely accessible!
This sounds too good to be true! Is it?
Not really! The main drawback is the difficulty in counting contact hours. Skillblox itself does not record students’ time-on-task. However, the platforms within Skillblox, like Khan Academy, that track student hours make it possible to count time spent on activities within those specific resources.
Once in-person classes resume, Skillblox could also be used in a lab setting where seat time can be counted. This could be an extremely useful tool for one room schoolhouse settings. Regardless of the instructional setting, Skillblox is a clear, thorough, user-friendly resource that addresses a student’s individual learning needs, which may at times be worth losing countable contact hours. For more information on contact hours, please see the Minnesota Department of Education’s response in the COVID-19 and ABE Programs Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
How can I learn more about Skillblox?
If your interest is piqued, check out these short video tutorials (and perhaps even the longer webinars) to learn more. Visually seeing how this works is exciting! I am sure your creative juices will start flowing with ideas about how you can best use this resource to meet the needs of your students!
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