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Education Now Lab

The Education Now Lab is a community-engaged research+practice lab that engages in and produces a range of scholarship (e.g., public, academic, new media) alongside community members.

The Education Now Lab launched in 2020 by Dr. Anna Smith and doctoral students in Illinois State University’s School of Teaching and Learning course Critical Perspectives on Technology-Based Learning. Throughout the course—at the time what we thought was the height of the COVID pandemic—we took an inquiry-based approach to course readings and activities with this essential question in mind: How can we support our local schools and communities through critical public scholarship on technology in education? Doctoral students queried local schools and communities to find mutually beneficial topics of interest, researched the subject with a critical lens, and produced a range of outputs from infographics sent via social media to drafts of podcast episodes. Their public scholarship has inspired the trajectory of the Lab today.

The Lab currently hosts five doctoral students who are pursuing critical research at the intersection of education, literacies, technologies, and participatory approaches. You can meet them here!

Meet (some of) the Team! Partner Profiles Coming Soon!

profile pic of Anna Smith

Anna Smith, PhD

brings over 25 years of teaching experience & dedication to humanizing learning to research on writing development, transliteracies, and the intersection of teaching and learning. Dr. Smith received her Ph.D. at New York University. She is currently an Associate Professor of Literacies and Education at Illinois State University, following an IES Postdoctoral Fellowship in Writing and New Learning Ecologies at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is co-author of Developing Writers: Teaching and Learning in the Digital Age and co-editor of the Handbook of Writing, Literacies, and Education in Digital Cultures. Her recent and award-winning research can be found in journals such as Journal of Literacy Research, Learning, Culture and Social Interaction, Literacy, and Theory into Practice. She is the Past Chair of the AERA Writing and Literacies SIG and an elected Executive Board member of the National Council of Research on Language and Literacy.

profile pic of Alex Kritselis

Alex Kritselis

is a doctoral student in Illinois State University’s School of Teaching and Learning. His research interests include critical media literacy education, representations of LGBTQ+ identity in popular media, and media criticism. In his spare time, you can find Alex obsessing over pop music, watching horror movies, and, on occasion, tap dancing.

Check out some of Alex’s research:

profile pic of Kathy Webster

Kathy Webster

is an Associate Professor of Medical Laboratory Science at Illinois State University. Medical Lab Scientists perform medical testing in hospital labs and blood banks, carry out research in government labs and pharmaceutical companies, and work in industry and crime labs. After working in hospital labs and obtaining a Master’s in Biology, she returned to her ISU Alma Mater to teach MLS students.

She is now working toward a Doctorate in Education. Her areas of interest are quite broad, but her area of current research is the use of virtual and augmented realities in education. She is interested in how and why teachers would use alternate reality tools with their students, and the effect these tools have on student learning.

Nicole Zaremba

is an EdD student at Illinois State University studying curriculum and instruction. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Bradley University in secondary education English with a history minor and her master’s degree from Illinois State University in curriculum and instruction.

For her dissertation, she is researching the relationship between youths’ technology use outside of school and their lives as students. She also teaches upper elementary/middle school language arts and social studies and has been teaching since 2006.

Josh Fitzgerald

is a doctoral candidate in Illinois State University’s School of Teaching and Learning. His research interests are all over the place, but as of right now he is primarily focused on how teachers and students establish rapport in online classrooms. Outside of school, you’ll likely find Josh attending live music events, watching movies in the theater, and enjoying local breweries and restaurants.

If you would like to get in touch with Josh, feel free to email him at: Or, reach out via social media. His Instagram handle is Joshua.I.Fitzgerald and his Twitter handle is: iamjoshfitz

profile pic of Ryan Kerr

Ryan Kerr

is a graduate student (Ed.D.) in the department of Teaching and Learning at Illinois State University. His research interests range from sociolinguistics to issues of social justice and equity in education to perceptions around school policy. His current research questions are focused on the ways that construction of narratives around school policy can lead to an understanding of subjects’ identity and positionality within schoolsystems and districts.

A veteran teacher of more than 14 years, Ryan has taught English in public high schools in Wisconsin, Texas, and Illinois, where he currently teaches and directs dramatic programs at Normal Community West High School.

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