Martina Rau headshot

Martina Rau

Martina Rau headshot
Martina Rau is the director of the Learning, Representations, & Technology lab and Associate Professor in Educational Psychology with an affiliate appointment in Computer Sciences at the University of Wisconsin – Madison. Her research focuses on learning with visual representations in educational technologies.

Research interests: educational technologies, visualizations, learning analytics


How did you get started in doing work in emerging technologies for teaching and learning?

As an undergraduate student, I became interested in why it is that some educational technologies catch on while others do not. The effectiveness of educational technologies depends on how they are designed, whether their design aligns with the instructional goals, and how they are used in a given educational context. Some of my research looks at formal educational contexts, whereas other projects investigate learning in an informal context. For example, a current project investigates how to teach viewers not to be fooled by misleading graphs in an informal context; that is, web browsing. The project aims to design an educational technology that will be delivered via a browser plugin that detects when viewers encounter a misleading graph on the web and uses this graph as a learning opportunity by providing feedback and instruction.

Do you think more about technology innovation or improving understanding of learning? How do you balance the thinking?

I use innovative educational technologies as a platform to investigate learning processes and learning outcomes affected by the technologies. To achieve high ecological validity in this research, I develop educational technologies that are usable within the given educational context while also being innovative and of high quality. My research usually compares several versions of those technologies so that I can gain insights into which features of the technologies affect learning outcomes and lead to the effectiveness of the technologies. At the same time, the technologies then serve as a tool for disseminating my work. For example, in the project mentioned above, the browser plugin will serve as a platform for investigating how to teach viewers about misleading graphs while also serving as a product that will be made available for free when the research studies are completed.

What do you gain when you work with others in the CIRCLS community and what are some key lessons you have learned from that collaboration?

I closely collaborate with domain experts and educators in the STEM domains. Their perspective is essential for my research to help me understand how they use educational technologies in instructional contexts, what difficulties students have that educational technologies could help address, and what their own technological needs are. These collaborations have helped me understand the multiple stakeholder perspectives that need to be taken into account when designing educational technologies. For example, in the project mentioned above, the design of the browser plugin will take into account user interests related to data privacy