Research News

UW-Madison’s Rau launches ‘Learning with Visuals’ vlog to share her work with public

August 25, 2017

In an effort to better connect her education research with people outside the realm of academia, UW-Madison’s Martina Rau recently launched a video blog, or vlog, called, “Learning with Visuals.”

Rau directs the Learning Representations and Technology Lab on campus, which studies how educational technologies can best support student learning with visuals. She also is an assistant professor with the School of Education’s No. 1-ranked Department of Educational Psychology, and holds an affiliate appointment in the Department of Computer Sciences.

Rau explains that she recently started thinking about how most people outside her field of education research likely have little idea what she studies or how such work can affect their lives. Rau has traditionally communicated information about her research in writing –- via various reports and articles published in peer-reviewed journals. Similarly, she has delivered numerous talks and presentations to colleagues in the scientific community.

Martina Rau's blog, Learning with Visuals
UW-Madison's Martina Rau launched a new video blog, or
vlog, titled, "Learning with Visuals." To check out Rau's vlog
visit her YouTube channel.
“I was really thinking about finding new ways of communicating with non-scientists,” Rau says of her decision to launch her Learning with Visuals video blog on Aug. 21. “I started thinking about the Wisconsin Idea and ways in which I could make my research more accessible and help improve people’s lives beyond the boundaries of my research lab.”

Rau says the vlog posts -- most of which will be 3 to 5 minutes long -- could be useful for students searching for effective study strategies and for parents looking for ways to help their children become better learners. The vlog could also prove beneficial for educators seeking more information about helping their students understand teaching with visuals.

“I’d be very happy if this project results in opening new conversation channels with myself and teachers across Wisconsin and beyond,” says Rau. “Perhaps teachers will follow up with questions that I can one day address in research. This vlog isn’t a one-way street -- I want to be able to enter into a conversation with people who are interested in the topics I cover.”

Similarly, says Rau, the vlog could also be of interest to students considering conducing their own education research.

For those who crave more details about the research that Rau is vlogging about, she plans to share links to more in-depth articles about the topics she covers.

“The vlog is my effort to translate my research into everyday language so that anyone who is interested in this work -– but doesn’t want to read a lengthy and dry academic article -– can learn more,” says Rau.

Rau’s first vlog post, “Translating Research into Everyday Language,” introduces her work, while her second post, “Learning with Visuals by Explaining and by Training Intuitions,” looks at her research into what skills students need in order to learn utilizing visuals.

To help students learn, Rau explains, teachers often use visual representations – such as models of molecules in chemistry or number lines of fractions. While such visuals are often helpful, they sometimes can be confusing if students don’t know how the visuals show information.

Rau is currently working on several research projects examining these topics. Earlier this year, she received a prestigious early CAREER grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore how adaptive educational technologies can improve students' learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

Rau, who produces the vlogs herself, says she plans to release a new vlog post each Monday, with the next one coming out on Aug. 28. To view Rau’s video blog or to subscribe to “Learning with Visuals,” visit her YouTube channel.

• Update on Aug. 28: Check out Rau's latest vlog post, "Order of Explanation Activities and Intuition Activities" here.