October 1, 2018


October 1, 2018


Tough Mudder TeamGear Learning director Mike Beall says he only hoped to encourage some esprit de corps among the members of his video game design studio at WCER when he put together a team of volunteers to compete in the grueling Wisconsin Tough Mudder 2018 on Sept. 8 in Plymouth.

But he and the rest of the 17-person team, which included a few recruits from WIDA, benefited in more ways than that.

“I wanted to do it as a team-building exercise and it ended up being a health intervention, too,” Mike says. “We lost over 100 pounds studio-wide, with one guy losing 45 pounds.”

Impressive, but not entirely surprising considering what it must take to prepare for the jaw-dropping, mud-soaked, 10-mile obstacle course that took most people about three hours to finish.

Challenges along the route included running, jumping, swinging on a trapeze bar, taking an ice bath, barreling through water-filled tunnels, carrying logs, climbing a tall wall via human pyramid, scrambling up a slippery rope, traversing a tear gas-like substance, crawling in mud under barbed wire, slugging through waist-deep mud and, in one infamous obstacle, dodging live wires delivering electric shocks.

Team members trained for six months, paid $80 per person plus $20 for parking and drove two hours to participate in the exhausting, though ultimately rewarding, challenge. But their success should be no surprise for those who know the Gear Learning staffers.

They live and breathe teamwork, sharing a passion for creating computer games that make learning fun for tough subjects like astronomy, virology, anatomy and engineering. And who knows — maybe their Tough Mudder experience could inspire a future learning game, perhaps one exploring soil science or human endurance?


The Madison Education Partnership, a research-practice collaboration between WCER and the Madison Metropolitan School District, is running its Fall Requests for Proposals, with a Friday, Oct. 5 deadline. Projects should be related to attendance issues at MMSD.

University faculty members, research staff and advanced graduate students (with a faculty member as principal investigator) are invited to apply.

Click here for complete instructions.


WCER is hosting a new employee meet-and-greet event from 9-10 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 2, in Room 265.

Please take a few minutes out of your day to enjoy some free refreshments and meet new employees and other co-workers. WCER has hired 30 new university and academic staff members since our last meet-and-greet, with at least 20 of them expected to attend and be introduced Tuesday.


Kate McCleary of The LEAD Center presented at the 2018 NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) Annual Meeting: Advancing Knowledge & Transforming the Future held in Arlington, Virginia, on Sept. 27-28.

Her presentation, “Using Formative Evaluation Data in Program Design and Planning,” provided insights on ways formative evaluation can be used in the program’s implementation and improvement.

McCleary serves as the evaluator on the Learning Understanding Cognition Intelligence and Data Science (LUCID), a project of UW-Madison’s Psychology Department.


Just a heads-up that the Annual Benefits Enrollment period starts Monday, Oct. 1, and runs through Friday, Oct. 26. This is the one time per year when you can enroll in or make changes to most employee benefits without experiencing an eligible life event, such as a change in your job or family status. Any changes made during the enrollment period take effect Jan. 1, 2019.

A web-based personal benefits coach called ALEX can walk you through the benefit election process with a series of easy, intuitive questions.

Additional information will be emailed to employees from UW System human resources staff members just before the enrollment period starts, with more information on benefit plans, premiums and enrollment available now here. Also, academic and university staff should feel free to contact WCER‘s own Kula (kula.yang@wisc.edu or Franchesca (franchesca.beswick@wisc.edu) with any questions.

Another great resource is the Employee Benefits & Resource Fair, on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Union South, 1308 W. Dayton St. Drop in for hour-long benefit seminars starting at 10:15 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., with opportunities to ask questions and meet with benefits representatives throughout the day. The event is free, no leave time needs to be used and all employees are encouraged to attend.


WCER researchers Percival MatthewsAna Stephens and Martha Alibali have received a three-year, $670,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to study ways to promote equal sign knowledge as a means to help young students eventually understand algebra better.

“If algebra is the gatekeeper to future success in STEM fields and to higher education more generally, then foundational skills that support developing algebra competence are the keys to the gate,” Percival, an assistant professor in educational psychology, says about the key issue. “Understanding the equal sign is one such skill — it represents one of the ‘big ideas’ in early mathematics that is essential in algebraic thinking.”

More information on the study is available here, with a news story from the School of Education here.

“This project will build upon proven methods for promoting equal sign knowledge and aims to yield a simple, easily disseminated method for teaching children about this important idea,” Percival explains.


Siftr: A Tool for the Folklore Classroom 
Sept. 21, 2018
From the Journal of Folklore and Education:
Siftr is a freely available data collection and visualization platform that allows users to upload and geotag images and to record and share associated notes and field observations. The application was developed by WCER‘s interdisciplinary team of educational researchers, software engineers and humanists known collectively as Field Day.

Professor Broadens Research beyond Academy
Sept. 20, 2018
From Diverse Issues in Higher Education:
Jerlando F.L. Jackson remembers attending a session on career trajectories for faculty at the annual conference of the Association for the Study of Higher Education early in his academic career.


It happens with every credit-card swipe and GPS ping. It’s part of writing an email, sending a text or posting on Instagram. It can be triggered by playing an online game, ordering dinner on a smartphone or surfing for best buys on a tablet.

Even showing up on security footage while shopping will do it.

Active or passive, all these activities leave a digital record that moment by moment is driving the largest collection of information ever accumulated. According to Google CEO Eric Schmidt, the information being generated online every two days equals the total amount recorded in all of human history prior to 2003, with a growth rate doubling biennially.

That information represents a bonanza of potential new insights for those who study human behavior. But even as technological advances speed this data explosion, making sense of what’s being gathered grows more difficult, notes University of Wisconsin-Madison scholar David Williamson Shaffer, the Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Learning Sciences and director at WCER‘s Epistemic Analytics.

Read more here.


Oct. 3 12:30-1:30 pm WIES Lecture: Mutual Survival: Education Reform & Economic Change in Rural WisconsinJenny Seelig, Room 159, Education Building

Oct. 5 1-4:45 p.m Teacher Speakout! Rural Education Roundtable Discussion & Collaborative Dialogue, Morgridge Commons & Room 159, Education Building

Oct. 8 12:00-1 pm Retrospective Item and Survey Design for Workshop EvaluationChristine Bell of The Lead Center, Room 259, Educational Sciences Building

Oct. 16 12:00-1 pm The Importance of Meaning: Going Beyond Mixed Methods to Turn Big Data into Real UnderstandingDavid Williamson ShafferUnion South (TITU for room details)

Oct. 17 Noon-2:00 pm WIES Lecture Featuring Kara Viesca, Room 159, Education Building

Nov. 7, 12:30-1:30 pm WIES Lecture Featuring Christien Tompkins, Room 159, Education Building

Dec. 5 Noon-2:00 pm WIES Lecture Featuring Benedikt Harrer, Room 159, Education Building


David Gagnon was awarded $106,600 by the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction for “Field Day Lab Year 5 Funding,” through 2019.

Eric Grodsky received a grant for $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Education for “Enhancing the Quality of Instruction in Four-Year-Old Kindergarten,” through Aug. 31, 2020.

Robert MathieuKitch Barnicle and Donald Gillian-Daniel received a grant of $3,340,893 from the National Science Foundation for “Aspire: The National Alliance for Inclusive and Diverse STEM Faculty,” through Aug. 31, 2023.

Percival MatthewsMartha Alibali and Ana Stephens were awarded $670,986 by the National Science Foundation for the project “Cultivating Knowledge of Mathematical Equivalence,” through 2021.

Peter Wardrip was awarded $240,568 by the National Science Foundation for “EAGER: MAKER: Enhanced Learning Through Making by Way of Personalized Content for Animation and Fabrication,” through 2019; $99,709 for “Research and Assessment in Makerspaces” from the Institute of Museum and Library Services through 2019; and a $45,000 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services for “Making Observations: Building an Evaluation Tool for Making as a Learning Process,” through Oct. 31, 2019. Congratulations, Peter!


Annemarie Banas, Administrative Program Specialist, WIDA Research & DevelopmentTaylor Johnston, Associate Administrative Program Specialist, WIDA Professional Learning  Management

Devin Shepherd, University Services Associate 2, CIRTL

Susan Smetzer-Anderson, formerly with the Philly i3 project, now Senior University Relations Specialist, CRECE

Katharine Stenz, Associate Administrative Program Specialist, WIDA Assessment

Gregory Zorko, University Service Associate, business office


PVL 95922 – WIDA E-Learning Instructional Designer

PVL 95939 – Software Application Developer

PVL 95908 – Art Director

PVL 95724 – WIDA Assessment Accommodations & Accessibility Specialist


Keys to the Gate? Equal Sign Knowledge at Second Grade Predicts Fourth-Grade Algebra Competence,  Percival Matthews and Lynn S. Fuchs, Child Development, September 2018