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April showers research laurels on Ed Tech PhD students



April was a month to remember for UF Educational Technology doctoral student Jiahui Wang. She must have thought it was still March because she was more lion than lamb, starting off the first Monday of the month, April 3, with a roar after winning first place in her division for Best Poster at UF’s 2017 Graduate Student Research Day. The event was held at the Reitz Union Grand Ballroom.

Jiahui Wang poses with her state award-winning poster detailing a high-tech, eye-tracking study of students’ mental processes influencing multimedia learning.

Student competitors from across campus showcased their research posters and prepared short presentations for a panel of scholarly judges from every college on campus. Two winners were chosen from both the STEM and non-STEM divisions.

Wang’s winning poster in the non-STEM category detailed a high-tech, eye-tracking study of students’ visual attention on the instructor’s presence in math instructional videos, and how that mental process influences learning. Her study used Algebra Nation, UF’s groundbreaking online tutoring tool, as the multimedia testing environment.

As one of the four winners in the UF competition, Wang, a third-year Ph.D. student and research fellow, was invited to compete in the Statewide Graduate Research Symposium in Tampa on April 21 as one of UF’s representatives.  Once again, Wang’s eye-tracking poster won top state honors in the education division for the Gator orange and blue.

“I have the greatest gratitude for Dr. Antonenko for his mentorship,’ said Wang after earning her statewide honor. She has been working with Ed Tech Professor Pasha Antonenko in the College of Education’s Neuroscience Applications for Learning (NeurAL) Laboratory, merging neuroscience technology and new knowledge of the brain’s workings with education research to study and advance how people learn online and in multi-media environments.

Sandwiched between Wang’s two graduate research awards was another statewide competition to gauge her research prowess against her young research peers—but with a few different wrinkles:  Her medium of choice was paper (for a written report) instead of poster board; her research topic and methods were the polar opposite on the technology spectrum from her eye-tracking study; and, Wang wasn’t the only COE EduGator to bring home a prize in this competition.

Wenjing Luo

What Wang and her Ed Tech doctoral classmate Wenjing Luo did was sweep the first- and second-place prizes, respectively, in the Outstanding Paper competition April 15 at the UF-hosted 12th Annual Conference of the Social Sciences: From Social Problems to Social Promise.” The event is staged by the Florida Society of the Social Sciences​. Wang’s winning research report was a case study titled “Use Hopscotch to Develop Computational Thinking in Elementary School.” Second-year doctoral research fellow Luo, the UF EduGator runner-up, reported on “Educational Robotics Implementation in a Middle School Classroom.” Luo, advised by Ed Tech program coordinator Albert Ritzhaupt, evaluated Alachua County Public Schools’ robotics program for her project. Wang and Luo are both natives of China.

April may have been a drought month for Florida this year, but Wang, Luo and their student and faculty co-researchers and mentors in Ed Tech conjured their own April shower with the downpour of honors and prizes that befell them during their month-long stretch of student research competitions across the state.

Wang also was one of 20 students chosen out of 200 applicants nationwide to participate in the Graduate Student Seminar in late April at the 2017 annual conference of the American Educational Research Association.


WRITER: Larry Lansford, news & communications, UF College of Education; llansford@coe.ufl.edu; 352-273-4137