Research Interests

My research is principally concerned with:

  • The design and development of digital media across and between the practices of learning and play.   
  • The study of sociocultural learning systems around video games and other digital media.
  • Conceptualizing online learning systems that take advantage of contemporary advances in digital and networked technologies.

Professional Experience

7/14 – Current   University of Wiscosin-Extension . . . . . . . Madison, WI
Senior Interaction Designer

1/12 – 9/17   Nerd Kingdom . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Los Angeles, CA
Learning Science Researcher

6/12 – 6/14   Ronin Studios & Consulting . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Madison, WI
Creative Director

9/10 – 2/12   Academic ADL Co-Lab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Madison, WI
Associate Director of Research

9/06 – 8/10      Wisconsin Center for Education Research . . Madison, WI
Research Assistant under Professor Richard Halverson

6/07 – 6/09      Academic ADL Co-Lab . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Madison, WI
Research Assistant – Florida Virtual School researcher and instructional designer

10/05 - 12/06   Independent Contract Work . . . . . . . . . . .  Los Angeles, CA
Freelance Writer

12/05 - 6/06    Los Angeles Unified School District . . . . . . . Los Angeles, CA
Substitute Teacher

6/05 - 7/05      Bank Street Summer Camp . . . . . . . . . . . . New York, NY
Musical Director - Musical Theater Section, Upper Camp

9/04 - 6/05      N.Y.C. Lab School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . New York, NY
Supervisor - Region 9 Alternative Instruction Site at Lab School

10/03 - 5/04    Accelerated Schools Project . . . . . . . . . . . . New York, NY
Project Liaison

6/02-8/04       Sarah's Science . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  Oakland, CA
Assistant Director: This Land is Your Land Summer Day Camp of Science

9/00 - 6/03     Oakland Unified School District . . . . . . . . . . Oakland, CA
Substitute Teacher


2006-2010 University of Wisconsin-Madison, Madison, WI
• PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis
• Dissertation Topic - Leadership at play: How leadership in digital games can inform the future of instructional leadership. Filed September 1, 2010.

2003-2005 Teachers College, Columbia, New York, NY
• MA in Educational Administration/Education Leadership
• Conflict Resolution Certification from International Center for Co-operation and Conflict Resolution (ICCCR) Teachers College, Columbia University.

1994–1999 University of California in San Diego, La Jolla, CA
• BA in Visual Art, Studio (Minor in Music Performance)
• Graduated cum laude and with Departmental Honors

Instructional, UX, and Game Design


"The University Learning Store" beta Program Manager

University of Wisconsin-Extension Student Engagement System UX Designer


"The University Learning Store" pilot Creative Director

Storybook Player v.3 User Experience Consultant


Sherlock (system concept and video tagging tool) Creative Director

Online Curriculum Development Process Realignment and Supporting Tools Design Lead


Dynamics of Worksite Wellnees Evaluation & ROI - Canvas Network MOOC Interaction Designer

Story based curriculum overhaul for a fortune 500 company Instructional Design Consultant

Rethinking communication for a rapidly growing EHR startup Design Research Consultant

Company Retreat/Excellence Island Team Lead/Lead Designer
Cool Choices: Green and Healthy Schools Team Lead
Words on Wisconsin! Team Lead/Lead Designer
Strive site redesign Consulting Designer

Mobile Access to Supplementary Learning Objects (MASLO) Researcher & Design Team Member
micro Scenario Based Learning System Design Team Member
Cool Choices (mobile design) Team Lead

Meteor Strike: A board game entrant in the Global Game Jam, 2011 Design Team Member

Oncology: A game about oncological practice Design Team Member and Project Liaison
Virulent!: A systems biology game Audio Director (demo version) and Design Team Member

Interactive Cases in School Leadership: A gameful curriculum prototype Project Lead
KidGrid: A formative assessment iPhone tool for teachers Design Team Member

Florida Virtual School: Pre-Algebra innovative prototype course Instructional Designer

Rich Halverson’s: Teaching Evaluation Project Lead

Peer-Reviewed Articles & Chapters

Branon, R. & Wolfenstein, M. (2013) MASLO: An Open Source Platform for Mobile Development. In Marshall, S. & Kinuthia, W. (Eds.) On the move: Mobile learning for development

Wolfenstein, M. (2012) Well suffered. Well Played 2(1) 29-47.

Wolfenstein, M. (2012) Digital structures and the future of online leadership. In S. D'Agustino (Ed.) Immersive environments, augmented realties, and virtual worlds.

Bauman, E.B. & Wolfenstein M. (2012) The evolving field of virtual environments and game-based learning in education. In Bauman, E. B. (Ed.) Simulation and Game-based Teaching in Nursing & Healthcare.

Branon, R., Wolfenstein, M., & Raasch, C., (2012) iOS and Amazon SimpleDB: Connecting mobile learning to the cloud. eLearn Magazine.

Halverson, R., Wolfenstein, M., Williams, C. & Rockman, C. (2009) Remembering math: The design of digital learning objects to spark professional learning. E-Learning 6(1) 97-118.

Research Reports and Other Publications

Wolfenstein, M., Branon, R. (In preparation) Novel content sourcing: A tool for curricular design in a changing media landscape

Patterson, N., Wolfenstein, M., Millar, S., Halverson, R., & Squire, K. Games and simulations for diabetes education.

Dikkers, S., Wolfenstein, M. & Wirth, D. World History Civ III Project Review, Evaluation and Recommendations, an Academic ADL Co-Lab white paper prepared for Florida Virtual School.

When a Motif Becomes a Role: Games Proposal for Florida Virtual School - Co-Authored with members of GLS and the Academic ADL Co-Lab.

Wolfenstein, M. Bringing Games into the Curriculum: A Comprehensive Curricular Improvement Plan for Florida Virtual School.

Wolfenstein, M. Region 9 Alternative Instructional Site at Lab School: Assessment, Analysis, and Proposals.

Conflict Management System: Project Report - for Human Development Services of Westchester- Co-Authored with the Columbia Consulting Group.

Wolfenstein, M. Student Autonomy & School Choice: A Case Study of Secondary School Students at a California Magnet School.

Popular Press

Wolfenstein, M. The Machiavellian Guild Leader. In L. Cuddy and J. Nordlinger (Eds.) World of Warcraft and Philosophy. pp. 175-184.

Conference Papers and Presentations

Wolfenstein, M. Games vs gamification: The ultimate showdown.  A micropresentation presented at Games+Learning+Society 10.0, June 2014. Madison, WI.

Wolfenstein, M., Norton, D., Beall, M. Making games for learning: Lessons learned in design and development.  A symposium presented at Games+Learning+Society 9.0, June 2013. Madison, WI.

Wolfenstein, M. Well Suffered.  A Well Played talk presented at Games+Learning+Society 8.0, June 2012. Madison, WI.

Halverson, E., Juul, J., Malaby, T. Peppler, K., Simkins, D., Wolfenstein, M., Zimmerman, E. "You put your right foot in...". A symposium presented at Games+Learning+Society 8.0, June 2012. Madison, WI.

Wolfenstein, M., & Tao, T. Nursing online course scenario design: Scenario based learning using an interactive tool. Presented at the 12th Annual International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH), January 30, 2012. San Diego, CA.

Branon, R., Wolfenstein, M., & Nelson, J. Developing technologies for learning objects on mobile platforms. Presented at the 27th Anniversary of the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, August, 2011. Madison, WI.

Ranon, R., & Wolfenstein, M. Developing Mobile Access to Supplementary Learning Objects System (MASLO). Presented at the DevLearn conference, October, 2011, Las Vegas, NV. 

Wolfenstein, M. A year in games. Presented at Games+Learning+Society Conference 7.0, June 2011. Madison, WI.

Kelly, S., Wolfenstein, M., Chen, M., D’Angelo, C., Chess, S., & Harper, T. Writing the games-based dissertation. Presented at the Games+Learning+Society Conference 7.0, June 2011, Madison, WI.

Wolfenstein, M. Reframing expertise via nested communities of practice. Working paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April, 2011. New Orleans, LA.

Wolfenstein, M., Herro, D., Haney, J., & Branon, R. Novel content sourcing. Presented at the Digital Media and Learning conference, March 3, 2011. Long Beach, CA.

Mihai, A., Wu, R., Aleckson, J., Dev, P., & Wolfenstein, M. Experiences in healthcare-related serious game development. Presented at the 11th Annual International Meeting on Simulation in Healthcare (IMSH), January 24, 2011. New Orleans, LA.

Wolfenstein, M. People before pixels: How guild leadership in World of Warcraft speaks to educational leadership. Presented at Games+Learning+Society Conference 6.0, June 2009. Madison, WI.

Wolfenstein, M. Serious play: Exploring virtual leadership practices in the MMO World of Warcraft. Presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, May 1, 2010. Denver, CO.

Wolfenstein, M. People before pixels: (Re)mediated leadership in a massively multiplayer online game. Presented at the 87th annual Central States Anthropological Society conference, April, 2010. Madison, WI.

Chen, M., Wolfenstein, M., DeVane, B., Grimes, S., Walter, S. The mangle of play: Game challenges and player workarounds. Presented at the first annual Digital Media and Learning Conference, February, 2010. La Jolla, San Diego.

Wolfenstein, M. & Wirth, P. Algebra Readiness: A next generation Algebra precourse. Presented at the 25th Anniversary of the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching & Learning, August, 2009. Madison, WI.

Malaby, T. Wolfenstein, M., Norton, D., Polin, L., Lawley, L., Koester, J. & Gaydos, M. The Academic Guild: The Interdisciplinary Value of Ongoing Pwnage. Presented at Games+Learning+Society Conference 5.0, June 2009. Madison, WI.

Blakesley, C., Dikkers, S., Wolfenstein, M., & Halverson, R. Interactive Narratives for Professional Learning. Presented at Games+Learning+Society Conference 5.0, June 2009. Madison, WI.

Games, A., Duncan, S., Wolfenstein, M. & Martin, J. A New Designer Mindset. Presented at The 6th Annual Games for Change Festival, May 2009. New York, NY.

Wolfenstein, M. & Dikkers, S. My Raid Leader, My Teacher: What We Can Learn About Schools from Guild Leadership. Working Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 10. San Diego, CA.

Halverson, R. & Wolfenstein, M. Remembering Math: The Design of Digital Learning Objects to Spark Professional Learning. Paper presented at the Annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, April 2009. San Diego, CA.

Wolfenstein, M. I was told, we would be fighting men: An analysis of player based production around Valve’s Team Fortress 2, Presented at Sandbox: An ACM SIGGRAPH Symposium, August, 2008

Wolfenstein, M. Looking for leadership in games: Some frameworks and questions, Presented at Games+Learning+Society 4.0, July, 2008. Madison, WI.

Halverson, R. & Wolfenstein, M. Teacher evaluation game, Games for professional learning, Co-presented at UCEA 2007, November, 2007. Alexandria, VA.

Halverson, R., Wolfenstein, M. & Norton, D. Teaching evaluation: A game for improving school leadership practice, Presented at Games+Learning+Society 3.0, July, 2007. Madison, WI.

Invited Talks

Wolfenstein, M. Games and gamification for learning. Presented at EAA Summer Staff/Specialist Conference, January, 2013. Minneapolis, MN. 

Wolfenstein, M. Good game design for great training. Presented at ASTD-SCWC, January, 2013. Madison, WI. 

Wolfenstein, M. Playful consequences: Accidental, incidental, & serendipitous design in video games. Presented at the fourth Wright Design Series pechakucha "Great Un-expectations", April, 2012. Madison, WI. 

Steinkuehler, S., Phelps, A., Wolfenstein, M., & Yee, N. What can we learn from games scholarship and the games industry to develop effective gamification? Panel discussion at For The Win: The Serious Gamification Symposium, August 2010. Philadelphia, PA.

Wolfenstein, M. This presentation isn't about genre, Presented online for instructor Roxana Hadad’s Game Design Workshop at Chalfonts Community College, March, 2010.

Wolfenstein, M. Games, Learning, & Society Research Download 2.0, Presented at Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference, March 2010. Madison, WI.

Wolfenstein, M. Exploding genre in games, Presented online for instructor Roxana Hadad’s Game Design Workshop at Chalfonts Community College, March, 2010.

Wolfenstein, M. & Gibbons, D. Research Overview at GLS, Presented at Wisconsin Charter Schools Conference, April 2009. Waukesha, WI.

Wolfenstein, M. Taking the long view: A perspective on digital literacy via American K-12 educational systems, presented at EduCause Seminars in Academic Computing, August, 2007. Snowmass, CO.

Professional Affiliations and other Miscellany

Games Learning and Society research group, UW-Madison: alumni member
Association for Computing Machinery (ACM), member
International Game Developers Association, member

Games+Learning+Society Conference 2007 - 2010: Day Captain (2010), K-12

Education Coordinator (2007 & 2008), conference planning committee, & facilities subcommittee

V.O.R.S. (Victim Offender Restitution Services): Mediator
Certification in Mediation and Conflict Resolution from the I.M.C.R. (Institute for Mediation and Conflict Resolution, Inc.)
Certification in Permaculture Design from the Island Mountain Institute
Musical performance and recordings with various ensembles including The Coppercat and Monkey Wagon.