August 2020

Presentation at the International LUMAT Symposium 2020

Posted: June 9th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I was honored to give an invited talk at the International LUMAT Research Symposium 2020 on June 3, 2020.  The goal of my talk was to consider the following questions: What does it mean to move from STEM to STEAM? What do we gain and what do we lose by expanding the acronym? What is the future of STEAM and how does it translate into STEAM teacher education? It was a great opportunity not to take things for granted but to try and understand why we decided to shift to this bigger more encompassing model. The other goal was to consider the lessons from the pandemic. More information can be found on the LUMAT web site:

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The Silver Lining of the Pandemic: Implications for STEM Teacher Education

Posted: May 29th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

While it is clear that the pandemic wreaked havoc in many areas of education, there is a clear positive outcome of the pandemic – we realized that we can use technology to bring us closer, rather than to move us apart. It is very unfortunate, it took a disaster like COVID-19, to show us the possibilities and to convince us to consider using these modern tools to collaborate internationally. On Monday night, May 26, my colleague, prof. David Anderson and I were asked to give a talk to international STEM educators through the STEM Education Research Group: at the Queensland University of Technology. Prof. Bronwyn Ewing invited us to share our experience and research on online teacher education. As both David and I have been involved in multiple online graduate programs for STEM teachers, we were glad to participate. The presentation was recorded and we will share it with the community when it will become available online.

Supporting Children’s Education during the Pandemic: A webinar for UNA community

Posted: May 20th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Your children are not your children.

They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They came through you but not from you,

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

– Khalil Gibran (Your Children, from The Prophet)

When my children were growing up and I was struggling with who I was as a parent, a friend of mine suggested to me to read a book of poems by Khalil Gibran – The Prophet. The book struck a cord with me, especially the poem about children… What did it mean “my children are not MY children?”. How do I support them, but let them become who they want to be. This is a question, I am still struggling with. I think each one of us has to find our own answer to it. This question is relevant to many of us today, when we are faced with the prolonged school closures and an uncertain future of public education.

So I was not surprised when I got an email from Vicente R. from the The University Neighbourhood Association  (UNA) who asked me if I could lead a webinar for the parents. UNA is an organization that oversees the major residential neighbourhoods at UBC. As a a UBC long-time resident, I very much use UNA services and appreciate our local governance. We  live in a beautiful place and I hope it will remain so. So I was very glad to be invited to participate in an online webinar for the parents in our community. It was organized by Vicente R., Angela L. and Silvia M. It was an opportunity for me to share with the parents my experience with teaching mathematics and science, and more importantly my experience as a parent and as a teacher. Here I decided to summarize a few resources and ideas I shared with the parents today in the hopes that other parents, who might not have been able to join us might find useful.

Marina’s 7 thoughts on teaching your own children and learning with them:

  1. Cultivate the Growth Mindset (see the work of a psychologist Carol Dweck) – focus on the growth and believe in the power of improving. Remember, that comparing your children or yourself to others is very unhealthy. Help them be the best THEY can be.
  2. Remember that learning is happening all around us – while being with your children you are teaching them how to live, how to learn, how to love. Lead by example. You are their foremost Teacher even if you have never gotten a teaching certification…
  3. Reach out to your extended family and friends – kids need mentors who are not their parents. While many of us are physically removed from our extended family, use the power of technology to build virtual bridges.
  4. Connect your children to your (their) roots – while we live in a transient society, help your children connect to their roots – you are their bridge to the past, be it the language, the cuisine, the culture… Enrich their lives.
  5. Create structure for formal and informal learning – having structure helps the kids feel accountable and teaches them time management. Structure is also directly linked to personal accountability. Another important issue is to use the resources that allow for instant feedback – so the children know what they have achieved (i.e., Duolingo, PhET, etc.)
  6. Learn with your kids – you are the role model for your children. Share your passions with them (music, sports, cooking, passion for nature). Don’t be afraid to learn with them. You are not supposed to know all the answers, but you can teach them how to figure things out for themselves. Also don’t forget to ask your children to share with you what they have learned.
  7. Be forgiving and kind – we all make mistakes, so forgive yourself and your children if some things don’t work out – show them resilience and perseverance.

Some useful resources I have been using are listed on my blog:

Out of them, I would like to choose three to begin with:

a) IXL Learning  – it uses BC curriculum, provide ample feedback and will help your child excel in mathematics and English.

b) PhET simulations – a wonderful set of computer simulations in mathematics and science for different ages.

c) Language learning – Duolingo. This is a fantastic free resource for basic language learning. It is a community resource and they have a special children’s version of the software.

Finally, on my blog, I listed a number of interviews and  community events I have given on the topic:

This is a very short video about a very inspirational scientist – Richard Feynman – whose father Melville Feynman was a unoform salesman and not a scientist, but he inspired Richard Feynman to keep asking questions and get to them bottom of things – and eventually win a  Nobel Prize in physics in 1965:

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Most importantly, have fun learning!

Supporting Children’s Education During the Pandemic | One Hour @ UBC

Posted: April 27th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin
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Online education vs. Emergency remote teaching

Posted: April 23rd, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I have been asked a lot lately to compare online learning our children are experiencing now with the face-to-face learning. I try not to do it for a very simple reason. It seems to me that what is going on now is not a well thought-off online learning, but a remote teaching that had to be arranged at a very short notice. The same way, when you are preparing for a dinner with guests in advance you have an opportunity to buy the groceries you wish, to decide what you will cook, to cater to their tastes and needs. This might be a very lavish and amazing dinner. But sometimes your guests might come on a very short notice and you don’t have the luxury of time to have the right groceries at home and the time to cook them. But despite that you can still make a great dinner and you will all enjoy it. I think the same is happening with online education today. I think the following paper speaks to that very nicely:

If Corona Doesn’t Kill Us, Distance Learning Will

Posted: April 16th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I have watched this video a number of times now and I realize that I do want to share it with you. I love the title and even more, I feel the plight of this mom of four who is actually a special education teacher in Israel. We need to support the parents during the pandemic more than anybody else.

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One Hour @ UBC

Posted: April 10th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

To support our community during the pandemic, I was asked to give a free interactive lecture on online learning and homeschooling. I will be doing it on April 23, 2020. It will be an interactive seminar where I will show the community how they can use existing online resources to support their children. Please notice, you have to install Zoom in advance to attend it virtually. It is free, but you have to register here: 

Selected Media Interviews & Community Events: Education during COVID-19

Posted: March 30th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin

This is a list of my recent interviews on the topics related to the education in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic:

  1. Vancouver Sun interview with Tiffany Crawford. July 31, 2020.
  2. Cofactor Conversations  Lab an online interview about the educational implications of COVID-19 pandemic – June 19, 2020.
  3. Only one-third of the students return to the classroom despite assurances – Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020, The Globe and Mail, interviewed by Justine Hunter:
  4. Supporting children’s education during the pandemic –Wednesday, May 20th, 2020, UBC University Neighborhood Association (UNA). Click here to register and click here to see the summary of the event.
  5. Pique News Magazine in Whistler, BC April 24, 2020Educating during a pandemic: Experts say there’s valuable opportunity for unstructured learning during self-isolation. Interviewed by Alyssa Noel.
  6. One Hour @ UBC LEcture Series  April 23, 2020 – Free online Webinar for the community. Online lecture can be found here.
  7. Special Alumni Event UBC Family Matters: April 22, 2020 – Online panel. To watch the video click here.
  8. Kelowna Capital News – April 13, 2020: Learning from home may present challenges for young students amid COVID-19 Interviewed by Daniel Taylor.
  9. Vancouver Sun – April 10, 2020: interview with Patrick Johnston – Learning In the Time of the Pandemic.
  10. CBC Kids News – April 10, 2020:
  11. Global News Network, the National, Saturday April 4th, with Robin Gill:
  12. Noon Hour with Adam Stirling on iHeart Radio CFax1070 – April 3, 2020: Education in the times of the pandemic.
  13. Dramatic Rise in Online Learning, IT World Canada, interview with Suzanne Robicheau – April 2, 2020:
  14. CBC, April 1, 2020 with Michelle Eliot: A really weird new normal”: Parents, students grapple with learning at home amid pandemic.
  15. CBC Radio, March 30, 2020 with Rosa Marchitelli:
  16. Globe and Mail, March 26, 2020 with Caroline Alphonso:
  17. Maclean’s Magazine, March 17, 2020 with Jason Markussoff:  

Learning with Your Children in the Times of Quarantine

Posted: March 18th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I dedicate this post to my parents Marina Bolotina and Mikhail Goykhman who taught me how to learn by example.

Dear friends:

This is a somewhat unusual post and I will keep updating it as the time goes. I decided to share with you some ideas about what you might be able to do with your children during these times. I do not claim to be an expert on all issues related to education, but I know a little about how to learn online and how to learn WITH your children. I also know a lot about science and mathematics outreach, so I might have some ideas that will be helpful to you and your children.

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Notice, I do not think that expecting from the parents, guardians or grandparents to teach their children everything they would have been learning at school is realistic. The parents are already stressed due to this entire situation, many of them have to work from home, while their children do not have school or day care. So asking these adults to become “teachers of all trades” to their children might be too much. So what can the parents, guardians, or grandparents (or other family members living together) do? Maybe what is possible, is to use this time as an opportunity to LEARN WITH your children and show to them how YOU are LEARNING SOMETHING NEW. None of us is an expert in everything and showing your kids how you are dealing with the unknown, might be the best ever lesson you will give them.

I have taught many science outreach classes for gifted children and I found that a lot of parents asked me to attend these lessons. It was so inspirational to see parents and children learning together. The parents enjoyed learning with their children and often the children became their parents’ teachers. So maybe it is an opportunity to try something new – like learning something new together! Here are a few resources and this list will be growing. Please don’t forget to check very useful suggestions from other educators, parents and students that can be found under comments to this post:

1. Language Learning online:

    1. For example, Duolingo – is a great resource for language learning. if you always wanted to learn a new language, why not to do it now? It is a virtual community of learners – a great resource! I just found out that Duolingo developed activities for preschoolers. Check it out!
    2. Through Duolingo you can connect with people in different parts of the world and practice your language.

2. Science, coding, and mathematics learning online:

    1. The 75 Best Virtual Museum Tours Around the World [Art, History, Science, and Technology]
    2. PhET – extensive collection of interactive simulations in mathematics and science for all ages.
    3. National Library of Virtual Manipulatives (extensive Math resources for K-12)
    4. UBC Department of Physics and Astronomy – Hands-on challenges for the students and families and Online Science Education Activities for kids.
    5. A collection of hands-on experiments, many of which you can do with your children at home. These were created by my students – future science and mathematics teachers.
    6. Exploratorium activities – Exploratorium is a world-class science museum in San Francisco. They have lots of great ideas for science experiments.
    7. Veritasium – a great collection of science videos.
    8. A collection of experiments by Prof. David Sokoloff adapted for home use:
    9. The Mechanical Universe – this is a collection of videos about great natural scientists, such as Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday and many others. The series were created a few decades ago by David Goodstein and his colleagues at CalTec – the California Institute of Technology.
    10. The Platform Skills4u opens the resource for FREE till April 15, 2020.
    11. Khan Academy: It is a free resource with lots of opportunities to learn together.
    12. Math puzzles:
    13. NASA Resources for everybody
    14. Seven NSF-funded science, coding, and mathematics education resources.
    15. New series by Brian Green – Your Daily Equation with Brian Green
    16. Physics Teaching Resources compilation – click here.
    17. Environmental Education at Home: Find EE toolkits and activity guides, virtual park and museum visits, citizen science projects, infographics, and educational apps that require minimal outdoor time.
    18. Schmidt Ocean resources for children and parents.
    19. Coding resources for children (and parents):
      1. Codeacademy – Learn to Code for Free
      2. Best Coding Tools for Middle School students:
      3. AI Education: A free online YouTube course on building robots.
      4. Gupshup is hosting various free webinars on incorporating bots into the WhatsApp platform.

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3. Online learning for young, old and older:

    1. Keep Learning a BC Resource:
    2. 300+ free online courses that might be of interest to students, parents, and teachers.
    3. The Great Courses by the Teaching Company. Use can use a free trial option to see if it is good for you. I loved the courses I took with them.
    4. Scholastic Learn At Home”.  To learn more about Scholastic visit this site
    5. The virtual humane education classes for pre-K to 12th grade are being offered to teachers and parents free of charge, and include fun and engaging activities, storytimes, sing-alongs, and more.
    6. Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade has a virtual museum component with English text.
    7. NSF-Sponsored Museums – virtual museum experience can be found here.
    8. Virtual School Day: Over 100 free live K-12 classes available all day long intended to help parents fill their children’s day with enriched learning. Some popular classes are “Intro to Spanish for Kids”, “Coolest Women in History”, “Java Programming Basics”, and “The Story of Your Favorite Fairy Tales”. We have received exceptional ratings from thousands of parents and students. 
    9. Virtual Summer Camps: Free half-day summer camps will be a week-long, with enrichment-based classes in subjects like foreign languages, chess, theater, coding, Minecraft, how to be a detective, photography and more. These live, interactive classes will be taught by expert instructors vetted through Varsity Tutors’ platform. We already have 200 camps scheduled for the summer.

4. Arts, literature, museums, and general culture:

    1. Amazing musical resources by leading opera houses worldwide: check the Metropolitan Opera, the Opera House in Wienna and many other resources. A lot of them offer music for free for everybody now.
    2. Film and Theatre Courses free online.
    3. There are many free theatre productions online. Why not to see theater productions with your children? This is going to be something you will remember. For example, see free theatre resources from Alberta.
    4. Learning arts and crafts online – learn something new with your children – from cooking to knitting, building models, or doing other amazing things.
    5. 12 World-class Museums You can visit online.
    6. Children’s authors read their books:
    7. UBC Chan Centre – online talks:

5. Audio books and Digital Books:

    1. I subscribe to Audibles, but many platforms now offer free audiobooks. Check it out or share it with me and I will post it.
    2. Many libraries have free audiobooks. Check them out. You might find amazing resources for your kids and for yourself.
    3. Podcasts: I am listening to Sam Harris and other podcasts. Maybe you can listen to some of them with your children. There are many great topics and not all of them are about the pandemics. Notice, many of the podcasts are free or are free now.
    4. Online book libraries:, popular Free online books.
    5. American short stories for children – an amazing collection to use while reading with your kids.

6. Digital editing platforms and resources for creating digital content:

  1. Content Creation platform Clipchamp  (30 day free offer). To find out more about their offer

7. Exercising at home:

    1. Even if you have to stay at home, you can do lots of amazing things right next to your couch. Check 50 best online resources you can find online:
    2. 12 at home workouts to do with your kids

8. Cooking and doing crafts with your family:

  1. Online resources:
  2. Free cooking classes for kids:

I will keep adding resources here. Please help me out and I will add them.

Be healthy and keep learning!

Regards, Marina

Educational Technologies in the Era of Pandemics: 10 easy lessons from an online educator

Posted: March 16th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

When I started teaching at UBC more than 10 years ago, I was asked to teach an online course to graduate students in our Masters in Education course. The course was focused on mathematics and science teaching. It was a challenge as I had never taught online before. I was also unfamiliar with the platform I was supposed to be using (I think it was Blackboard then or maybe something different?). Moreover, I had never been a student in an online course myself, to appreciate what it means to learn online. However, I like challenges and I like to learn new things. I also love to learn and I love to explore new ways to learn, so that was an opportunity for me.

While most people today think that online teaching is all about learning how different technologies work, I firmly believe that it is all about engaging students in a different learning environment – online rather than face-to-face. Since 2010, I have been teaching online and face-to-face. Some courses I even taught in both modes, so I could compare my experiences. For the last 10 years and I was lucky to learn from colleagues, who have been very experienced online educators, such as Prof. David Anderson in my department. We designed courses together, provided feedback to each other and revised the courses accordingly. More than a decade ago, David started an online Master’s Program in Museum Education Program and together two years ago we started an online M.Ed. in Science Education Program. Our online program has become so popular that this year the number of applicants more than doubled.


During my online teaching I also made lots of mistakes and learned a lot of things from my colleagues and students. I am very lucky that our students are teachers (most of them are mathematics and science educators) and they are always ready to help and suggest ideas of how we can improve our learning. I also was actively involved in learning foreign languages online using Duolingo:

It looks like many educators today will be hard pressed to consider online teaching. Many of them have never taught online or even have never learned online. Some haven’t even feel comfortable with using a course management system or creating their own material to post online. Luckily, my academic life forced me to keep learning all these things.

While I cannot generalize my experience to all fields, I think some of it might be relevant to others. So here I would like to share a few things I have learned in these years about successful online teaching. I write them in no particular order:

  1. Structure your course, so your students know what to expect and how to manage their time. We think of this structure in advance by designing the modules and assignments that are clearly spread out and are reasonable in terms of student time commitment.
  2. Create assignments that are meaningful to your students and can be submitted online. It can be an essay, a video of a lab or some other material, but it has to be submitted online. I find it very useful to create assignments that my students can submit a draft first, and then receive feedback and resubmit. You can even ask students to provide peer feedback.
  3. Create opportunities for collaboration and multiple avenues for collaboration. Working online provides many opportunities for collaboration. We use Collaborate Ultra in Canvas, one can use any other tool – the important part is model it with the students before asking them to use it.
  4. Use short videos to do a brief preview of the module and an overview of the module. I found it important to buy a good camera and a head set to make sure the quality of the videos is decent. These videos will help your students build connection with you and get to know how you are thinking.
  5. Use resources created by others and contribute your resources to the community. For example, I use YouTube videos other people shared. I also use online simulations, like PhET and many other amazing online resources. Many of them have an element of a game, as well as team learning opportunities. I am always learning about new amazing tools we can use. Very often, people design excellent resources and are open to sharing them. Use these resources and share yours. For example, I share the resources we created for STEM education:
  6. Use the power of course management systems for providing feedback. I create rubrics for my students’ assignments and then grade all of it online in Canvas. I find it very useful.
  7. Take advantage of the flexibility of online education! Should it be synchronous or not? Should you arrange who collaborates with whom or should the students choose it? How do you stagger the submission deadlines? How should you use the Discussion Board? All these questions can be answered in many different ways, but you have to use what works for you and your students. Ask your students to provide feedback on different course components.
  8. Don’t overwhelm your students: Remember that uploading a lot of material online doesn’t mean that the students will have the time to read it and review it. So very often less is more.
  9. Use Discussion Board wisely. Remember that you have to balance student participation and make sure they contribute to the DB for a reason and not only to get participation marks.
  10. Become an online learner to become a great online teacher. Learn online and see how it feels to you to learn something in an online community. Then use this experience to inspire your students!



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