August 2019
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Exploring Coding with Raspberry Pi

Posted: August 20th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

This summer we explored how students can start playing with Raspberry Pi and acquire the basics of coding. This is a possible project they can engage with as a start. There are many online resources suggesting exciting projects with Raspberry Pi. This is only the beginning. We hope our teacher-candidates will consider how they can use them in their classrooms:

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New Year, New Challenges, New Beginnings

Posted: August 19th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

A beautiful rowan tree I photographed during one of our summer hikes. This tree has a lot of symbolism attached to it and it has a captivating beauty.

As we are enjoying the last weeks of summer, many of us start thinking about the new academic year. This is always an exciting time for teachers, students, university professors, and families. This is also a perfect time to ask ourselves about our personal goals for the next year. What would we like to achieve this year? What do we want to do differently than we have done in the past? How do we want to grow and what would we like to learn? How do we want to contribute to our community? I also like to ask myself, how can I support physics teachers across BC, who might not be my current students, but who are beginning teachers? This is one of the reasons, I have been actively involved with the BC Association of Physics Teachers for the last decade and a half. I hope that all of my students – future physics teachers will join the Association.

Once again, I am looking forward to teaching my Physics Methods course (EDCP 357). It is my ninth time teaching it. This year I would like to focus on the labs and doing science experiments, so my teacher-candidates have an opportunity to experience different technologies both as students and as teachers. As a result, I decided to remove a few assignments from my syllabus this year, in order to give my teacher-candidates more time to engage with the labs at a deeper level.

I am going to share the fast-speed video experiments with future physics teachers, as we have been working on this project for the last year. When I gave a talk about it in Budapest this July and during the Canadian Association of Physicists Congress in Vancouver this June, it brought a lot of questions and generated a lot of interest from physics educators. I hope my students – future physics teachers – will take these ideas and will use them with their smartphone. Our research paper on the topic of slow-motion videos in teaching physics will be coming out soon in the Canadian Journal of Physics. So I have exciting plans for my physics methods course.

We are also getting ready to facilitate another successful Family Mathematics and Science Day on October 19, 2019. I hope we will have lots of guests coming to enjoy hands-on science and mathematics. We have worked on many new resources for this event during the summer.


And going back to the rowan tree I photographed on one of our weekend hikes. I recently found out that this tree has a long history in many cultures. It is a very popular tree in Ukraine and Russia, where it is considered to be the Tree of Life (Happiness). And what is even more interesting, I just discovered that it is also very popular with the Celtic culture: This web site says:

“The Rowan tree has a long, sacred history. Since ancient times people have been planting a Rowan beside their home as in Celtic mythology it’s known as the Tree of Life and symbolises courage, wisdom and protection. ”

So while I am not going to be able to plant this tree beside my classroom, we have one at the entrance to our building – the Faculty of Education Building (SCARFE). I hope this tree will give us the courage to learn, make mistakes and try again. I hope it will give us the wisdom to listen to others even if we disagree with them and to make our own decisions. Finally, I hope it will protect us from going with the crowd and will inspire us to look for our own path.

Happy New Academic Year everyone!

GIREP 2019 Congress in Budapest

Posted: July 5th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I am very fortunate to be invited to participate in a Symposium at the GIREP 2019 Congress in Budapest. I was invited by my esteemed Hungarian colleagues from Eotvos Lorand University , whom I met in 2017. I met Prof. Tamas Tel and his colleagues two years ago, when I visited Budapest for the first time with Valery and we were in touch since then.

I initially decided to visit Budapest somewhat coincidentally – I watched a movie (Der traurige Sonntag – The Gloomy Sunday), as it was recommended to me by my uncle. And after that, I somehow was drawn to the city and couldn’t stop but kept thinking about it. I was imagining these people who lived there during WWII and I wanted to visit. The movie is very powerful and it touched me. Then I have a Hungarian friend – Dr. Zoltan Berkes – who is now a physics professor in Alberta at Concordia University in Edmonton but who was born, studied, and lived in Budapest. I met Zoltan during one of the AAPT meeting we attended. I have a lot of respect for Zoltan and he always encouraged me to visit Budapest. Then it happened that my husband (Valery) was invited to give a talk at a physics conference in Budapest and I decided to join him. The visit itself was very memorable. Visiting Budapest – this beautiful old city located on the Danube river in the centre of Europe – was a very special experience for me. This historic city resonated with me in many different ways – from the tremendous scientific achievements of Hungarian scientists in the natural sciences and technology, to the dark times of the holocaust that are reflected in many memorials spread all over the city, such as The shoes on the Danube memorial and an unforgettable Holocaust Memorial Centre, and of the 1956 failed Revolution that was brutally squashed by the Soviet Union (the revolution started at the university that we visited!), to the amazingly friendly people, the university that so much remind me of our own in Kharkov, Ukraine, and to the beauty of this river that cuts this beautiful city in half – Buda and Pest (“s” in Hungarian is read as “sh”).

This time in addition to the conference, I was also very fortunate to visit the Wigner Research Centre for PhysicsEugene Wigner was a very famous Hungarian physicist. Growing up in a physics family and having a grandpa who was working on the Accelerator at the Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology made it a very interesting opportunity for me. I actually grew up at the institute as we used to live on its territory. While growing up I didn’t appreciate how special it was to be surrounded by physics history being made. Many famous physicists were my neighbours (Academics Lifschits, Landau, Akhiezer, Feinberg, etc.)  and to me they were parents and grandparents of my friends. So going to see the place where György (George) Marx – a famous Hungarian physicist and physics educator lived resonated with me as well. This very much reminded me of home as we also had commemorative plaques to remember famous scientists who lived there.

Dr. Csaba Sukosd led us to a place, where Prof. György Marx lived (by the University).

And Hungary had so many scientists, composers, writers (the Budapest airport is named after a Hungarian Composer Ferenc Liszt (Franz Liszt). It is a country of about 10 million people with a huge cultural, scientific, and economic potential that I hope will be realized here. The geographic and architectural beauty of Budapest is stunning. And most importantly, it is a European country that I can relate to, except for the language that I wasn’t able to learn even to be able to be polite or to ask how to get somewhere. Duolingo wasn’t sufficient for me in it or maybe I wasn’t motivated enough.

Prof. Igal Galili, I, and Prof. David Sokoloff at GIREP 2019 Congress in Budapest. Both of these people have made a big impact on me as a science (physics) educator and I am very grateful for that. Their work has influenced many people worldwide.

It is my first participation in this conference (International Group on Physics Education Research) and I am very grateful I could go. The Congress was attended by many European colleagues who would rarely attend AAPT, while at the same big PER stars like Igal Galili, David Sokoloff, Dean Zollman, Manjula Sharma, etc. were also there. It was a very different conference from the AAPT (which I have been attending for the last almost 20 years) and it was great to be a part of this GIREP event. Most interestingly, it was important for me to see that what my graduate students and I are currently discussing in our graduate course on research in science education is something that attracted a lot of attention at the conference. Our discussions on misconceptions, alternative conceptions, and different views on the theories of knowledge, as well as on the nature of science (NOS) were widely discussed at the conference. There are also interesting presentations on the use of technology, including smartphones, AR and VR, etc. The keynote address by Prof. Igal Galili was something that I wish my students could see. His ideas about the Cultural Content Knowledge (CCK) and the view on the NOS are widely discussed now in our online course. I am very proud of my students who think deeply about these concepts.

I am also very glad I was able to present our collaborative work on the use of slow-motion videos in physics teaching (see below). Most importantly, meeting colleagues all around the world (47 countries were represented) is very inspirational about 318 participants). I am sure that this conference will have an impact on me and my students.

Ref.: Milner-Bolotin, M., Milner, V., Aminov, O., & Wasserman, W. (2019, July 1- 5, 2019). Seeing fast and slow: Engaging students in science through slow motion video experiments. Paper presented at the GIREP-ICPE-EPEC-MPTL 2019 CONFERENCE: Celebration of Eötvös Year 2019 “Teaching-learning contemporary physics, from research to practice”, Budapest, Hungary.

AR and VR in STEM Education

Posted: June 7th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

My student Ryan Lin and I are working on introducing Google Tours to future STEM teachers. We think this technology has a lot of potential in a STEM classroom as it allows to connect Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) into science teaching. This is something that our students are exposed to in their lives. So to help future teachers, we created a video on the use of Google Tours in STEM education. We hope you find it useful.

ISfTE 2019 Conference

Posted: June 5th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

The photo of the participants of the 2019 International Society for Teacher Education conference (May 12-17, 2019)

I have been very fortunate to attend the ISfTE 2019 conference. This was a very special experience for me for at least three reasons. First of all, this was a new community for me. It is a truly international community of scholars and practitioners who work in teacher education. Hearing ideas from the colleagues from so many countries was very interesting. As far as I remember, the countries represented at the conference were: Canada, USA, Sweden, Germany, Denmark, Norway, Israel, Jordan, Mexico, Bhutan, Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan, Hong-Kong, Singapore, Kenya, Nigeria, S. Africa, Brazil, India, Australia, etc. The second feature of the conference that blew me away was the organization of the conference in the form of a working group workshop. We were working on our paper drafts with colleagues in order to produce publishable papers as the result. To me it was very productive and useful. What a big difference with the “traditional education conferences”. The third feature is allowing us to explore the area where we were through organized field trips and excursions. This was amazing. And not only we had fun, but we got to know each other and we discussed each other’s work as a result. This was a great idea. I have to say how much I admire the work of the conference organizers from Brock University – Drs. Vera Woloshyn and Leanne Taylor. I will definitely try to attend this conference in the future. And now, my colleagues and I have to write the paper we have been working on and submit it to the August journal issue of the ISfTE journal.

CSSE 2019 at UBC

Posted: June 5th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

On June 1-6, 2019, UBC hosted the conference of the Canadian Society for the Studies in Education. This was very lucky for me and for many UBC graduate students who could attend a conference right at home. The Conference has a very active SERG  (Science Education Research Group) that organized a number of very relevant sessions during the conference. On June 5, 2019, I presented a talk at the  conference. The talk focused on innovative use of technology in STEM teacher education.


The session helped me learn about various ways of using technology in STEM education, in problem-based learning and in innovative technology use in museums. One of the interesting ideas I have learned is how to use or even to think about scaffolding when teaching online. As I teach ore and more online, I keep thinking about it.

UBC Celebrate Learning Week

Posted: May 1st, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

My team and I are very excited to participate in the 11th Annual UBC Celebrate Learning Week. We are presenting a poster on the 3D Learning project we have been involved in. We have been working on the OmniGlobe project with the UBC Pacific Museum of Earth, on Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) projects and many other innovations that we are going to implement next year in STEM teacher education at UBC.

Our presentation can be found here:  2019ubc_tlef_poster_Milner-Bolotin Final

STEM in Teacher Education: A Canadian Perspective

Posted: April 25th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I was very fortunate to be invited to be a part of an science education research panel at the University of Toronto Science Mathematics and Technology Centre. The panel was organized by Dr. Carol-Ann Burke and led by Prof. Douglas McDougall from OISE (Ontario Institute for Studies in Education). The panel challenged us to think about the following question: STEM in Teacher Education: A Canadian Perspective. I enjoyed being a part of this panel very much and especially enjoyed the summary by Prof. David Blades from the University of Victoria.

Cross-Canada forum: STEM in teacher education – A Canadian perspective

Posted: April 10th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

On April 9, 2019 I was invited to participate in a very interesting panel organized by the OISE’s (Ontario Institute for the Studies in Education) Science, Mathematics and Technology (SMT) Centre and the Canadian Science Education Research Group (SERG). These two organizations co-hosted this cross-Canada forum titled: STEM in Teacher Education – A Canadian Perspective. The panel was videotaped and I hope it will be of interest to many mathematics and science educators who are trying to understand what STEM means in the Canadian context. For me, it was especially interesting to think about the challenges of the STEM construct itself, its history and its future. I also tried to think how we educate our teachers and if we can expect from them to be able to teach in the way that STEM education suggests. The summary by Prof. David Blades was especially interesting. I hope my students will find it illuminating as well.

The description of the panel discussion was as follows:

Over the last decade or so, the STEM acronym has gained momentum as a hot new term in educational and public spheres in Canada. Despite the term’s ubiquity, education systems have been slow to formally identify ways in which we should approach STEM education, much less how we should conceptualize what STEM means in a Canadian context. Meanwhile, teachers are being prepared for classrooms where they are expected to introduce the STEM construct to their students. In the cross-Canada forum STEM in teacher education: A Canadian perspective, panelists and audience members will explore ways in which teacher educators in Canada are preparing pre-service teachers for this new avenue of teaching and learning while examining the potential challenges and affordances attending STEM education.

Panel members:

  • Jesse Bazzul, University of Regina
  • Karen Goodnough, Memorial University
  • Marina Milner-Bolotin, University of British Columbia
  • Christine Tippett, University of Ottawa
  • Carol Rees, Thompson Rivers University.

Afterthoughts provided by David Blades, University of Victoria

Moderator: Doug McDougall, OISE, University of Toronto; Editor-in-Chief, Canadian Journal of Science, Mathematics and Technology Education.

Breakthrough discovery in astronomy: Press conference

Posted: April 10th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I wish this news were shared with the world on a global scale! This is huge!

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