March 2020
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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. Exploratorium activities – Exploratorium is a world-class science museum in San Francisco. They have lots of great ideas for science experiments.
      2. Veritasium – a great collection of science videos.
      3. PhET – amazing collection of interactive simulations in mathematics and science for all ages.
      4. 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.
      5. 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.
      6. The Platform Skills4u opens the resource for FREE till April 15, 2020.
      7. Khan Academy: It is a free resource with lots of opportunities to learn together.
      8. Math puzzles:
      9. NASA Resources for everybody
      10. Seven NSF-funded science, coding, and mathematics education resources.
      11. New series by Brian Green – Your Daily Equation with Brian Green
      12. Physics Teaching Resources compilation – click here.
      13. 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.
      14. Coding resources for children (and parents):
        1. Codeacademy – Learn to Code for Free
        2. Best Coding Tools for Middle School students:

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3. Online learning for young, old and older:

    1. 300+ free online courses that might be of interest to students, parents, and teachers.
    2. 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.
    3. Scholastic Learn At Home”.  To learn more about Scholastic visit this site

4. Arts, literature, 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:

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. 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

7. Cooking with your family:

  1. Online resources:

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 over view 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!



Decision Making in Action: 2020 UBC Physics Olympics

Posted: March 11th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

A few thoughts on a current situation and how our reaction to the health crisis can help find the solution…

As we are witnessing an unprecedented spread of the Coronavirus around the world, it is very easy to get into a panic state. The situation is exacerbated by the social media and the avalanche of posts. Many of us feel overwhelmed by the information and it is often hard to understand what information we can rely on. However, while it is very easy to point a finger at others and “scream” about what THEY were supposed to be doing, we have to remember that WE ARE TEACHERS, PARENTS, CHILDREN and often WE have to make these unpopular, but wise decisions.

My colleagues and I faced such a decision last week. We are a team of faculty and staff who collaborate on organizing a very popular science outreach event at UBC. For the last 42 years, UBC has been running UBC Physics Olympics. This is a very popular event that draws almost a thousand teachers and students all across British Columbia to us to compete in hands-on team physics competitions. It takes us months to prepare for the event and we have more than 80 volunteers who make this event possible.

Last week, three days before the event, we decided to hold an emergency meeting that ended up with the decision to cancel it. I have to tell you that this was a tough and somewhat unpopular  decision to make. Here, I would like to tell you how we made this decision. I think it might help many of you to make your own tough decisions in the future, whatever they might be.

When entering the meeting that Wednesday (3 days before the event), I realized that most people in the room wanted us to continue with the Olympics, as UBC and the BC Health Authorities didn’t give the directive to cancel it and we spent months on the preparation. Moreover, we had a record attendance (almost 80 teams from all over BC), which would mean that about 1,000 people would be there.

By some lucky coincidence, a few months earlier, in December, when visiting Israel, my sister invited my husband and me to a talk at Ruppin Academic Center by Prof. Yossi Yassour  and Dan Ariely on making decisions. It was an amazing event and after it, I emailed Yossi a brief thank you note and he provided me with additional resources. I also read his book (in Hebrew) that included his lectures – a fun read. It was an outstanding presentation and it made a huge impression on me, as it gave me a simple strategy for making tough decisions relevant to MY life (see the YouTube below). I also saw a professor who is an inspirational teacher and who enjoys what he is doing. It was a wonderful gift my sister, Dr. Svetlana Chachashvili-Bolotin, who is a faculty member at Ruppin and Yossi’s colleague gave us. We also got Yossi’s books as a gift during the event! I think Ruppin organized a very successful event (I have to say that while Dan Ariely was there as well, I personally was more impressed by Yossi’s presentation).

So that Wednesday, March 4, 2020 was my opportunity to test Yossi’s strategy. During the meeting, I asked my colleagues, how would they have felt, if UBC decided to cancel the event (so if this was a passive, not an active decision for them). My husband and I looked at each other and smiled, as we knew that this was “Yossi Yassour talking”. The answer by our colleagues was a resounding sigh of relief. Even if only one child or only one adult in our event were to be sick, we could have helped spread the virus all across BC. And we had no way to prevent the spread from happening or to make sure that nobody was infected. Everybody felt worried about the spread of the virus, but they were afraid to cancel it, as to “increase the panic” and disappoint the teachers and the students. So this question that I learned from Yossi Yassour swayed our discussion. The idea of passive and active decision making was very relevant to us. If we would have felt relieved if the University decided to cancel the event, WE should have made that decision and cancel it. This is what we decided to do and it was the right decision. I was amazed at how people in our Organizing Committee changed their mind by just responding to this simple question – how would you have felt if that decision was made by others and not by you?

When the passion for holding the event was confronted with this question, we realized that a few Corona cases in Vancouver might not look like a threat, yet we are scientists and we can think and reason. We know that the issue is not how many cases we have right now, but how fast one potential case can spread around the province and affect the vulnerable among us. So this was the reason for our decision and Yossi’s strategy helped us make it. In the following days, when the number of cases in Vancouver and in BC has doubled and kept growing, we knew for sure that we made the right decision. Most importantly, we received lots of emails from the teachers supporting us. We realize they and their students spent lots of time preparing for the event and they have been looking forward to it. Yet, they supported us in making this decision. I wanted to thank all the teachers and students who were able to put the good of the people in BC above their own wish to participate in the event.

I also want to thank my sister for inviting us to Yossi Yassour’s presentation and to Yossi for helping us make the right decision. Thank you to all of you. We will see all the teachers and students at the 42nd UBC Physics Olympics in 2021! And now, let’s ask ourselves, what can WE do to contain the spread of the virus and let us make wise decisions.

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STEM Teachers and Teaching in the Digital Era

Posted: February 28th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I am very excited to see our edited book coming out this fall!  Two years ago we organized a collaborative workshop at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. We came together to discuss the changing field of STEM education and how digital technologies shape and affect it. This workshop was supported by a grant by the Halbert Center for Canadian Studies . We were so lucky to get this support and having funds and space for the organization of this collaborative workshop and being able to invite scholars who can contribute was crucial. Dr. Dragana Martinovic from the University of Windsor and Dr. Yifat Kolikant Ben-David from the Hebrew University collaborated with me. This was a great opportunity to explore together the topics that we all care about and to learn from each other. It was a very successful workshop. After the workshop, we realized that we had many interesting presentations and ideas and it would be great to share them through publishing an edited book. So … We have been working on it for the last two years. And now, the fruit of our collaboration is here – we have a new book on STEM teacher education that challenges us to think and re-think our role as STEM educators, STEM teacher-educators or educators in general in this rapidly changing world. While we focussed on Israel and Canada, I think the issues we raised would be relevant to many.

We are very grateful to everybody who contributed and to the very supportive staff at Springer who patiently and professionally helped us along the way. Congratulations to us all.

Professional Development Day @ UBC

Posted: February 24th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Attendees of the BCAPT Pro-D Day at UBC (Photo courtesy of Paul Cheng)

I have been a member of the BC Association of Physics Teachers for almost 16 years now. Very soon after joining the organization, I became a member of the Executive Board. Since then, I had an opportunity to help organize many professional development events. This time, I hosted a special Pro-D day for physics teachers at UBC. This time many of my former teacher-candidates and now practicing teachers came, as well as many friends and colleagues. Now I definitely feel as a member of the community who comes to learn but also to meet friends and colleagues. I also presented a session there on the teaching tools for science. The information about my session can be found below.

Here is the information about this event.

BC Association of Physics Teachers, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, UBC Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy and UBC Teacher Education organized a very successful Professional Development event on UBC campus on Saturday, February, 22nd. The goal of the event was to share with science teachers educational resources provided by the Perimeter Institute and discuss how these resources can be incorporated in science teachers in light of the new BC curriculum. It was a very engaging event and all of the participants and presenters learned something new. We also had Mr. John Munro – the President of the BC Science Teachers’ Association joining us:

Photos from the event can be found here

We would like to express a special thanks to: Svetlana Catia, Edel Vo, Louay El Halabi, Philip Freeman, Jason Chow, Sarah Johnson and Takashi Sato. We are especially grateful to all the amazing participants.

The hosts of the event were Marina Milner-Bolotin and Samson Nashon from UBC Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy.

Materials from the event can be found below:

  1. Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics Outreach:
  2. Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics Teacher Resources:
  3. Presentation by Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin: BCAPT_PI__Feb2020Milner-Bolotin
  4. STEM Education Videos for all YouTube channel by Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin and her students:
  5. A Database of conceptual multiple-choice mathematics and science questions with solutions:
  6. VR and AR resources for science teachers:
  7. Ranking Tasks Resource:

Visiting Gibson Elementary School in Delta, BC

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

For the last fifteen years, I have been visiting K-12 schools in British Columbia with science and mathematics presentations and hands-on activities. I am one of many scientists, engineers, educators, and innovators who donate their time and who are supported by Scientists and Innovators in the Schools organization. We volunteer our knowledge, time, and expertise to inspire students in BC schools through school visits. I also would like to support our many dedicated and hard-working teachers who are working on designing interesting hands-on STEM activities for their students.

It is hard to find students, who would be uninspired by the Van de Graaff generator. While it’s hard for me to bring it to schools, I bring many smaller and effective demos with me.

Last Friday, January 17, 2020, I was invited by a librarian at Gibson Elementary School (Mrs. Grace Yan) to visit their school – Gibson Elementary School. It was clear, Mrs. Yan is a Teacher who wants to support her students in STEM. As a librarian she makes sure the students have a variety of STEM resources. She also organizes after school STEM activities and supports other teachers. It was very clear to me when I visited the school.

When I came (and it is a relatively long drive from UBC), I tried to interact with as many students as possible. This time, Mrs. Yan arranged me to see the kids from three different groups – from the very young to older (1-2, 3-4 and 5-6). It was a very interesting opportunity as this is a very diverse school  in terms of the students’ SES, as well as their origin. Moreover, the place is relatively removed from the big universities in our city. However, it was clear that both Mrs. Yan and Mr. Gerry Rietze were very inspirational teachers. I thin the students are very lucky to have them.

I hope to visit the school in the future again. I also the students from this school will come to UBC for our next Family Math and Science Day:

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The Second Decade at UBC

Posted: January 13th, 2020, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I took this picture in May a few years ago when Valery and I camped at Joffre Lake Provincial Park. Some of the ice on the lake already melted, while most of it was still there. So you can see the reflection of the trees and the water on the lake. The lake is located in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park near Pemberton, BC:

Today, I realized that this term I am starting my second decade at the UBC Faculty of Education. Time certainly flew fast and much faster that I could ever expected. It feels as if I returned to UBC only recently and at the same time as if I came a long time ago. Thinking of this last decade, I cannot but feel grateful for the experience. I have learned a lot, learned to deal with the challenges that came my way, met amazing people, and also was able to contribute to both STEM Education research and STEM teaching and outreach at UBC and beyond. It was definitely a learning experience for me.

Now it is January and we are getting ready for the 42nd UBC Physics Olympics with more than 80 preregistered teams from all across BC. Together with my BCAPT colleagues and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, we are preparing a Pro-D day for science teachers to take place at UBC on February 22nd: We are also getting ready for the summer STEM in Education conference to be held by UBC (my colleague Prof. David Anderson and I are conference co-chairs). I am working on a very interesting study with my students and colleagues. So this has been a very interesting and inspiring experience.

Most importantly, I feel now that the Faculty of Education is my home. I am very passionate about STEM teacher education and professional development and I am proud of what we were able to achieve in the last ten years. At the same time, I have big dreams for the next decade. I am looking forward to working with my colleagues, students, and mentors from all across UBC, Canada and the world!

STEM in Education 2019 Symposium Chongqing, China

Posted: November 24th, 2019, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I just returned from the STEM in Education 2019 Symposium that was held in Chongqing, China: . Southwest University organized the symposium. It was a very interesting conference as we had a few opportunities to visit local schools, to interact with the students and faculty members and learn about this amazing city. I was very fortunate to be invited to be one of the keynotes speakers:

Milner-Bolotin, M. (2019). Implementing innovation in STEM education: From more technology to enhanced learning. Keynote presented at the STEM in Education International Symposium, Chongqing, China.

My presentation can be downloaded here:


Presenting a keynote talk at STEM 2019 Conference in Chongqing, China

This summer we are organizing STEM in Education 2020 Conference here, at the University of British Columbia: I hope we will also be able to organize an exciting conference.

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Slow-Motion Videos in Physics Teaching

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

In 2016-2017, we received a Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund grant that allowed us to explore how we can use educational videos to promote experimentation in physics teacher education and in physics education in general. This grant promoted us to create a YouTube channel of educational videos: STEM Education Videos for All. While working on that grant, we realized the power of slow motion videos in science education. So in 2018, we applied and received another grant to explore the slow motion videos in physics teaching. The result is that developed a set up for showing slow-motion videos in physics classes and now we published a paper about it. We are very exciting about it as hundreds of undergraduate physics students have experienced the power of slow motion videos in Valery’s classes, as well as many physics teacher-candidates and guests at the UBC Family Math and Science Day.


Milner-Bolotin, M., Aminov, O., Wasserman, W., & Milner, V. (2019). Pushing the boundaries of science demonstrations using modern technology. Canadian Journal of Physics, Accepted September 12, 2019, 15. doi:

STEM Outcomes of Second-Generation Students

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

I am very proud to share with you that our new paper has been published. This is a collaboration between Svetlana Chachashvili-Bolotin, Sabina Lissitsa and myself:

Chachashvili-Bolotin, S., Lissitsa, S., & Milner-Bolotin, M. (2019). STEM outcomes of second-generation immigrant students with high-skilled parental backgrounds. International Journal of Science Education, 20. doi:10.1080/09500693.2019.1686549

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