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Beijing Normal University Seminar 3: The Future of Education

Posted: May 31st, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I was invited to give a talk to a group of graduate students in the course of Prof. Feng-Kuang Chiang. It was a very positive experience.

This May I had an opportunity to participate in the third seminar organized by Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Future Education. More than 20 people were invited to attend this seminar. The researchers from the UK, Finland, Australia, Canada, the US, Greece, and China presented their collaborative research projects focused on rethinking the future of education. This workshop also included a visit to yet another elementary school in Beijing which is always an exciting experience.

Going to Beijing is always an invigorating opportunity to learn something new. I can see that Beijing Normal University (BNU) is investing seriously into education. And it definitely shows. Every time I come (and I had an opportunity to visit BNU three times this year), I see some new initiatives, new projects, inspiring faculty and students. I am very grateful to have an opportunity to collaborate with Professor Feng-Kuang Chiang, whose area of research is in educational technology and teacher education.

Wendy, Prof. Feng-Kuang Chiang and I right before my presentation.

One of the things that I have learned during the visit is new efforts in China to create online opportunities for tutoring for all K-12 students. They are paying teachers to tutor students online, such as all students can get access to good teachers. In addition there are new projects to introducing Artificial Intelligence tutoring in schools more widely. They are also rethinking their examination system. So it looks like China is undergoing significant educational reforms now and they want to learn from the researchers worldwide. This is very inspiring.

Lastly, I also presented my poster that explored new ways of thinking about teacher knowledge and its growth:

Presenting my poster that explored new ways of thinking about teachers’ knowledge and its growth.

Teachers and Teaching in the Era of Change

Posted: May 18th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

On February 5-7 2018, a group of Israeli and Canadian educators will meet at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to participate in an interactive workshop that will explore how technology may shape teaching and teacher education. We decided to call it “Teaching and Teaching in the Era of Change”.

The workshop was funded by the Halbert Center for Canadian Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

The workshop leaders and grant Principal Co-Investigators are:

Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin from the University of British Columbia (Co-PI)

Dr. Yifat Ben-David Kolikant from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (Co-PI)

Dr. Dragana Martinovic from the University of Windsor in Canada (Co-PI).

Workshop’s overview:

Teachers nowadays face unprecedented challenges. The world is in constant flux: there are enormous socio-political changes, trends of globalization, massive worldwide immigration, and rapidly-emerging life-altering technologies. Consequently, there is a growing  expectation that the 21st century teachers will have ample opportunities to re-examine their teaching philosophies, and adjust their pedagogical practices in view of the role digital technology plays and should play in supporting student learning. These expectations present significant challenges to teachers, who are often  asked to implement novel (technology-rich) pedagogies they did not have a chance to experience as students or become comfortable with. To exacerbate the problem, the 21st century teachers function not only in a frequently-changing educational reality manifested by continuous reforms, but are also bombarded by often contradictory and competing demands from the legislators, administrators, parents, and students.

How do we break the vicious circle of reforms and support teachers in making a real change in student learning? This proposed 3-day workshop will bring together researchers from Israel and Canada to the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to discuss the challenges today’s teachers and teacher-educators face in their practice. Technology has a potential to empower teachers in this era of change. Informed by the latest research findings, we will explore current pedagogical trends and practices in both Israel and Canada, and discuss ways to unleash the potential  of technology to support teacher education, teaching practices, and professional development.

As a followup of this workshop, we will propose a similar workshop in Canada with invited presenters from Israel, and will work on an edited book with selected publications from the workshop.

For workshop information please contact Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin: marina.milner-bolotin(at)

TLEF Showcase 2017

Posted: May 11th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

On May 4, 2017 Gerald Tembrevilla and I had and opportunity to share our work on the collection of videos for future STEM educators. This work has been supported by UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund, UBC Work and Learn Program and the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy.

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Our presentation: 2017_UBC_TLEF_poster_MilnerBolotin_Tembrevilla_Final

STEM Keynote Presentation in Beijing, China

Posted: May 9th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

On May 26, 2017 I will be giving a Keynote address in Beijing China. I will be speaking to STEM educators, STEM teacher-educators and teachers. I will talk about the role of technology in STEM education.

Title: Developing deliberate pedagogical thinking with technology in STEM (physics) teacher education

In this interactive presentation I will demonstrate how modern technologies can be used to support STEM teachers in adapting pedagogical practices that aim at engaging students in meaningful STEM learning. The first technology (PeerWise) promotes learner collaboration on designing and answering multiple-choice questions, while the second technology (CLAS) supports learner collaboration on analyzing and reflecting on video recording.  I will describe our research that focuses on bridging educational research with pedagogical practice through designing evidence-based STEM teacher education that deliberately utilizes technology to promote active engagement pedagogies in STEM classrooms.


Milner-Bolotin, M., Egersdorfer, D., & Vinayagam, M. (2016). Investigating the effect of question-driven pedagogy on the development of physics teacher-candidates’ Pedagogical Content Knowledge. Physics Review Special Topics – Physics Education Research, 12(020128), 1-16.

Milner-Bolotin, M. (2016). Promoting Deliberate Pedagogical Thinking with Technology in physics teacher education: A teacher-educator’s journey. In T. G. Ryan & K. A. McLeod (Eds.), The Physics Educator: Tacit Praxes and Untold Stories (pp. 112-141). Champaign, IL: Common Ground and The Learner.

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Science Outreach – Why it matters

Posted: May 9th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

On May 3, 2017 I visited Richmond public library for a special outreach event for the general public. It was a rainy day and I had to carry a big box of science demonstrations with me. It was one of the volunteering events I have been involved it since I came to British Columbia almost 15 years ago. I have been volunteering with the Scientists and Innovators in the School organization of British Columbia. As part of my volunteering I visit schools, libraries, other places and show science experiments, talk to children and adults. This takes time, but it also brings a lot of pleasure. You never know what will inspire a child and how their lives will be influenced by you. You also learn from listening to children’s questions. So I am happy to do science outreach, as I am convinced that science outreach matters.

Thus I was happy to read a recent paper in the APS News titled “Science is not just for scientists”. In this paper Rachel Gaal described a presentation by the CEO of the AAAS – Dr. Rush Holt. He spoke about it. He said:

“[Scientists] should switch from communicating the right answer to communicating the right process,” Holt proposed. “[A change] will not be done by asserting the facts, it will be done by empowering people to handle evidence for themselves, no matter their level of expertise. They can demand evidence and make judgments about its value … It’s their job to do it for themselves … Science is not just for scientists”.

Thus while communicating science to the general public we are doing an important thing not only for the general public, but also for the science community itself.

Research Presentation: An International Comparisons on Technology Use in STEM

Posted: April 20th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I am very excited to have an opportunity to share my research with my colleagues at the UBC Faculty of Education and the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy. This work has been done in collaboration with my colleague, Dr. Christine (Jungsook) Oh from Daegu University in South Korea. We also have presented this paper in Beijing at the 2016 STEM Conference  at Beijing Normal University and were awarded a First Prize for it.

Date:             Friday, April 21, 2017

Venue:          Scarfe Room 1214

Time:             12:30 – 2:00 p.m.

Title:              A Comparative Study of STEM Educators’ Views of Technology: A Case of Canada, China and Korea

Speaker:       Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin, Associate Professor, EDCP


This paper describes the results of a pilot quantitative international comparative study that investigated how STEM educators in Canada, China and Korea view the roles of technology in their teaching. The study incorporated the Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge and Deliberate Pedagogical Thinking with Technology frameworks to emphasize that in addition to the relevant knowledge necessary for effective use of educational technologies, teachers have to acquire positive attitudes towards its impact on student learning. The results of this pilot indicate that according to the self-reports of 195 Canadian, Chinese and Korean STEM educators who participated in this research , they have significantly different levels of pedagogical, content and technological knowledge, as well as are offered significantly different opportunities for incorporating technology in their teaching. The opportunities for support and technology-related professional development for STEM teaching also vary dramatically among the participants. Most importantly, STEM educators in these countries have disparate perceptions of the role of technology in STEM: Canadian educators focus on technology as a tool to promote individualized student learning, Chinese educators view the main goal of technology use as improving documentation of student learning, and Korean educators view technology as a tool to promote student content knowledge. While the sample of this pilot was rather limited, this study identified directions for the future study. This paper reports on the first pilot project in a forthcoming series of international comparative studies that will investigate how teachers in Canada, China and Korea view and utilize technology to promote their pedagogical goals.


Dr. Marina Milner-Bolotin has a M.Sc. in theoretical physics from the National University of Kharkiv, Ukraine and a Ph.D. in Mathematics and Science education from the University of TX, Austin. She earned her teaching certification at Bar-Ilan University in Israel. She has been a K-12 math and science teacher for 10 years (in Israel and in the US) and taught undergraduate physics courses for more than 10 years in TX, BC and ON. Her research explores how modern technologies can support math and science learning at K-12 and undergraduate levels, as well as teacher education. She has more than 40 publications, including an introductory physics textbook used by thousands of students across Canada and worldwide. She has won numerous research and teaching awards, including a Fellowship of the American Association of Physics Teachers (2016), UBC Killam Teaching Prize (2014), and Canadian Association of Physicists Undergraduate Teaching Prize (2010). She currently serves as an Associate Editor (physics education section) of the Canadian Journal of Physics.

Link to seminar poster.

This seminar is part of the 2016-2017 EDCP Lecture Series organized by the EDCP Seminar Committee.

Paper: Milner-Bolotin_Oh_Paper

Presentation: EDCP_SeminarMilner-BolotinApril2017

UBC 39th Physics Olympics

Posted: March 5th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I am very happy to report that 39th UBC Physics Olympics was a huge success. We had a record number of teams (69!) from all over BC (more than 500 British Columbia students came to participate!) and more than 60 amazing volunteers – faculty, students and staff from the Faculty of Science (Department of Physics and Astronomy) and from the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy (Gerald Tembrevilla came to volunteer with me). The rule book for the Olympics can be found on our web site. As always, the mystery labs, Quizzics, Fermi question challenge and pre-builts were very successful. This time around the prebuilt that dealt with designing a plane was a huge success. Students came up with very creative solutions. The coin-sorter challenge was also very interesting.

We also had a special event for physics teachers where we discussed how the new BC science curriculum is being implemented. I am very happy that the tradition of this hands-on large scale event continues. Next year we will celebrate its 40th anniversary.

And the winner of the Physics Olympics was the team from West Vancouver Secondary School – congratulations to them and to all the students and teachers who came to participate.

To see the photos click here.

AAPT Winter Meeting 2017

Posted: February 18th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I am  very excited to attend winter 2017 meeting of the American Association of Physics Teaching. It is taking place in Atlanta, Georgia. Almost 800 physics educators participate in this conference this year. AAPT is a very special organization that has been a part of my life for decades now. AAPT has made a difference in the lives of thousands of students and many-many physics teachers in the US, Canada and all over the world. I am presenting a talk this Monday and on Sunday I am beginning to take part in the International Committee of the American Association of Physics Teaching. Most importantly, I am going to attend talks, meet colleagues and learn from many very inspirational people.


Hands-On Science: A video resource for STEM students, teachers & parents

Posted: January 31st, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

What if we engaged new mathematics and science teachers into designing new science and math hands on activities? What if we used technology to document these activities and share them with other teachers, students and parents? This is an idea behind a UBC-funded project that focuses on creating hands-on science and math resources for all. We have been experimenting with it and we have so far six videos, but we know our repository will grow. This is going to be one of the assignments in my future methods courses – not only to demonstrate some science concepts, but also create a video of this demo. We are very fortunate to have Camtasia Studio license at UBC so our students have the right tools to create these resources. I would like to express my thanks to Solmaz, Davor, Gerald, Katerina and many other students who have worked hard to make this happen. We are on the way to have a big collection of hands-on experiments that can be performed in the classroom or at home.

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For the YOUTUBE CHANNEL – Science & Math for ALL click here:



Thoughts about Teaching as a Profession

Posted: January 28th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

A group of Chinese teachers doing a week-long professional development in Canada. In China, teachers are required to engage in meaningful long-term pro-D and to be accountable for what they have learned. I think it shows…

Last Tuesday I was invited (as a volunteer) to visit a local school – John Oliver Secondary School. It is a public secondary school (grades 8-12) located on the East Side of Vancouver. This means that the children in this school come predominantly from the families with the lower Socio-Economic Status as compared to the kids in the Vancouver West or Point Grey area schools. As a result these kids are less exposed to the information about different kinds of jobs and education paths as compared with the kids in other more affluent areas.

Science teachers in this school decided to do something different for grade 9 students. A few years ago, these science teachers had an idea to expose the students to more opportunities in a very informal and interactive way. They decided to invite people from different walks of life to become a human library for a day. Which means we were there for the entire day and the students could come and spend some time with us asking what we do, where we studied, what we like or do not like about our jobs, etc. They also asked what we mean by success, if we have families, where we were born, etc. I kept being asked about “What is my job?”. While trying to think how to respond to this question (as saying I am a professor at University would not mean much to them), I realised once again that I do not think of my work at UBC and my teaching in general as a job. I think of it as a profession. To me a profession is not the same as a job or an occupation. Here is what I found online about the difference between the profession and an occupation: on occupation versus a profession. How I think about it, is that a profession is something you do where you have a skill that you had to master for some time and more importantly, who have to make sure you have to keep learning and improving this skill. A profession is also a combination of skills, hard work, passion, creativity, and dedication to what you are doing. While a profession if you are lucky will help you to make a living it is not always so. A profession also doesn’t mean you are so good at what you do that everything comes easy to you and you do not struggle along the way. You can be a very accomplished person in a certain profession, but if there is no demand for your skills, you might be out of  a job.

To me, this directly applies to teaching and how many people and organisations today are trying to de-professionalise our profession. In other words – to take away training, skills, ability and hard work out of teaching and replace it with seniority. I am part of the organising committee of UBC Physics Olympics (one of the oldest and largest interactive physics outreach events in Canada). As a result I interact with many physics teachers (60+ annually) who bring teams of their students to UBC to compete in the event. These teachers spend countless hours to support their students to build contraptions, learn more physics, learn new skills and work as teams. In order to support these students, the teachers have to acquire lots of skills that many might not have had. For example, they learn programming, design, etc. However, the pay of these teachers as any other teachers in BC depends only on their seniority. In other words, it doesn’t matter how good or how bad a teacher is, it doesn’t matter how professional he or she is, their pay will be the same. So a teacher who dedicates lots of extra time to the school, will not be compensated more to provide a better life for their own family or for themselves. We are trying to make it all equal thus shortchanging and discouraging the teachers who are professional, dedicated and motivated. This would not be tolerated in another professional work where the compensation a professional receives depends on their skill, aptitude, talent and dedication. How do we expect to innovate our schools and prepare our students for the challenges that are coming in the near future, if we discourage the teachers who are role models for our students to be professional?

As part of the Future Schools 2030 project I am involved in, I keep asking myself – what kinds of schools do I see in the near future? And what I see is not schools full of new technologies, or new exciting buildings, I see new kind of teachers who treat teaching as a profession. However, to have these teachers, we have to change the system they are in. If we allow Physics Education teachers to teach physics, we de-professionalize teaching (by the way, I do not think a physics teacher would necessarily be a good PE teacher).  By doing so and claiming that teachers should be “generalists”, we are saying- teachers are replaceable and they do not have special skills that one has to master before becoming one. Why should we be surprised that our students are ill prepared if we devalue professionalism in teaching? I think the brief report by Andrew Hayes and Phil Hegarty talks about it. I also found a few other interesting papers, for example, a paper that focuses on literature review of the the competency-based teacher education.

As a professional involved in Teacher Education, I will keep thinking about these topics. I hope that we will realize that we have to make teaching a profession once again if we want to help our children to have a great future. Now the million dollar question is to figure out how we can get there…


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