March 2018
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40th UBC Physics Olympics

Posted: March 11th, 2018, by Marina Milner-Bolotin


We held our 40th UBC Physics Olympics today: . It was an extraordinary event. We had 6 very successful heats that the students were very excited about. We also had a record number of teams and students: 73 teams and 721 students. We had teams from all over BC and we had teams with more than 30 students.

In addition, I facilitated a professional development event for teachers that was attended by 35 teachers! We had two very successful BC teachers present their ideas: Mrs. Giselle Lawrence and Mr. Pouyan Khalili. Our event focused on new British Columbia science curriculum and on different ways of facilitating inquiry in a science classroom. The enthusiasm and excitement were in the air for the entire day – from 8 am till almost 6 pm.

Finally, we had a number of special guests – the journalists from the local newspapers, as well as the Dean of Science and the Head of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. It was a big celebration of four decades of collaboration between the Departments of Physics and Astronomy (Faculty of Science) and the Department of Curriculum and Pedagogy (Faculty of Education) that successfully engages students and teachers in physics. I am looking forward to the next 40 years!

FYI, here is a brief numeric overview of the 2018 event:

Infinity – The number of laughs and the level of excitement

1352 km – The distance from Terrace to Vancouver (the most remote school attending the event)

722 – Number of students attending the 40th UBC Physics Olympics

365 – Number of days we spent planning the event since the last year

108 – Number of medals awarded to top teams

82 – Number of team leaders (teachers and coaches) supporting the students

73 – Number of teams in attendance

71 – Number of volunteers supporting the event (faculty, graduate and undergraduate students)

40 – Number of UBC Physics Olympics we have organized so far

39 – The size of the largest team in attendance

35 – Number of physics teachers who participated in the Professional Development event

10 – Number of times Penticton Secondary School has won the overall event since 1977

6 – Number of heats (independent events during the day)

6 – Number of plaques awarded to the schools

2 – Number of pre-build events the students had prepared at home

2 – Number of large auditoriums we had to use to seat all the participants, coaches and volunteers for the final event.

1 – Number of Officers of the Order of Canada who facilitated our events (Dr. J. Matthews)

1 – The overall Physics Olympics Trophy

The photos from the event can be found here.

Presenting at BCAPT Professional Development Day

Posted: February 28th, 2018, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

BCAPT Panel on different professional paths for science educators.

This winter I helped to organize a professional development day for BC physics educators. We gathered at Capilano University and spent a day discussing how we teach physics, how students learn physics, and how we can use technology to engage students with physics in a meaningful way. To learn more about the event visit BC Association of Physics Teachers web site.

Photos from the event can be seen here.

Presenting at Conferences: Death by PowerPoint

Posted: February 28th, 2018, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

I always thought that effective communication is crucial for promoting science education. And even though I have been an educator for almost quarter of a century now. I always feel that I can be a better communicator of science. This is the reason why for the last eight years I have been actively involved in the Toastmasters International organization. It helped me improve my public speaking skills and also support future science and mathematics educators in improving theirs. Today I was invited to present to UBC graduate students about how to present at conferences. I decided to talk about how to use PowerPoint and how not to abuse it.

Here is my presentation: PPTDeathEDCPGradStudentsFeb2018

Teachers and Teaching in the Era of Change

Posted: February 7th, 2018, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Participants (not all) of the first Israeli-Canadian workshop: Teachers and Teaching in the Era of Change.

For the last year my colleagues (Dr. Dragana Martinovic from the University of Windsor and Dr. Yifat Ben David Kolikant from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem) and I have been working to make our dream a reality. We had a dream of organizing a workshop where scholars, graduate students, teachers, policy makers, and administrators from Canada and Israel can work together to discuss the issues that in our view are relevant today in STEM education. We also wanted to invite colleagues outside of the STEM field in order to enrich our prospective and to learn how other people view the issues. Thus we build many bridges examining the topic inside out.

Unlike big conferences, we wanted to have a workshop where we can truly collaborate, discuss, argue, ask questions and get to know each other. We also had two fantastic keynote speakers and wonderful discussants for the presented papers. I think it has just happened. From February 5-7 we (30+ people) attended our workshop. It was one of the most engaging events I have ever experienced.  I think it was a a great outcome of a long year of work and collaboration. We are so grateful to our sponsors and all the colleagues who attended. I am especially grateful to my sister – Dr. Svetlana Chachashvili-Bolotin who not only participated, but also has supported us in many ways. I am so lucky to have a sister who is an educator, an academic and a very close friend. Thank you all! For more, please see here.

Online M.Ed. Program in Science Education

Posted: January 16th, 2018, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Dear friends, I hope you can help me distribute this information in British Columbia and outside of it. We are starting our new online Master’s of Education program in science education. Anybody around the world who registered and was admitted into the program (we will have fewer than 20 teachers in our first cohort) will pay local tuition (so no international fees).

I hope we can attract knowledgeable and enthusiastic science teachers who want to learn, collaborate, explore new technologies and pedagogies and earn a graduate degree at a world-class university (I know I might not be modest, but in 2017 we were ranked 13th in the world and 2nd in Canada, in 2016 we were ranked first in Canada and 9 worldwide). Please email me if you have any questions. This is an exciting opportunity for science teachers to earn an advanced degree while working full time in their own schools. It is also a great opportunity to meet inspirational science educators from around the world. Get in touch with us. The deadline for the application in March 31st. Find more information on our web site – below.

AAPT-2019 Invited Talk

Posted: January 4th, 2018, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Future science teachers at the University of British Columbia.

On January 8, 2018 I will be giving an invited talk at the Winter-2018 National Meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers in San-Diego, California. I am very excited about it as my talk will focus on something, I have been very interested for a while: the opportunities that we overlook while teaching in a foreign language. It is very common to think that not having English (or whatever is the language you are teaching physics in is) as your first language is a huge drawback. I think we forget that there are also many pluses here. I try to emphasize it while I work with future physics teachers here at UBC. I hope my talk will be of interest to the attendees. Below I posted the information about my talk:

Session FH: Teaching and Learning Physics in a Second Language

Location: Royal Palm Five/Six Sponsors: Committee on International Physics Education, Committee on Diversity in Physics

Time: 7:00-8:00 p.m. Date: Monday, January 8 Presider: Geraldine Cochran

FH01 7:00-7:30 p.m. Teaching Physics in a Foreign Language: Challenges and Opportunities

Invited – Marina Milner-Bolotin, University of British Columbia, 2125 Main Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia V6T2K1Z4 Canada;

With the growing number of North American physics teachers for whom English is their second, third, or even fourth language, we often focus on the challenges they face in our classrooms. However, this disregards the fact that many North American students are also non-native English speakers. Moreover, teaching requires much more than mastering the language, such as cultural fluency and familiarity with local education system. How does that affect physics teaching? By focusing solely on these challenges, we forget that physics teachers who come from different countries also have significant advantages compared to their native counterparts. By “speaking” multiple languages and cultures, they can trace the history of international science curricula and terminology. They can also better relate to non-native English speaking students. In this presentation I focus on advantages of teaching physics in a foreign language that are often overlooked in teacher education programs and in the teaching practice.


Teacher-Candidates’ STEM Video Projects

Posted: November 30th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

This term thanks to the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement grant funding and to the support of the Educational Technology Services at UBC Faculty of Education (thanks Sharon, Yvonne and Eric for your help in conducting Camtasia workshop and thanks to Gerald for helping out) we were able to create a new assignment for our STEM Teacher-Candidates. They were asked to design a video of a science experiment they can do with their own students during the practicum and beyond. Our goal was to create resources that will serve them well beyond the program, as well as to help them acquire technical skills. As I am receiving students’ projects, I keep thinking about teaching that inspires student creativity and support them in exploring their passions. Here is a project by Colin.

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This project also shows that it is not enough to tell students we have resources on campus (UBC has a free Camtasia license for faculty, students and staff). We have to show students why using these resources is beneficial for them. This is exactly why we wanted to design our database of educational videos of STEM experiments: STEM Education Videos for All We started the database, but now our Teacher-Candidates are contributing to it. This was an entire goal of the project and it is exciting to see how it is growing beyond the original funding. I am very grateful and excited we had this opportunity.

UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund

Posted: November 22nd, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin
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Since coming to UBC in 2004, I was very fortunate to participate in many projects aimed at improving educational experiences of our students. These projects would not have been possible if not for the UBC Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund – TLEF. This fund’s goal is to support innovation in teaching and learning at UBC and encourage faculty members to try new things and continue working on improving students’ experiences. Since I am always interested in exploring how technology can improve student learning, this is a fantastic opportunity for me and my graduate students to try new things. It is also an opportunity to collaborate with other faculty members across campus.

Our latest project that was funded by TLEF focused on the use of technology to improve the preparation of science and mathematics teachers at UBC. We produced short videos of science experiments that Teacher-Candidates can perform during their practicum or during our now famous UBC Facutly of Education Family Math and Science Day. To learn more about our project, please visit this project report site and of course our YouTube channel of science experiments: Science & Math Education Videos for All.


Another Successful Family Math and Science Day

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

UBC Faculty of Education held our now famous annual event dedicated to hands-on mathematics and science: Seventh UBC Faculty of Education Mathematics and Science Day. We are very grateful for the continuous support of our event. We are also supported by the Pacific Institute for the Mathematics Sciences who realize that children’s interest in mathematics and science starts at home and should be nurtured from the very early age.

This year, more than 500 people took part in our event. We had more than 400 guests, more than 100 different mathematics and science stations and more than 140 volunteers. We see a steady growth in the interest in STEM in our community and we are proud to report that we are contributing to it. We are also excited to see how our Teacher-Candidates learning to communicate science to the general public. Making sure that parents are involved in mathematics and science education of their children is very important and this was an excellent opportunity for our Teacher-Candidates to practice how to engage families in STEM.

It was very encouraging to witness how parents and children were excited about mathematics and science. We saw entire families (grandparents, parents, children and grandchildren) doing activities together and having fun in the process.

This year our elementary and secondary Teacher-Candidates collaborated on their stages and the effect was amazing. We also collaborated with our art education students and had a very interesting Creative Lab, where guests used recycled materials to create their own project. In addition, we incorporated the video resources we have created earlier with the support of UBC’s Teaching and Learning Enhancement Fund: STEM Education Videos for All.

It was a lot of hard work and a lot of fun.

To see more pictures from the event click here.

7th Family Math and Science Day at UBC

Posted: October 25th, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

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