April 2017
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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…


Thoughts on Education, Technology, and Teacher Education in 2017

Posted: January 2nd, 2017, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Spanish Banks in December of 2016.

This winter break I had a lot of time to think about the future of education and the role technology will play in it. I was able to reflect on the role technology plays in my own professional and personal life.

As I was walking along the beautiful Spanish Banks in Vancouver and taking photos with my smartphone, I was thinking how technology has changed my life and the lives of my students (future science teachers). However, while walking along, I decided not to get distracted by Facebook, Instagram, Skype and other social media tools that were installed on my phone. I wanted to walk, to think, to imagine and probably to take a few photos to share with my friends later on… This made me think about how technology has shaped our lives not only in terms of the unprecedented access to information, but also in terms of blurring of the lines between information and knowledge.

The unprecedented access to information is very deceiving. Having access to some information online or offline (yes, when I was growing up the information “was stored” in books) doesn’t mean you will have the time or the ability to process this information and turn it into your own knowledge. Thus a lot of information that is available to us (real or false) – is just that – information that will never turn into our own knowledge… This reminded me of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia (50+ very big and heavy volumes) that we had in my parents’ house many years ago. I grew up seeing the big black volumes of the encyclopedia in front of my eyes. Even though it was printed in black and white (I think some inserts might have had colour), it included a lot of very interesting information on a wide vareity of topics. At the same time, the Encyclopedia was extremely biased – as one of its goals was to continue brainwashing the population. In addition, it was not easy to use (comparing with what we can do now with searching and cross-linking). However, it gave you a sense of enormous amount of information checked by experts (at least in the field of natural sciences we could most of the time trust these experts), which was at the same time a limited amount. It was also important that you realized that reading one encyclopedia article might take a long time and you will need it to process this information and make it your own knowledge (think of Piaget’s accommodation and assimilation).

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Great (Big) Soviet Encyclopedia

Comparing to what we face today, it was incredibly different. Today technology gives us a false impression, that we have control over the world, that we know so much more than our predecessors because we can google it up, as if education and finding something online have become the same thing. I am confident that they are not. It takes time and effort to process information, to challenge your own ideas and to be skeptical about the ideas somebody has presented to you. It is not easy and it is not fast. Think about how often you hear people on the climate change debate who have no understanding of any science behind it. They took sides based on their political affiliation or to match the views of the people who surround them. However, they have no deep understanding of the issue, because they have never taken the time to understand it… I think taking the time to understand is something we all need to work on.

As today is the second day of 2017 and we all think about what we will try to do better this year compared to the previous ones, I will try to focus this year on slow reading and slow thinking. In one of my research papers I recently published, I wrote about Deliberate Pedagogical Thinking with Technology – thinking with the purpose, thinking that is slow and painful, but the one that helps us build a deeper and more meaningful understanding of the world around us. I hope to slow down in 2017 and to force myself to think deeper and more deliberately about the issues I care about – teacher education, the use of technology in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teacher education, teacher professional development, and teaching practice. I hope slowing down will help me. After all, there is a beautiful Russian proverb – One who moves slower gets farther (in English: Slow and steady wins the race). In my view, in Russian it sounds better because it is not about winning the race, but it is about advancing, moving on and pushing your own limits and boundaries.

I would like to wish all of us a great year of 2017! May we all push our boundaries and challenge our own limits this year and use technology to improve the quality of our life and make it more meaningful, exciting and fulfilling. Happy New Year!

PISA 2015 Results are Here

Posted: December 6th, 2016, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Today the results of the 2015 PISA (Program International of Student Assessment) were published. We have been waiting for the results for a long time. As I work with future physics and science teachers, it is not surprising it is very important to me how Canada is doing internationally. While my own children are not in K-12 any longer, I care about thousands of Canadian kids who are attending our schools.  I have to admit, that I was happy and even surprised about  many of the results concerning the performance of Canadian students in science as I have been a university science prof here, thus I had seen how much undergraduate students struggled with basic math and science. I have to read the report more carefully and I have to pay more attention to the trends, but it looks like Canadian secondary science teachers are doing a good job! More information can be found here: (especially see page 81). On the other hand, the TIMMS results are not so good for Canada – this is a mathematics and science test for younger students. And if you want to know how these tests differ, here is a very useful link: Food for thought.

Here I am copying the introduction by the OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria. You can argue about how the results are obtained and dismiss them, but I think it is worth looking at them and at the methodology. I will be discussing it with my own students – future teachers.


Over the past decade, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment, PISA, has become the world’s premier yardstick for evaluating the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems. By identifying the characteristics of high-performing education systems, PISA allows governments and educators to identify effective policies that they can then adapt to their local contexts. The latest PISA assessment in 2015 focused on science. From taking a painkiller to determining what is a “balanced” meal, from drinking pasteurised milk to deciding whether or not to buy a hybrid car, science is ubiquitous in our lives. And science is not just test tubes and the periodic table; it is the basis of nearly every tool we use – from a simple can opener to the most advanced space explorer. More important, science is not only the domain of scientists. In the context of massive information flows and rapid change, everyone now needs to be able to “think like a scientist”: to be able to weigh evidence and come to a conclusion; to understand that scientific “truth” may change over time, as new discoveries are made, and as humans develop a greater understanding of natural forces and of technology’s capacities and limitations. This brochure highlights some of the results from PISA 2015. PISA shows that every country has room for improvement, even the top performers. With high levels of youth unemployment, rising inequality, a significant gender gap, and an urgent need to boost inclusive growth in many countries, we have no time to lose in providing the best education possible for all students. Angel Gurría OECD Secretary-General “

And this is an interesting paper from CBC about the huge differences among Canadian provinces: Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the most underperforming provinces, while Alberta and BC students are doing exceptionally well:  I would love to know what are the causes of these huge differences. I also would love to know how these results with the general level of mathematics and science knowledge in our countries.

Another interesting link:

PISA 2015 Results

Posted: December 6th, 2016, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

An Interactive Periodic Table and more…

Posted: November 11th, 2016, by Marina Milner-Bolotin

Last week I returned from attending a very inspring STEM conference in Beijing, China. The conference focused on STEM, but a big part of it was dedicated to the use of technology. As I stayed in BJ for a few more days, I was invited to visit a very interesting museum: China Science and Technology Museum in the BJ Olympic Park. As everything else in China, it is huge. As I visited a Science Museum in Shanghai a few years back, I thought I knew what to expect. However, this museum in Beijing was something absolutely different. It was very interactive and engaging ,and I saw many families doing science activities with their children. I also felt that the range of themes was interesting. I wish they showed a few women in science (they didn’t show even their own Madame Wu, who was a very notable physicist). However, they did try to make it engaging and I think they had succeeded in many ways.

I also was able to ask a few questions of Dmitri Mendeleev (although I have to admit, he only wanted to speak Mandarin, so I wasn’t able to understand him). I was amazed at how he was able to learn the language so fast. This was also interesting as he even turned towards me when I asked a question.


I was thinking how the designers of this museum used technology to engage visitors of different ages. It was very interesting. Maybe I also enjoyed it because it wasn’t as crowded, as it was in November when the kids have to do their homework or go to school.

Today I was introduced to this very exciting web site – it should you how each element of the periodic table impacts our lives. It is fun.

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Reflections on the 4th International STEM Conference at BNU

Posted: November 3rd, 2016, by Marina Milner-Bolotin
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This was one of the most productive conferences I have ever attended. I think the size of 200+ attendees is perfect. I met so many amazing people and I hope we will have a few collaborations as the result. Being able to visit BNU and see how professors work with the students is very inspiring as well.

The proceeding of the conference can be found here:

And of course I am very grateful for the best paper award. It was a cherry on the cake.


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