Bette Maggie Sloane
Teacher uses cellphone camera to explore math concepts
Instead of banning cell phones from class, high school math teacher Bette Maggie Sloane had a brave idea: to have her students use mobile phone cameras as a creative way to find geometry and algebra in the world around them. For this, the Mineola Teachers Association member was one of five educators selected from a national pool to receive the NEA Foundation’s Challenge to Innovate (C2i) Mobile Project Award, and $1,000.
Sloane knows firsthand the joys of an interdisciplinary approach to education. With a bachelor in fine arts degree in photography and a master’s in mathematics education, she is a living example of a right-brained/left-brained education. So, when it came to the task of getting her high school students excited about math, she drew on her love of photography.
Because Sloane believes that students learn best by doing, she challenged her class to find applications of the geometry and algebra concepts they learned in school in the world around them.
A field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a library research project provided Sloane’ students with an overview of the artistic uses and implications of geometric transformations. She told her students to find parallel and perpendicular lines in their daily lives and to document them with their cell phone cameras. They emailed photos to her and she posted them on her faculty website, creating an interactive, digital museum.
“This is a way for students to use a feature of their phones to document math,” Sloane explained. “Instead of texting or emailing, which can be a quick and even forgettable interaction, students can keep their photographs in their phone files to look at in the future.”
The entire project, start to finish, is digital. “Students have their cell phones with them all the time; this idea turns their phones into instructional tools,” Sloane said.
“By sending me their submissions, digitally, the art they created with their phone can be exhibited on my website,” she continued. “Most students don't think that their phones are capable of creating art, but they are!”
The NEA Foundation created C2i to uncover innovative approaches in teaching and enable educators to share and build on these ideas to improve student learning. C2i is an incentive-driven networking site, hosted on the Department of Education’s Open Innovation Portal, where public school educators and others are offering solutions to pressing classroom challenges. The latest challenge explores how to use mobile phone technology to transform teaching and was launched in partnership with the Consortium for School Networking (CoSN).
“We launched this challenge because we believe the use of mobile phone technology provides an important opportunity for educators and students to learn in new and different ways,” said Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the NEA Foundation.
“Mobile devices hold a lot of promise for helping K-12 educators to re-imagine teaching and learning,” added Keith Krueger, CEO of CoSN. “To continue finding ways to harness the power of these technologies, we need a constant cycle of bright new ideas from all segments of the education community — from our 21st century learners to our educators and administrators.”
To learn more about the proposed solutions and C2i, visit www.neafoundation.org.
— Courtesy of the NEA Foundation