Celebrating Learning: Erin Bown-Anderson, Director of Technology Integration
From the beginning of her career she was uncomfortable with the traditional way of teaching. “I remember receiving a stack of worksheets from my mentor teacher, walking back to my classroom, straight to a cabinet in the back, and stacking them on top of the previous week’s worksheets. I couldn’t explain why, but I just could not get myself to give students those worksheets.” Erin Bown-Anderson knew she wanted to be in education as long as she remembers. Both her parents and grandmother were educators. At that time she taught at an elementary school in Grapevine, Texas, while completing her Masters Degree in Teaching at Austin College in Sherman, Texas. Then, one day, the school librarian, who had been her mentor throughout the year, asked Erin how she could celebrate learning with her students every single day. That’s when it all started.
She eventually became elementary Teacher of the Year for the district Grapevine-Colleyville ISD. She ended up back to Austin, where she grew up, after working in Grapevine-Colleyville for 13 years. For the last seven there, she was thePK-12 Social Studies Coordinator and co-designer of the instructional and digital coaching model. In 2012 Erin became the Curriculum Professional Development Administrative Supervisor in Austin ISD’s Academics Department, then worked as an Administrative Supervisor in the Office of Teaching and Learning. In April of this year she was appointed as the new Director of Technology Integration.
Student Driven Learning
Erin is not your ordinary director. Read her Twitter profile and you will understand. She is an innovator and creator, a visionary who loves people. Erin was one of the driving forces behind AISD’s ‘Transformative Technology Plan’ that eventually found its way into the district’s 2015-2020 Strategic Plan. As part of the district’s vision to reinvent the urban school experience, Core Belief 2 states: ‘We commit ourselves to implement the transformative use of technology.’
Students are central in this new approach of teaching and learning. Technology along with Literacy and the Whole Child form the framework for the vision of changing our students’ experiences. The learning will be more personalized and driven by students themselves. Problem Based Learning (PBL) and Design Thinking, among other instructional approaches, will help students become creators and thinkers. Teachers help students get the learning pieces they need, but will no longer be the knowledge providers in front of the room.
In the coming months the first group of AISD teachers will be trained and coached in this new instructional model. These Cohort I teachers are considered the frontrunners in the use of the transformative pedagogy. Cohort II and III will follow in the coming years. Technology Integration Coaches and Campus Innovation Coaches will work to herald and help implement the ideas.
A lot of planning, creating, meetings and hiring is underway. Ideas and scheming patterns are visible on the board in her office in colorful patterns. Not everything goes smoothly and not everyone likes the changes. Erin stays cheerful and personable to everyone who enters her office. Her attitude is rooted in the firm belief that people’s actions have a positive intent. “Everyone wants to make a change for the better. Relationships and communication are important to me. We have to be able to navigate each individual relationship. The language we use impacts behaviors and changes relationships. We learn from each other,” she says. She believes this to be true in personal, professional and classroom relationships. “We can learn a lot from teachers, and teachers can learn a lot from students.” It is almost as if to Erin, the classroom is a microcosm of our world at large, in which communication and connecting with each other are essential to learning. And to this day, celebration of learning is what she strives for every single day.