Prairie Profiles: Engaging students

Published 10:00 pm Monday, October 9, 2017

Laurie Aaronson has made a name for herself with her car that is made to look like a minion from the “Despicable Me” movies. Sarah Stultz/Albert Lea Tribune

New district employee hopes to use technology to connect

Laurie Aaronson has always had a knack for technology.

A classroom teacher for 13 years in the metro area, Aaronson was one of the first people to use a Smart Board and to have her students do coding in the classroom as part of their daily math curriculum.

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Now she’s using that passion for technology in a new way.

Aaronson began Aug. 21 as the new coordinator of technology integration for Albert Lea Area Schools.

She brings experience spent in both the Minneapolis and St. Paul public school districts, suburban schools, the juvenile correctional facility in Lino Lakes and a small charter school to her new position.

She said she hopes to help students develop and create with technology and to use it as a tool for problem solving.

Thus far into her job, she has met with grade-level teachers in all of the district’s elementary schools to talk with them about how they use technology in their classrooms and how she and the building tech person in the school can help them use it more.

She has applied for a Minnesota Department of Education grant to bring coding districtwide to an after school program and plans to mentor middle school and high school girls in a coding program called Technovation, which helps teams of girls from all over the world learn and apply skills needed to solve real-world problems through technology.

She said she has been involved with Technovation for five years and has seen it increase the amount of participation in computer science by girls.

“Computer science is more than just coders or using a computer all the time,” she said.

Aaronson said in some ways Albert Lea is ahead of some school districts even in the metro area when it comes to technology.

Across the district, students in sixth through 12th grades have one-to-one access to Chromebooks — meaning every student has access to his or her own computer. Students in sixth grade can utilize the computers in the classroom, while students in seventh through 12th grade can take them home.

In third through fifth grades, there is one-to-two access to Chromebooks, and in kindergarten through second grades there is one-to-two iPad access.

Aaronson said this is the first year, it has been one-to-one access at the high school and the second year for it to be at the middle school.

At the high school, the primary tool students use is Schoology, and in the middle school students use the Google suite, including Google Classroom. Kindergarteners through fifth-graders use Seesaw.

Each media specialist in the elementary schools dives into iPad apps and creative apps so the students can be not only users of technology, but creators of technology.

“We really want kids to develop and create with the technology,” Aaronson said.

The district is also exploring the scope and sequence of the computer science and technology classes to see what standards are being reached and to explore what classes should be offered and when.

She said she has enjoyed her new job thus far getting into the classrooms and talking with teachers.

As a former teacher herself, she said she thinks she can relate to them and the challenges they face.

“I think for me, it’s not about the technology,” Aaronson said. “It’s more about how is this engaging our students.”

She hopes technology can help teachers connect to their students and encouraged people to contact her if they have ideas or suggestions for integrating technology in the classroom.

When she’s not at work, Aaronson said she enjoys doing Crossfit and going on walks with her dog, Izzy.

She also enjoys reading and playing sports. She will be coaching a girls U10 hockey team.

“I’m trying to get involved with the community and get some roots,” she said.