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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Conquering Technophobia: A Classroom Veteran Warms to Digital Tools

In rural Freedom, Pennsylvania, a once-hesitant instructor is proving that even the old school can learn to use and love computers. Read the article.
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Jim: You need to go to

Narrator: Jim Wilson, an English teacher for thirty three years, is a self proclaimed old dog, trying to learn new tricks.

Jim: When I first came to this classroom nine years ago, there was a computer here, and I actually had to be taught how to turn it on. That's where I've come from.

Narrator: Here in Freedom, Pennsylvania, an old railroad town on the Ohio River, Freedom Area High School is two years into a quest to go high tech, and Mr. Wilson is on a crash course in modern teacher.

Jim: I'm looking for you to get the pictures in. I'm looking for you to get the music in. I'm looking for you--

Narrator: Today, his sophomores are making PowerPoint presentations on the history and culture behind Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities."

Ben: In the beginning of the year, we had a lot of typing projects, you know, like writing stories, stuff like that. Throughout the course of the year, we've kinda expanded to PowerPoints and video presentations and stuff like that. It's actually gotten really fun.

Jim: My main fears were, I think, the same fears as every old person. First of all, I fear change a little bit because I did it so many years, you know, and I was so comfortable with what I was doing. And the second fear I still think is a legitimate fear, in that I'm heading into an arena where the students know more than I do and that's a scary thing.

Narrator: Slowly but surely, Mister Wilson is overcoming his fear.

Jim: All right, don't panic, don't panic, don’t panic, do this.

It's absolutely changed the way I teach. I think I've given up some of the control and become more of a facilitator, as opposed to, "This is the way you write the paper. This is what you have to do." I think I've become more of somebody who will guide them through it, rather than grab them by the neck and drag them through it.

What do you want to look up?

Student: Or French government, anything.

Jim: It's the French revolution, it's pretty friendly. What else do you want me to do for you here?

Narrator: Conveniently, some of his best tech support comes from students.

Student: No, no, no, don't use that, it won't work.

Jim: A lot of times, I'll just say, "Hey, who in this class knows how to?" And they'll go, "Oh, I'll show you how to do this."

Student: Like, we need the Geek Squad.

Student: [Inaudible] should be on the Geek Squad.

Student: You should be on the Geek Squad.

Narrator: The next step for Mister Wilson is better lesson planning.

Jim: I've had a lot of assignments blow up in my face that I thought were gonna be good.

Narrator: All with a little help from tech integration coach, Tom.

Tom: Now it's just a matter of fine tuning.

Jim: A couple of years from now, I would like to first of all be competent enough and competent is the correct word, that I feel very comfortable walking in, saying, "Here's the assignment." Because right now, you know, sometimes I give the assignment and go, "Okay, what's going next?" you know.

Now you're challenging me, and I want you to know that.

And the second thing I'd like to be able to do is with confidence say, "You need some help? Here, I can show you how to do that." And in a couple of years, I think I will be able to do that.

Student: That is such a great idea, yeah. That works.


Thank you.

Narrator: For more information on what works in public education, go to

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Video Credits

Produced, Written, Edited, Shot, and Narrated by

  • Grace Rubenstein

Postproduction Support

  • Karen Sutherland
  • Neil Tan
  • Doug Keely

Executive Producer

  • Ken Ellis

Read Jim Wilson's tech tips.

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