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.

Comments (6) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

Chris Gillum's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

He reminds me of a teacher at our school. He was been there for over 20 years. He still has students outlining the textbook. His students would be better served by using technology including the Internet in their day to day activities. I wish he would embrace the use of the tools that are avaliable to him. I can't imagine not having access to the web much less PowerPoint and eportfolios.

J.R. Dilbeck's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

It was a good story, but I am concerned with all the focus that we are putting on technology in education. I think we sometimes assume that the lesson is great or the teacher is doing great just because technology is involved. My fear is that we are trying to move to a place where everything is driven by the computer and that is a dangerous step. What will a new teacher do when they have no technology? Can they handle that? Most new teachers I talk to, say their college classes were driven by technology. I teach in a system with limited access to technology, but I believe I do great things in the classroom. It's not the standard history class, we take very little notes. We have mock trials, re-enactments. My best lessons are when we, as a class, have to create and use our imagination. I think about my 2 year old. If he doesn't have something, he just makes it up or pretends whatever he has is what he wants. I think we are losing that. Kids don't have to use their imagination as much. I remember making my own toys out of paper, wood, whatever I could find. Its the same way in the classroom. I love technology, it has made my life easier and I think it is a great tool in the classroom, but I am a little cautious as to where we are headed with this. Just a thought.

Amy Jones's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Technology integration should be done in such a way that teachers feel they have the needed resources available on a day-to-day basis. Support should be provided by a site-based coach such as the technology integration coach shown in the video. Teachers should be provided ample opportunities for new learning and development of previously taught skills in the applications they are employing in the classroom. I feel that if a teacher is to utilize technology in the classroom effectively s/he must be proficient in relaying this to the students. The gentleman in the video discussed lesson planning as an issue for him. I feel if he had been provided more support when the school decided to fully integrate technology, then he would have been more prepared from the front end. This classroom veteran was braver than I could ever be. When I am not very proficient with an application or concept, it is difficult for me to utilize it effectively in the classroom.

Elizabeth Stephenson's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Sometimes I think it would be easier to have a regular classroom. In our Fine Arts Department at my school, which I will be targeting in my project, I will have to be very creative when presenting new Technology ideas to my colleagues. They are pretty stuck in the same rehearsal style format. Hopefully we will be able to come up with some cool ideas for them to buy into. Perhaps, blogs and podcasts are the answer. We'll see.

Jason's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Schools will always have changes and always have conflicts from new ideas and innovations. Before there was a Apple computer there were new ideas and new ways to teach. We have been incorporating new ideas way before there was technology involved. The use of a computer does give us new ways to reach certain students that are computer savy or that are interested, but for those that are intimidated or already have some learning problems it can be a stresser. The the new ideas before there was technology were hard to incorporate and technology is too.
The whole idea of changing the one room school house brought large debates. The idea of combining blacks and whites caused great concern. The idea of ALL teachers and students using computers is great, The idea of all students reaching the goals set by No Child Left Behind are too, but it is going to take a long time and possibly we may never reach that goal. I see so many things that can help a teacher with teaching a lesson and technology is part of that. Do I need a Powerpoint to teach a lesson? I do not think so, but if it gathers someones attention better I am for using it.
I do not believe that all our problems can be solved by training teachers how to use technology and each student have his own laptop. The first thing we should do is evaluate our individual students and develop ways to reach them instead of to teach them. Our elementary teachers and students should be the focus of integrating these ideas. If we can get these groups to begin the process and we can keep up with the new ideas then perhaps we can use the technology in years to come better. But until the Bd's of Education and Federal Govt's stop wasting money on uneccasary materials and find out what our needs are 3 years from now instead of 5 years ago we will always be behind and the students will suffer for it.
I am not getting paid to have my students set up my class. I am not getting paid to let a student develop my lesson. If we are to use these things, then we should get training (and more than once a year for 3 hrs) so that our students can receive proper directions instead of just doing something they are told to do without reason.
I can relate to Mr. Wilson. I want to use these things, but I am not comfortable using anything that a 14 year old knows more about than I do. Our school leaders want us to change, but give us no direction. They want us to use technology, but have no money to train us. I am tired of teachers and schools being blamed for problems that we can not solve without begging for help. The buck has to stop somewhere and the money needs to be spent more wisely. If technology is the answer then the money spent on textbooks nationwide is a waste and we should have them all online and save that money to be placed into more computers and software. Now there is an idea. Jason

John Son - 26586's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Glogster is a powerful blogging tool. It also provides a canvas for the artistically inclined to place graphics, text boxes, images, audio files, video players, and links in creative and original ways.

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