Adult Education and Computer Literacy

“What do I need a computer for?” is the single most common question I’ve heard from adult students in the education sector I work in. My students are injured workers who were being trained to safely re-enter the workforce by upgrading various skills. “I’ve never used a computer before.” Is another common objection.

The way some adults look at computers, one would swear they were boxes from the devil, or three-headed monsters. People who have learned to drive complex machines, people who can build houses and boats, people who can fix car engines, have looked at their children on the computer and were completely mystified, and it’s at that point when the computer-apprehensive student decided they will never master such a device, or else they rationalize by saying that they will never need to.

The reality is that computers are everywhere, and whether you’re an injured adult who needs more employable skills, or you’re returning to school, basic comfort with a computer is not only essential, it’s socially expected. It is called computer LITERACY for a reason, the same way reading, writing, and math are a part of literacy, so is computer use.

Thankfully, the fear-filled adult can take comfort in this fact: Computer Programmers have been working for decades to make these mysterious machines ridiculously easy to use. The computer is no more complicated than learning to drive an automobile – it is repetitive tasks, practice, and intuition that make a good driver of a car, AND a computer.

The greatest obstacle that adult learners face with computers is often fear, and the fear is based on change. It is necessary to overcome and dispel this irrational fear. The computer is a terrifically complicated and multi-functional creation that can easily intimidate someone who has never had exposure to it. There are three tips to help any learner of computers through this intimidation:

1. You cannot and will not become expert in a day. It takes time and practice, but a few simple skills can up your employability or classroom efficiency considerably.

2. Practice everyday, and only learn the applications and tasks that you need. You might go to find a Microsoft Excel book in Chapters and have a heart attack when you see that they are all a thousand pages long, but most professionals who use this application do not use its every function. You do not need to memorize a thousand pages to be able to use the program effectively.

3. Take a class, or get lots of different books targeted at the beginner level. If you treat it like learning a language, or a new job, the learning happens easier.

Computers are becoming an increasingly bigger part of society every day. Those of us without the ability to use basic computer functions will be left behind. Think what the world would be like to you today if you did not know how to read a single word? Or add simple numbers. Such is the world that awaits the adult learner who clings to the irrational fear that a computer is a monster sent from hell.