Teaching Computer use to Absolute Beginners

When introducing computers to beginners, a student can quickly prove to be a natural whiz, or a paranoid hesitant. But either way, they are first off ignorant, and ignorance is always best conquered with a list of the basics. After all, while computers are certainly complicated machines – and to some, even alien beings – I believe there are some general philosophies in life that can be applied to most situations.

The basics, of course, include an introduction to the physical tools one will use to operate a computer, such as a mouse, keyboard, etc., as well as the basic functions that most every computer will have. This will nourish the roots of a general understanding, and will support a more in-depth comprehension of later detail. These first simple aspects will be grasped fairly quickly if they are explained clearly. Of course, explaining something clearly is always a good way to proceed regardless of subject matter, and will ensure a thorough education.

When a student does not show signs of that queer, natural insight some have for the machine in their midst, I’ve found that an easy way to ensure learning is to create a creature of habit out of the student. Who doesn’t have confidence in their habits? Approach things simply but thoroughly, and assign drills of repetition.

There are the general operations that everyone needs to know when operating a computer, but there will also be the specific functions that fall under the student’s specific interests. Delving into these first may prove to capture the student from the beginning, and serve as a peacemaker when it comes to more in-depth frustrations. Piquing a student’s interests and offering him some early confidence can work wonders, tiding him over and keeping him hooked when more critical challenges arise.

Terms of buttons and functions are not to be confused. Some of them share troubling similarities, and if distinguishing between them is not stressed, disaster can easily strike. If a student has the terms down, it makes things one hundred times easier.

Understanding ‘why’ things happen was always something that helped temper my frustrations. Of course, it may not always be practical to dig to the roots of a situation with a beginning student. In cases like this, a mere explanation of WHAT is happening will suffice, followed by specific instructions to ‘just click that button when this happens’.

The moral of the story – it doesn’t have to be rocket science; not for beginners. Approach matters logically and thoroughly, and the rest can easily be history.