Teaching Computer use to Absolute Beginners

Are you thinking of teaching computer use to beginners? Be considerate of your students and do not prejudge. Taking a beginning course is an admission of shortcomings that may be a cause embarrassment. Put as much thought into your introduction as you would on the instruction. Address their good judgment in learning the computer in an orderly fashion and share your own experiences. Do not make-up things to make them feel better. Concentrate on avoiding condescending speech. Be patient when students make mistakes. Talking-down to school-age students is common and you will have a natural tendency to emulate such mannerisms without realizing their effect.

Expect your students to feel overwhelmed by computers and organize instruction into small, logical sections. Address their fears of breaking the computer and summarize frequently to ensure that the students are able to achieve the goals of that lesson.

Limit training at this level to making a letter on MS Word, connecting to distinct addresses on the internet, and sending an Email. This will make them proficient in everyday tasks.

In MS Word, teach them how to set-up the page, how to choose the font size and the viewing size. Make sure that the students know how to navigate on the page, emphasizing the wrap function versus the enter key; and the space bar or tab versus the arrow keys.

It is not necessary for beginning students to learn the function keys or short cuts. Limit instruction to the File and Edit functions. Teach only the icons that are necessary (such as the undo key) and explain that the other icons are redundant and they can use them as they become more comfortable.

Describe elements of the computer only at the applicable section. For example, do not teach the function of “alt, control, delete” when over viewing the keyboard. Explain this when discussing the internet. Demonstrate how the keyboard, the printer and the screen connects to the processor and that you cannot plug it into the wrong place. This information facilitates the students in trouble-shooting connectivity problems. Training simple trouble-shooting solutions when applicable will alleviate their feeling of helplessness and the impression that the computer is in control.

I personify the computer. “The computer doesn’t like it when you keep hitting enter. It will try to catch up on processing all of the enter commands and gets overloaded,” and “Read all of the error boxes and just do what the computer wants you to do, even if it is not logical,” or “The computer is just stubborn and until you say yes, or no, it will not do anything else,” or “Sometimes you have to just start all over again for things to work. I call this a “do-it-again command”,” or “Printers may want you to open it up and peer inside even though nothing is wrong. Just go along with it.”

No matter how simple explanations are, there are people who just do not understand. Have at least two assistants who can help them and then get them back up to speed to join the rest of the class.

Following these simple guidelines will vastly help the success of your students. Teaching absolute beginners is a matter of respect, simplicity and patience.