What would you teach?

By Deane Barker on December 29, 2005

30 must-have PC skills – Part 1: This is good list of skills you should have with a computer.

  1. Move and copy files
  2. Navigate using keyboard shortcuts
  3. Use shortcuts in Word
  4. Install and remove new hardware

Our church is undergoing a big expansion, and they’re adding a computer lab. I’d love to teach Beginning Computing classes to complete beginners, but I’ve often wondered how I would teach it and what skills I would teach. This is a good start, though I think #4 is jumping in a little quick.



  1. Along with the first item — a basic understanding of what a file system is, how it relates to the OS, and what software applications are. It bugs the living sh** out of me when I ask a user where they saved a file and they say “Oh, its in Word”. Grrr!

  2. A community center near me has a sign indicating they have “fax, telephones and Microsoft” – What? The whole company?

  3. I have done it before…. a good thing is to open an old computer and give a little explanation of how it works. If you can get hold of some old parts and pass them around… That helps to break the feeling of working with a black box.

    A little explanation on how it boots, nothing too techie…

    Breaking and old floppy disk and explaining that a hard drive is just a “hard” oversized floppy… easy concepts and loads of examples.

    Good luck with it !! Is very rewarding to see the improvement and enthusiasm on the people after a week.

  4. I’d echo what dz said above, and stress the commonalities of the different OS’s; in many cases they just take slightly different approaches to the same tasks, but I’ve found that that concept is totally foreign to many people (especially those who’ve worked nothing but Wintel boxes.)

    argatxa’s idea of hands-on playtime with computer parts is great. Too many people think that the computer is just waiting for them to do something wrong and it’ll just up & die. Letting them see the internals and get an idea of how the parts work and interact would go a long way towards increasing their comfort level on whatever machine they use.

    Also, since most will be Windows users, a good rundown on real-world problems like spyware, adware, viruses and worms is essential. Lessons on how they work, how to best protect yourself, and how to fix it once you’ve picked one up. And be sure to stress that Macs are immune to all of that! ;o)

  5. For complete beginners, I would even start more basic than #1. I taught a class several years ago to complete beginners and the things I took for granted (like clicking, double-clicking, dragging, etc.) had to be communicated. Of course, once they understand that double-clicking opens stuff, you need to un-train them to not double-click browser links for navigation.

    Before getting to copying and moving files, I would focus on dealing with the common applications and their default behaviors for saving and opening files. In reality, nowadays for the average user, there is no real need to deal with anything outside of My Documents nor to move stuff around much if at all. Most users are content to accept the default location when saving and know that the document will be there when they try to retrieve it.

    And of course, one of the first applications I would cover is the browser. And you can’t even assume that they know about the address bar. My parents were two years into their internet experience before I found out that they were opening up pages by typing the url into the Yahoo Search box. Their comment, “I was wondering why we got so many pornography links when trying to go to your site” (this was back before safe-searching).

  6. It’s vital that they understand (at least for Windows machines) what Windows Update is, and why it’s important – equally coverage should be given to “concepts of security” like Phishing, how to tell if a website is legitimate and of course, how not to open anything attached to an email, no matter who it is apparently from.

  7. A basic concept that a lot of techies take for granted: data management. How to name files effectively, where to store them, the importance of and how to do backups, searching for files, move, deleteing, undeleting files, etc.

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