This manual is intended to help a willing instructor, who is committed to take appropriate time to prepare for his or her classes, and who already has a basic grasp of how to work a computer and typical office software, to provide computer job skills training. The instructor is responsible for transferring computer job skills to the students: the student materials provide a tool to facilitate that training. This instructor manual helps you perform your instructional duties by providing notes and suggestions on the use of the student manuals and on procedures that have been successfully used in class.
Clearly, the most common office suite will be some version of Microsoft Office (95, 98, 2000, XP, or whatever). The professional media consider Sun Open Office to be the only real competition to Microsoft Office. We maintain neutrality as to which office package is “better” and promote flexibility in the students so that they develop an attitude that they can work any office suite, whatever the potential employer chooses to use. There is some small possibility that the student will encounter WordPerfect in a future employment scenario, especially if the employment involves any practice of law, but they are otherwise most likely to encounter either Microsoft Office in some form, or Sun Open Office. This is important because it not only introduces them to OpenOffice, but it gives them practical experience using two office suites, which should increase their confidence that they really can work any office package, given the opportunity to learn it.
It is important that your students communicate an attitude of accommodation rather than choosing one vendor as a favorite, thus eliminating job possibilities. Most of them cannot afford to be that particular.
Open Office is substantially more affordable (free), produced by a major corporation in California, and we can legally provide free copies to anyone, whereas doing the same thing with Microsoft Office would violate Microsoft’s intellectual property rights. For these same reasons we use Red Hat Fedora Core Linux in class and expect the students to practice at the library or at home using a Microsoft system, such as Microsoft Windows XP. In this way they gain experience with both of the two systems that they are most likely to encounter in the workplace. The manuals are written using Open Office on a computer with Microsoft Windows XP Home so that the pictures in the book look as close as possible to what they will see when they are practicing alone.
The bottom line in this curriculum is results. When President Bush issued the two Executive Orders in February 2002 that came to be known as the Faith Based Initiative, he said that the key word is results. In the context of our classes that means that these students will genuinely acquire computer job skills, not just attend a class to get a warm fuzzy feeling, or to appear that they are working to improve their employability as a pretense to collect a check.
When the students successfully complete the curriculum they must be able to work a computer well enough to do simple office tasks. That is why there is a certification test in most modules.
The material may be used successfully with any age: we have used it successfully (with puppets!) for young students from Kindergarten to High School Seniors, young adults in the twenty something age range, and older adults sixty to ninety-something years old. The student manuals are free and publicly available, so long as our copyright and all content remains in tact. They may be downloaded from our web page at http://www.alt-fw.org.
To maintain focus and help insure that solid results are delivered, there is a formal curriculum and a certification test for most modules. If this order is followed, then you should avoid most of the problems we initially had to learn to deal with. There is some flexibility after the core modules are completed, although we strongly advocate the order given. Also, this material is usable with any graphical user interface, as the skills taught are limited to those which are common to all current vendors. By way of example but not of limitation, it can be used with Apple, Linux, Microsoft, and Unix operating systems. We think that this probably covers the bases with what most persons are likely to encounter in the work environment.