The purpose of the beginners class is to insure all students have at least the basic knowledge needed to follow instruction in the novice classes. These are followed up by three core modules on files, text formatting, and working with multiple windows so that by the time the student enters the spreadsheet class she or he can start the computer without help, login, load the office program to be used in class, and position the window as instructed on the screen without needing special help.
The topics covered in the beginner class are mostly the parts of the computer (screen, computer, keyboard, and mouse), the fact that pushing the power button on the screen does not change the power state of the computer, finding the power button on the computer, some very simple window manipulation, and properly shutting down the computer. I use an outline to stay on target with the presentation.
Everyone has their own way of doing things, but this is how I run a beginner class. First, I greet people as they come in before class, and point out the way to the restrooms and the free coffee. I introduce myself, ask them to sign in on the attendance sheet, and to select one of the computers for their seat, but (I say) “please leave it turned off until I instruct” them to turn it on because we will be disassembling part of the computers and we need them to stay off while we do that. I repeat this later to the entire group together. Most of them are scared to touch anything anyway, when they start. That will change.
You can usually tell which ones have some computer competence right away: if you think someone has prior computer experience enough that they can pass the beginners test then ask them about their background. If they seem capable of starting the computer, opening, moving, resizing, and closing a window then give them a copy of the test to review and ask if they would like to take the test now.
When the class starts promptly at 9:00 I begin my presentation, following the outline. If this is an individual coaching session rather than a group session, I first complete the Individual Study Plan (ISP) which you can download here. If a formal assessment is needed, I use the one we have here. Editable copies of these are also available for free download from our Resources page.
1. Introduce yourself (again) to them as a group. You might ask them to introduce themselves and tell a little about their background and what they hope to gain from this class.
2. Ask them not to turn on the computer until so instructed (again). I explain that this will be about half way through the class and that the reason is that we will be dis-assembling part of the computers and we need them to stay off while we do that.
3. Explain the need for the attendance sheet, and that we use it for statistics and to substantiate attendance for those who are here on referrals. The attendance sheet we use can be downloaded here. I also use a Progress Card to mark their progress — it gives them something to show potential employers to demonstrate they are regularly advancing their training. You can download it here as a editable Microsoft .pub file or here as a .pdf file.
Explain that the phone numbers are used only for computer class purposes, not to solicit them for anything. I cover other basic logistical information here, snow delays and closings, meeting times for classes, and so forth.
4. Explain a little about your background, education and work experience, and any difficulty you have had finding a job; the point being that they are not the only ones having difficulty. If your organization is not in the Adult Life Training organization then you may need to personalize some of the following.
5. Explain a little about how Adult Life Training got started, the point being that we are a legally separate organization from the church, school, daycare and government. We are not (so far) funded by government, this church, or anyone else. This is an all volunteer organization. This helps people realize this is not an entitlement program that is their “right” but is our gift to help them. This solved a few problems.
6. If you have someone who can pray effectively, this is the time to do so. This is not a time to force someone to adopt a religion, and prayer should never be used by rote without God’s Power driving it. It will build rapport and a sense of community and in my experience most requests made one class have been granted by the next class.
7. On the parts of the computer make a big deal about the monitor NOT being a computer. People demonstrate their ineptitude by trying to turn on the computer through pushing the power button on the monitor. Next point out where the actual computer is, identify the CD or DVD drive, the obsolete floppy drive if one is present, the power button and lights. Note that if someone was using an artistic telephone in a friend’s home they would examine it until they discovered where to talk, where to listen, and where to dial the number. Computers must have a power button somewhere, and usually have a CD drive, keyboard, and some kind of mouse. The point is for them to understand what the basic parts are AND loose their fear of exploring for them.
Next point out the lights, usually green for power on and red for hard disk activity, on every computer. Note that if the computer sits unused for long enough, it will turn off the monitor to save power. Wiggling the mouse or touching a keyboard key turns the monitor back on. The point is that they will learn to look at the lights before they start pushing buttons! Trying to turn the computer on by pressing the power button while the computer is already on with the monitor in power save mode will not reflect well on them in the work environment.
On the keyboard, point out the typewriter keys (A-Z) and explain the way the shift, control, and alt keys work. They need to understand how shift works in particular, since it is necessary for entering punctuation and special characters. Next explain the backspace and delete keys, the use of the Escape key and function keys, and finally the arrow keys and number keypad.
The mouse is the next part and most important. Show them how to hold the mouse with their first two fingers straight over the two buttons. Their thumb and remaining fingers should drag on the mouse pad and press easily against the sides of the mouse. In particular they should NOT be using one finger to push both the left and right mouse buttons because they will be pushing the wrong buttons by having their finger in the wrong place. Point out that moving the mouse forward moves the arrow up on the screen, and so forth.
Next have them turn the mouse upside down in their hand and rotate the cover in the direction of the arrows to open it. Have them continue to hold the mouse upside down, and place their other hand over it, then turn the mouse over so that the ball comes out in their other hand instead of rolling across the floor because they drop it.
Explain what is inside the mouse and what it does. Explain that the rollers are the only thing that tells the computer what the mouse is doing. Ask them “if the mouse moves forward, which roller turns?” “If the mouse moves side to side which roller turns?” When they understand, ask them what happens if a person holds the mouse wrong (sideways) and moves it. Obviously the arrow cursor on the screen behaves differently than expected.
Have them clean the rollers by scraping any crud off with their fingernail and shaking it out (into the trash, of course). The mouse ball can be cleaned with soap and water. Have them reassemble their mice, and then they can start the computer while you explain what employers are considering when they decide which type of computer to use in their company.
8. An operating system could be thought of as the “subconscious mind” of the computer. Its job is to recognize when a key has been pressed, something needs to be shown on the screen, or a program should be started. Without the operating system the computer is just parts that cannot do much.
Most people only know of one kind of computer operating system: Microsoft. This is because most of Microsoft’s competition has been eliminated in the last two decades. The telephone system (and most of the important computers that form the Internet) use the Unix operating system and many smaller Internet groups use Linux, a system created from the Unix concepts so that it would fit on a small (personal) computer. The dates and instigators are as follows.
In the 1960′s the telephone companies realized that they needed to use computers if they were to meet their customer’s needs in decades to come. They could use some of the new computers, but needed an operating system to control the hardware. This system is still in use to day and is know as Unix. Most of the Internet runs under either Unix or Linux. So Unix has about 51 years of experience at the time of this writing. Running time is important because it gives us an idea how long the product has had to shake out all the bugs.
On August 12, 1981 IBM corporation released the IBM PC. For the computer to work they needed a operating system, and wanted Digital Research corporation (that was already writing operating systems for small computers) to write one, but Digital Research was not interested. A man named Bill Gates got the task and purchased a program called called “QDOS” (quick and Dirty OS) to resell. So PC-DOS, the pre-cursor to Microsoft Windows, would have about 30 years experience at this time. For the most part, DOS has not been used in the last decade.
In 1990 Linus Tourvaldes was a student in Helsinki, Finland. He liked the Minix (similar to Unix) operating system that he was learning at University, and wanted to play with it on his own personal computer. The problem was that Unix was too big to fit in a PC, so Linus re-wrote Unix function by function to create what is today known as Linux. Linux has 20 years running experience at this time, but it was crafted using the established experience in Unix, so one might also consider it to have the equivalent of some 50 years of running time experience.
In 1995 Microsoft released its Windows 95 product, which is the precursor to the Microsoft Windows products that we have today. The Windows XP products would have appeared around 2002, so they have about 9 years of experience as of the date of this publication. Since Microsoft has benefited from the experience of its previous products, we can probably view the Windows product line as having around 30 years of experience (back to 1981).
10. The Desktop
11. Background colors and pictures
12. Screen savers
13. The Window
16. Maximizing and un-maximizing
17. Hiding and Showing (Minimizing and un-minimizing)
18. The Centipede Game
20. The Certification Test