C.O.D. Library ESL/ABE/GED Faculty Newsletter

September 8, 2008

Basic Computer Skills

Filed under: General — Tags: — Jenn @ 9:54 am

As instructors, I’m sure you are already familiar with this situation, but as a librarian I’m struggling with it!

Every time I lead a Library orientation session and introduce students to the website, I have at least one student who comes to me during break and quietly, almost ashamedly, admits that he or she doesn’t know how to use a computer.  And for every student who is brave enough to admit it, there are always a handful whom I see struggle with basic tasks like using the mouse, navigating between windows or understanding the distinctions between computer-based applications (like Microsoft Office) and the internet.  Too often, there is an assumption that “everyone” knows how to use a computer– “if children not old enough to tie their own shoes can find their way around the World Wide Web, surely every adult knows where the “on” button is!”

Unfortunately, the Library doesn’t have much in our ESL/ABE/GED collection to help these students, usually adult learners, bridge the “digital divide”.  While we have some great life skills resources (like those in the Life Skills series), they tend to focus more on interpersonal interactions, finances, health, and business.  For the computer literacy resources, we have to take the students from the “PE section” of the Library, to the “QAs”.

In our Computer Literacy section, we do have a good number of basic and introductory computer skills resources.  The titles include “Computers for Klutzes : Basics, Email, & Internet : A Familiarization Course for Older Adults“, “The Absolute Beginners’ Guide to Computers and the Internet“, “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Computer Basics“, and “Teach Yourself PCs in 24 Hours“.  Some are very text heavy, some have great pictures.  Some deal with the newest software and applications, others are rather outdated.  Selecting the most helpful resource for an individual takes some time and an understanding of exactly what the student wants.

There are, of course, many wonderful online resources that introduce students to the basics of computers and how to use them, but these would likely work best in a classroom or in a tutoring situation.  Computer or internet-based tools present an obvious barrier to students who wants to teach themselves how to use a computer– if you don’t know how to use a computer, how can you use a computer-based instruction method?

Yet many of these online courses or resources are worth noting and with a short introduction, perhaps, a student with some basic computer skills could do well with them.  Here are a couple stand out online computer literacy sites:

GCFLearnFree.org This was August’s Resource of the Month and I keep returning to it and reminding myself of what a fantastic website it is!  Their self-paced Computer Basics course covers everything from “What is a computer?” to troubleshooting computer problems.  A feature that I appreciate is the inclusion of a “Using a Laptop Computer” section, with a full introduction to the parts, ports, slots and buttons of laptops.  Each tutorial includes short video clips and tips for viewing the videos.  Navigating through the tutorials is easy, and the mini-course concludes with a “test”.

St. Paul Community Literacy Consortium SPCLC’s Basic Computer Skills Curriculum was designed by ABE computer teachers and includes handouts, teacher guides, posters, useful vocabulary, and class activities.  The materials are organized by topic (internet, PowerPoint, Word, opening and saving files) and most of the items are downloadable and printable PDFs.  The entire curriculum is available as a Zip file, which you can download to your computer.  The Minnesota Literacy Council has generously made these teaching materials available to the public and invites teachers to customize them to suit their individual needs.

I will be collecting these resources, and more as I find them, to a Basic Computer Skills page in my ESL and ABE/GED Research Guides.  I hope you will continue to share any programs, books or websites that you’ve had success using with your students– together we can collect the best resources for our students!

–Jenn.

For discussion:

If you have some time, please comment on what you do to help students who are on the wrong side of the “digital divide”.

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