We can learn from each other, and with each other,
can learn in so many different
ways in this new information era. (Richard W. Riley,
U.S. Secretary of Education)
TO THE GUIDE
ESSENTIAL COMPUTER SKILLS
You may have managed to avoid computers until now. But you realize that learning
how to use a computer and the Internet will help you with your busy life
or job, your work in the community, your children's education, or personal development. The question
is: Where do you start?
Your life with computers will be much easier if you get a solid foundation
in the basics first. The basics include being able to:
Describe computer hardware, software and functions: The ability
to talk about computers, even on a basic level, is necessary whether you
are buying one or asking for help solving computer-related problems.
Perform basic computer operations: These include using the keyboard
and mouse, turning the computer on and off; opening software applications;
opening, minimizing and closing windows; and managing files and folders.
Once you are able to discuss computers and perform basic operations, you
are ready to learn how to:
Create and edit documents: For most, knowing how to use a word processor,
such as MS Word, is sufficient.
Use your computer to communicate with others: The communication
tools of e-mail, discussion forums, chat rooms and instant messaging allow you to talk to
family and friends, network, and exchange information. You need Internet
access to use all of these applications.
Conduct Internet searches: A complementary skill is the ability
to effectively search the Internet using a browser, such as Internet Explorer
or Netscape Navigator.
USING THE GUIDE
This is an introductory computer and Internet literacy course designed for those with little or no prior computer background. It will cover the essential skills areas; operation and use of computers and software; the capabilities and limitations of computers; and their impact on your personal life and society. This course has no prerequisites, although it assumes you have some fundamental keyboarding skills (even if you are only a "hunt and peck" typist). Opportunities to develop and practice basic skills at your own pace, test your computer knowledge in particular areas, and pursue more advanced learning, such web page design, are also offered. Finally, even if you are proficient in using computers and the Internet, more advanced resources are provided for those who might be interested in pursuing continuing education or professional development.
This guide has been designed to be used either for study in a computer lab setting or as a self-paced course at home or both. The course content was developed to be used in brief introductory sessions, and as an ongoing resource to return to again and again. It can be utilized online or as a hard-copy manual that would be made available to instructors and classes, as requested.
guide and course can be utilized by a computer-literate facilitator in
a group setting. If the program is used in a class or seminar, the facilitator
sets the pace over a one-two day period. Group facilitation can be brief
or in depth, depending on the group's abilities, the facilitator's experience,
and the total time spent. To use this guide effectively in a group, one
computer monitor for every 1-2 participants is recommended.
course is also designed for individual self-directed learning. Proceed
at the rate that is comfortable for you. Refer to the information and
resources that are provided throughout the on-line (be sure to bookmark interesting pages!) and hard-copy versions to facilitate your understanding
and supplement your knowledge as you become more proficient. Additional
information is provided for those who consider themselves to be at intermediate
(you can install software, for example) or advanced (that is, you can create a web page) levels
of computer literacy.
The guide contains five sections, covering a broad range of computer and Internet information. Section 1 is about computer hardware and covers the components of a personal computer, including the central processing unit, motherboard, various data storage devices, keyboard, mouse, monitor and more; adding devices to your computer; and tips on purchasing a home computer. Section 2 deals with applications and software, including an introduction to word processing and other commonly used applications; options for obtaining software; tips on downloading software; and security. Section 3 covers some of the knowledge and skills needed for understanding and exploring the Internet, including Internet access; making the most of your Internet experience related to communication, finding information, shopping and consumer resources, entertainment, education, and personal creativity; netiquette; and Internet security and safety. Section 4 lists a wealth of additional resources for a more in-depth study of all things computer, such as hardware and software, the Internet, and online computer education and training, including free tutorials and computing courses (some available in Spanish). Finally, Section 5 compiles the computer and Internet terms in one place for easy reference.
Understanding the Symbols
As you go through the guide, you will see small graphics used repeatedly. These symbols refer to Internet links, which will provide a deeper understanding of the topics you will be learning about. Recognizing that everyone who might be using this guide will be at different levels of computer literacy and will have different interests, these symbols will help you to identify how much or how little you want to learn.
Indicates a basic
how-to resource, with more general information and
visuals (Good places to begin even if they are the ONLY sites you link
This resource link provides more detailed or specific information about
current topic--a next step beyond the basics if you feel confident in
your understanding of that topic area.
Indicates a resource that examines how things work or function, a closer look at the details that may or may not be of interest you.
Want to know just how much you've learned? These links provide
practice and online testing of your computer skills.
Come back over and over again to check your progress.
In just about every country, a certain percentage of people has the best information technology that society has to offer. But there is another group of people who, for one reason or another, don't have access to the newest or best computers (or any computer), the most reliable telephone service, or the fastest or most convenient Internet services. The difference between these two groups of people is what some have called the "digital divide."
To be on the less fortunate side of the divide means that there are fewer opportunities to take part in our new information-based economy, in which many more jobs will be related to computers. It also means that there is less opportunity to take part in the education, training, shopping, entertainment, and communications opportunities that are available online.
Bridging this divide means providing people with the computer technology, information and skills needed to help them reach their potential, whether they're interested in getting a better education, seeking a better career, or building a better neighborhood. It's about using technology in creative, yet effective, ways to improve the quality of life for everyone: our families, our communities and ourselves.
A report in October 2000, published by the Commerce Department, concluded that more than half of all American households have computers, and that more than half of all Americans would be using the Internet by the middle of 2001. As of January 2000, the Internet had an estimated 240-260 million users worldwide, with almost 500 million projected users by the end of 2002. In the United States alone, it is estimated that there will be a projected 165 million online users by 2002.
Despite these statistics, a digital divide remains, or has expanded slightly in some cases, even while Internet access and computer ownership are rising rapidly for almost all groups. Now that a larger number of Americans regularly use the Internet to conduct daily activities, people who lack access to those tools are at a growing disadvantage. Therefore, raising the level of digital access and Internet literacy by increasing the number of Americans effectively using the technology tools of the digital age is a vitally important national goal.
When it comes to the digital divide, literacy is an issue that is often overshadowed by access. But think of it this way: if every family, every community had Internet access tomorrow, would the divide be bridged? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Unless all citizens are able to learn and apply a wide set of literacy skills, mere access to technology will mean very little to them.
Because information technology evolves at a mind-boggling rate, it's becoming more important for people to have the skills to evolve with it. Whether it's using technology effectively to improve student learning in a rural high school, or implementing successful IT adult education programs in the inner city, we must continue to explore strategies for improving literacy and learning opportunities. If we cannot cultivate these skills, the digital divide will persist.
Whether access is at home, in local libraries, or community technology centers, users need to be computer literate to be able to utilize the tools that are available. This guide and course is our contribution to those who are reading this page, but still need some help on what all this technology stuff is about or would like to assist others in learning more.
to Computer Literacy was made possible through the generous support
of the Comcast
Foundation. I-LEAD and Comcast have collaborated
on the creation of this educational guide with a common purpose--to ensure
that more people have the opportunities to learn the broader range of
computer skills that are essential to success in society and the workplace
further information about facilitating the use of this guide, contact