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Basic Computer Skills: A First Lesson

Lesson Goals


The goal of this lesson is to assess what you know, and what you most need to learn, in order to be able comfortably manage the basics of using a computer. By the end of this lesson you should have a specific plan using specific resources for mastering the basics for using a computer. Online lessons are available for self-directed learning and mentors are available both online and locally offline if you’d like personal assistance.

The Special Mindset for Success: Patience and Perseverance


Learning to experiment and ‘play’ is important, and is one reason youth are so far ahead of adults in their comfort level with computers. Adults need to learn to play and not to fear they will break the computer, or shame themselves forever, if they make a mistake. Mistakes are positive learning experiences, make lots of them!

Computers take patience and perseverance, and can often be extremely frustrating, particularly when one is just getting started and friendly help is not immediately available.

It is more important to maintain an accurate overview of the capabilities of computers and Internet than to feel one has to know “how to do” everything. Once you determine what capabilities you wish to acquire as skills, learning the “how-to” is generally a straight-forward step-by-step process, which is always made more enjoyable when you can learn with, or from, someone else.

We're All Immigrants to a New Age - Margaret Mead

A Computer Literacy Primer 

The hardest part of learning to use computers and Internet is getting started! Many people feel threatened by all there is to learn, until
they gain self-confidence from learning a few initial skills. Once you better understand the broad range of possibilities, you’ll find
 that what you really need to learn is far less than you probably thought at first. 

When using computers, nearly everything you’ll do involves files in some way. Files of different types are created by different types of software programs and contain different types of information: text, images, web pages, etc. You’ll basically be creating, editing, moving, sending, or receiving files of one kind or another. Most software programs have similar menus, so once you learn to use files related to a specific program, such as a word-processor, you’ll have already mastered the basics of most programs regardless of the different types of files they’ll use. 


Nearly everything with computers becomes much more fun once you get past the jittery basics. Patience and perseverance will see you through! Take lots of breaks, use the HELP buttons contained in most software programs as they offer step-by-step instructions for most everything you can think of. Talk to those who have been using computers for a while to benefit from their experience and advice.


Learn with others whenever possible and don’t be hard on yourself when you get stuck. Problems are most always little things which are best resolved by asking questions and/or noodling around when you’re fresh.


Assessing Your Basic Computer Skills

This lesson is intended to help you assess what you already know and what you most need to learn regarding basic computer skills. To start, you really only need to learn those skills you’re ready to use. Gaining an overview of what’s possible will help you understand where you are  on your learning journey to mastering the personal power of computers. Ideally, this lesson is to be the starting point for discussions with a mentor in order to create an individualized learning plan with specific goals and a timeline. Read the text for this lesson, fill out the survey, and share the survey with your instructor along with your thoughts on what you’d like to learn first.

Learning by doing. It is important to experiment and play when learning computers. Computers run software applications programs which create specific types of files so you need to really understand how to work with files.

The biggest mistake most people make is thinking they need to learn it all right away. The truth is actually the reverse. The most important thing to know is what all you don’t have to learn – possibly ever! What you need to gain is an overview of the main computer applications from which you can select what you really do need to know and/or want to learn. For example, you really do need to learn to type and use a word processor. You really need to understand the basics of Windows and managing files before continuing with the essential Internet skills lessons below.

Essential Internet skills lessons are online at

They include:

1. Searching and Browsing

2. Creating Web Pages

3. Email and Listserv Basics

4. Mentoring: Making a Difference in Your Community


Preliminary Computer Readiness Basics Survey
Rate 1-low to 5-high

___How comfortable are you with computers?

___How well can you type?

___Do you own a computer? (Y or N)

            ___(Y or N)  If not, do you have convenient local access to a computer and

___If you own a computer, do you have a home Internet account?
_______________Give name of provider, the access speed and the cost.

___Are you self-confident enough to engage online lessons comfortably?

___What are your biggest needs in order to learn essential computer and Internet

___Do you have someone locally you can ask for help whenever necessary?

___(Y or N) Would you link an online Mentor?

___Would like like a local mentor for face-to-face training sessions?


Windows Basic Skills Checklists

Please rate the following from Low to High, 1-5

___ I am comfortable with the basics of the Windows operating system

___ I know how to start up a software application and to close it.

___ I understand how to minimize and maximize applications windows.

___ I know how to minimize multiple open applications on the task bar at the     
       bottom of the screen and reopen them at any time.

___ I understand how to resize application windows and move them anywhere on
       the screen.

___ I have reviewed the Windows tutorials on using the Windows operating system
       found in  Start/Help  under “Windows Basics” or under a similar heading.

___ I can use the Windows HELP button effectively to find specific help tips.

___ I know how to enter  “Windows Basics” in the HELP search box and/or
       anything else I need help on.

___ I have someone I can ask for help when I have questions.


Windows Basics Self-Test
Perform the following tasks for your mentor or report online to your mentor your successes and questions.

1.      Open three different software programs, resize and position the windows so you can see all three applications on the screen at once.

2.      Minimize all three programs and create a new folder on the desktop.

3.      Create a wordprocessing file and save it on the desktop

4.      Move this new file into the new folder using drag and drop.

5.      Open the folder and confirm you successfully moved the file.

6.      Using the Windows Help menus locate instructions for cut and paste and drag and drop. Point to what tutorials come with windows for learning file management. (copy delete move rename, view properties)


File Management Basics Checklist

Context: Nearly everything you’ll do with computers revolves around creating content in the form of different types of files using different software programs. You’ll need to be comfortable with creating, saving, opening, and editing files. Then you’ll need to understand storing, organizing, renaming, moving, copying, deleting and backing up your important files. Plan on learning by doing. Mistakes are considered positive learning experiences and are an essential part of using and learning computers. Trouble shooting gets easier with practice.

Begin by drafting a personal list the skills you have and the skills you want to learn.
Then complete the following checklists and self-tests.

___ I understand all software programs create files which can be saved, deleted,
       copied, moved, and renamed.

___ I understand that the three letter file extension (.doc etc.) determines the file
       type and limits the type of software that can open and use that file type.

___ I understand “Windows Explorer” is the file management program that is
       important to learn for handling files and that tutorials are available at
       Start/Help and enter “file management” in the HELP search box.

___ I know where to find “Windows Explorer” in the programs listing.
       (Start/All Programs)

___ I understand how to create new folders, create a folder within a folder, and
       move files from one folder to another.

___ I understand how to use the View Menu options to see the contents of any folder
        presented in many different ways.

___ I understand how to quickly find specific instructions by using the HELP search
       box by entering phrases like “copy a file” to learn to copy a file.

___ I understand how to move files using “drag and drop.”

___ I understand how to right click and select properties to determine file type and
       file size.


File Management Self Test
Perform the following tasks for your mentor or report online to your mentor your successes and questions.

1.      Create a new folder on the desktop named “Test Folder #1” and save a simple word processing document to this folder.

2.      Create a new folder on the desktop named “Test Folder #1” and save a simple word processing document to this folder.

3.      Create a folder named “Test Folder #2” within this folder and move the word processing file into this new folder.

4.      Put a copy of this file into the first folder you created.

5.      Rename this file.

6.      Create another new folder on the desktop named “Test Folder #3” and move Test Folder #2 into this folder.

7.      Delete all these folders and files.

Copy and Paste Basic Skills

___ I know how to highlight a block of text and/or image and three ways to copy and
       paste them to any open document

Three ways to COPY

___ 1. Right clicking and selecting “copy”
___ 2. Using hot-keys (control-C)
___ 3. Selecting from the EDIT menu “copy”

___ I know how to paste a block of text and/or image to any open
       editable document by placing the cursor and using

Three ways to PASTE

___ 1. right clicking and selecting paste
___ 2. using hot-keys (control-V)
___ 3. Selecting from the EDIT menu “paste.”

___ I understand how to “copy and paste” text and images from one application
       program to another.

___ I have someone I can ask for help when I have questions.

___ I know how to use the three organizing features of all HELP menus, Index,
       Content, and Searching to findspecific instructions on
       copy and paste and the many other specific topics listed.


Copy and Paste Self Test
Perform the following tasks for your mentor or report online to your mentor your successes and questions.

1.      Highlight an image using any Internet browser, copy it, and paste it into any word processing document. Repeat using a block of text.

2.      Create a hot list of web sites using copy and paste moving the web addresses from the white bar of any Internet browser to any word processing document. Be sure to save this file “As a Web Page.”

3.      Open this file in your browser and check that all the links function properly.