Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Teaching Basic Computer Skills in Simple English

Alternate title:  Computers: Can't Live With Them, Can't Throw Them Out the Window.

As hard as some people may find it to use a computer, getting the basic tasks of life accomplished without one is getting harder. Learners on the wrong side of the digital divide these days will find themselves struggling harder to find work, get an education, communicate with their doctors and pay their bills. In 2014, for example, students taking the GED exams will find themselves sitting at a computer keyboard from start to finish. 

Computer literacy, bluntly put, is literacy. Literacy organizations around the country are recognizing this fact and finding creative ways to help their learners begin to get basic skills. Some organizations offer on-line computer training. Using a computer to teach people how to use a computer makes sense. We do, after all, use English to teach English here and around the world. There is no substitute for hands-on learning.  

Take a look at the website of the Saint Paul (MN) Literacy Consortium: www2.spclc.org/curricula/computer#basic. They start from the very beginning—turning the computer on. They proceed to teach elementary vocabulary in very plain English with clear pictures. To give two examples, "DESKTOP: The screen
you see first when your computer turns on. DIALOGUE BOX: A window that pops up and
asks you questions.

Each short module focuses on a specific, basic skill. First come the elements of using the computer. The basics of the most common applications, Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint, follow in a logical sequence of skills. After teaching how to open an Excel spreadsheet, they move on to entering data and maneuvering with the tab key and arrow pointers. Only then do they introduce more complex functions like sums and graphs.

If you are wondering where your learners skills stand (or for that matter, your own), you may check out the Northstar Online Digital Literacy Assessment.  This assessment and the computer skills resources I am sharing today came by way of a Wisconsin Literacy webinar. Kudos and thanks, Wisconsin Literacy! 

Literacy Network has classes in basic computer literacy this semester in Spanish Tuesday nights from 6:00 to 8:00PM.

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