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As everybody who is reading this now is likely to be a geek, living in a bubble where all their friends and family use computers on a daily basis, it’s easy to imagine there is no such thing as a noob these days. This is far from the truth. In fact, at the end of last year it was estimated that only around one-third of the world’s population had access to the Internet. This means that around 4 billion people aren’t online, and most of those will also not have the first clue about computers.

Inspired by Yaara’s article detailing six basic tech skills 6 Basic Tech Skills Anyone Should Have (Even If You're Not a Geek) 6 Basic Tech Skills Anyone Should Have (Even If You're Not a Geek) If you consider yourself a geek, and have good control over your computer and other devices, this post might not be for you. If, however, you’re still finding your way in the computer world, or... Read More everybody should possess, we wondered what the starting point of the conversion from noob to geek should be. Imagine sitting someone down in front of a computer for the first time… where would you begin? This formed last week’s We Ask You column, and the responses we received were both varied and enlightening.

What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First?

We asked you, What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First? The response was fantastic, with dozens of people suggesting the first thing(s) they would teach to a computer noob. The variation in answers shows just how complex computers are, and how being presented with one for the first time must be absolutely overwhelming. Especially to those of a certain age for whom learning new skills does not come naturally.

There is no right or wrong answer to this question, and the responses were so varied they may be worth a full article in the future. However, just a few insights for those who don’t want to read through the whole thread include: Keep it simple, keep naming the hardware and software until it sticks, get them familiar with the OS that is installed, keyboard and mouse operation requires practice, teach the basics of staying safe online. Oh, and that tray is for discs rather than cups.

The suggestion to experiment with a computer in order to build confidence is an important one. It’s extremely unlikely random clicking around will do any real harm. As long as the operating system can be reinstalled, or the hard drive replaced, then letting people learn the intricacies by themselves isn’t a bad idea.


Comment Of The Week

The comments section was awash with great insights this week, making it difficult to choose just one winner. Several names deserve a mention… Rob Hindle for his fantastic (and lengthy) comment detailing a more hands-on approach to teaching a computer noob. Nicut Alexandru and Vipul Jain for intelligent lists of different steps to take. The several people who recommended Solitaire as a tool for learning how to use a mouse.

Comment of the week goes to Sumaiya, who won with this comment:

I taught my mother the basics of computers..this is how i did it:
1. taught her the names of basic hardware like mouse, keyboard etc
2. how to start up and shut down windows
3. windows desktop/taskbar/menubar/icons and things like that
4. typing on notepad for familiarity with keyboard
5. game solitaire for using mouse
6. basic controls of microsoft office word
7. using the web browser (google chrome)
8. websites google, youtube, and facebook
im still teaching far shes going great (and she absolutely LOVES youtube)

This comment wins because it offers a very common sense approach to teaching. Starting with the names of the hardware, then moving on to booting up Windows, and then getting used to using the keyboard and mouse combination. Then, and only then, do you take the computer noob online, where they can explore somewhat to their leisure.

We will be asking a new question tomorrow, so please join us then. We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. We ask you a question and you tell us what you think. The question is open-ended and is usually open to debate. Some questions will be purely opinion-based, while others will see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps for your fellow MakeUseOf readers. This column is nothing without your input, all of which is valued.

Image Credit: Michelle Hofstrand

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  1. Bernardo Delapasion
    September 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    dont use your computer as a gaming console

    • HLJonnalagadda
      September 23, 2012 at 9:44 am

      Nice article.

  2. josemon maliakal
    September 19, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I think first thing to learn is handle the 'mouse' then comes the others

  3. Angel Vinod
    September 19, 2012 at 10:33 am

    helpful, i can teach my mom now :p

    • Dave Parrack
      September 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      You mean you haven't done so already?!

  4. GrrGrrr
    September 19, 2012 at 8:49 am

    Agree, Rob covered all the basics.

    One important thing I do additionally to above is to install/configure Team viewer, as I stay/work away from home. So it becomes easy for me to help my parents in case of any trouble, updates, etc.

  5. Mohammad Hamzani Salleh
    September 19, 2012 at 5:03 am

    i always thought pc noob 1st hand about the pc.. 1st how to assemble or connect all the wired and peripheral. now day it all easy since all is colour by used. then how to switch it on. and only then i will follow ur guideline above. then i will mention to them ALWAYS TURN OFF THE PC WITH BUILD IN SERVICE NOT THE POWER BUTTON OR JUST SWITCH OFF THE PLUG. if they can follow this step nicely, n then my pc is up for them to use anytime.

    • Dave Parrack
      September 19, 2012 at 11:22 pm

      We're assuming the computer is operational and switched on before we start advising noobs :)

      • Mohammad Hamzani Salleh
        September 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

        hahaha... yeah... but that the 1st thing i teach newbie in pc about pc and how to operate it... sometime event basic knowledge they dont know like switch off the pc... normaly they only shut the power down without turn off the pc.. i really hated that kind of doing...

        • Dave Parrack
          September 20, 2012 at 8:34 pm

          I remember the first time I used a computer and I just pulled the plug out. Oops.

        • Mohammad Hamzani Salleh
          September 22, 2012 at 6:52 am

          hahaha... that why i said i always teach newbie from the scrath.. i not said above artikel is not right... but that for beginer user... for newbie user or pc for dummies tips. always start from scrath. from how to assemble the wired and periphiral to start the computer. only then we start from above listed.. and then follow by some medium level lesson that is

          1. how to print thing out
          2. how to unjammed the paper if stuck
          3. how to unspool the printer if it got error on printing
          4. how t configure the printer if such case happen like printing in 1 catridge mode. change the catridge and such about printer.
          5. then we cover a bit about scanner. from how to and what not to do.
          6. troubleshoot error or always click exit button or cancel when red popup or warning popup windows appear to avoid damage to system when u not sure.
          7.then we start cover up above how antivirus work and to scan thing up expecially if they used outer media like usb and cd.
          8. we will cover a bit about pc system in basic like disk defrage, disk check up and clean the system.
          9. we will cover up safety tips like not used the pc in stormy days except u used power regulator.

          n onlythen we can always let them do what they want all days in front pc expecially is that is ur pc n not them.