What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First? [We Ask You]

We Ask You   What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First? [We Ask You]Yaara recently wrote an article detailing six basic tech skills everybody should possess. It’s a great read, both for those just starting out on their journey into geekdom and for those of us who merely know computer noobs. And we all know at least one at some point in our lives, don’t we? Whether it’s an elderly parent eager to Skype or a child cajoled into signing up to Facebook.

For those who already identify as geeks, using a computer, online and offline, is second nature. The experience holds few surprises, and it’s only augmented by the kind of awesome stuff we learn from MakeUseOf and sites like it. But for noobs, those sweet, innocent creatures, being faced with a computer for the first time is a daunting prospect. Just where do you begin?

This Week’s Question…

What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First?

old computer noob   What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First? [We Ask You]

I cannot actually remember my first exposure to computers, and I’m sure many of you reading this are the same. Learning how to use one was a gradual process, and I’m still learning today. But the basics are lurking in my brain so deeply I may as well have been born with them intact. This isn’t the case for younger or older people who are presented with this very complex machine for the first time.

In this week’s We Ask You column, we want you to suggest the first thing you feel a computer noob should be taught. Let’s assume the computer is switched on and running an operating system. And that everybody knows what the keyboard and mouse (or touchscreen) are. Then what?

Do you head online first? And if so what website do you direct them to straight out of the gate? Do you explain Wi-Fi or security settings? Do you warn them about clicking on blind links and the dangers of malware that lurk around every corner? Is email the most obvious lesson to begin with? Or is social networking a more important skill to pass on?

Tell us what you think. You may even have some experience in this field, having taught a friend or family member the basics of using a computer. Is it something that cannot be taught in any big way, instead needing to be learned slowly and methodically? Let us know your thoughts and feelings on the subject matter at hand.

Drawing Conclusions

All comments will be digested to form conclusions in a follow-up post next week where we will detail what You Told Us. One reader will be chosen for the coveted ‘Comment Of The Week’, getting their name up in lights, the respect of other readers, and 150 MakeUseOf points to use for Rewards or Giveaways (as long as they are registered when making said comment). What more motivation than that do you need to respond?

We Ask You is a weekly column dedicated to finding out the opinions of MakeUseOf readers. The questions asked are usually open-ended and likely to start a conversation. Some are opinion-based, while others see you sharing tips and advice, or advocating tools and apps to fellow MakeUseOf Readers. This column is nothing without you, as MakeUseOf is nothing without you.

Image Credit: Michelle Hofstrand

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If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

104 Comments -

0 votes

Gian Singh

First a person should be taught the basics of the OS they are running then to go online, and later how the computer actually works.

0 votes

Richard Borkovec

I agree. People need to know how their OS works first: hope to get to files, open them, how to find and start applications; then work on to setting up anti-malware/virus, getting a good browser, and working online.

0 votes

Mike DeGeorge

Yup. Also, it’s good to leave out unnecessary details too. Don’t overwhelm them with too much information also. Keep it simple.

0 votes

Jim Perry

I’ve taught classes for senior noobs, and using a mouse is absolutely the first hurdle.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

As someone for whom the mouse is almost an extension of their hand, the mouse is something I hadn’t even thought of.

0 votes

Kathy Penney

Touch-typing; it amazes me that this is not taught in primary schools as part of the national curriculum. It’s one of the most essential of skills, and I am so glad I learned how to do it because it’s a real time-saver, and easier on the hands than ‘hunt and peck’.

0 votes

Kwanitt

I totally agree with you. The first two months I lived in Los Angeles in 1982 gave me nothing but boredom. I found a type writer kept away in a corner; I started to learn typing with my friend’s help. That gave me a leap when I started to learn computer the first time two years later.

0 votes

Thomas

How to restart their workstation and modem before asking for help.

0 votes

Kenny

The 2012 terms are “computer” and “router”. Modems basically never need a restart and workstations are in environments with their own training and helpdesks.

0 votes

GodSponge

That’s not entirely true. The Knology modem we have requires a restart almost weekly.

Granted if Knology didn’t break it, it wouldn’t need a restart…..

0 votes

Greg

You can find help on the internet without bugging your family and friends, genius! :O
I tell my mom this and she doesn’t want to deal with it lol

0 votes

Dave Parrack

My dad will always ring me first, even though most of the time I just Google the problem myself.

0 votes

Paul Girardin

To find help on the internet, you need to know how to get there!

We are talking about noobs after all.

So we have to teach them how to search (and find) things before just telling them to google (or some such)

0 votes

Nicole

Google Search, so if they have any more questions they could just look it up their damn selves.

0 votes

Timothy Liem

second that

0 votes

carie

First thing I tell people new to the wonder that is computers, “you can’t break it, so play and experiment”.

The thing is, I have learnt everything I know about computers, through playing. This includes upgrading hardware to building websites. Try this, try that…

I have found most new people are scarred they will break something, so they rather not try anything, which becomes a barrier to learning.

0 votes

Kat

100% agree with that, definitely the biggest barrier to anyone trying to use a computer is being afraid to click buttons and play around.

0 votes

Asif Mistry

Definitely you are right playing around is the best option to learn new stuff but did you really did play with hardware directly without knowing about it.
I first saw other people do it and then tried the same for upgrading hardware

0 votes

Prashant Mohta

For me I learnt by literally reinstalling os every month I was such a tinkerer and I always ended: up reading the help files of applications like Visual basic cuz i did not have internet then now my system gets lot less refreshes thanks to the www. Seriously though , teach them to use a mouse and keyboard and let them go ahead and figure all out , though first timers would need a little hints like rightclick will give you more optionsand stuff thenofcourse comes the most obvious , if you dont get it google it
;-)

0 votes

Dave Parrack

As long as you have your Windows backup discs to hand, click to your heart’s content.

0 votes

llama perry

there’s always ctrl-z

0 votes

Paul Girardin

Not when your HD is wiped by mistake

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Unfortunately there are things even ctrl-z will fix.

0 votes

Paul Girardin

A slight addendum: you CAN break it in some cases!

Play and experiment, yes but be careful not to go too deep (or fast) and actually destroy what is on your HD.

A noob with ccleaner is like a toddler with an Atom bomb! :D

0 votes

Patrick Jackson

The answer should be very simple – Just first teach them how to boot and shut down the computer! I think many n00bs that I know are very much stuck in even doing the above, while they refer themselves ‘genius’ in other stuff! ;)

Sorry those people! No offences taken or given! :)

0 votes

Timothy Liem

so true! even some of my n00b friends don’t know this. even worse, they can’t just launch a browser. man, in this internet era, where have they been?

0 votes

Patrick Jackson

Yeah, agreed, but many of them can surprisingly do it their iPhone and they are just too proud about it, if you know what I mean! :)

But, What…?!

0 votes

i0ni

The difference between your and you’re.

0 votes

druv vb

The first thing I would explain to ” new users ” is to power ON the computer.
Try to use the mouse, click on Start, open a program, close it and shutdown the computer.
From there, they can experiment whatever they want to…

0 votes

druv vb

The first thing I would explain to ” new users ” is to power ON the computer. Try to use the mouse, click on Start, open a program, close it and shutdown the computer.
From there, they can experiment whatever they want to…

0 votes

st

First thing people should learn is assembly language, then how to program their own OS. They won’t have problems with computers from that point on.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I think that’s what’s known as asking someone to run before they can walk ;)

0 votes

Vipul Jain

1. Do not mess around with the OS Drive (usually C)
2. Do not use IE
3. Do not install every toolbar that pops up
4. Basic browsing knowledge (Google, Wiki)
5. Setup an E-Mail A/C
6. Do not share the password, lol
7. Basic use of noteapd, paint, fun games like solitaire
8. Basic use of MS Office.

This should be enough! If someone gets through all this easily, he is no more a noob!

0 votes

Timothy Liem

how to use Linux. it’s the basic. Windows and Macs are too expensive for those who don’t have much bucks. for those who just use their computer to browsing on facebook and to write something on an office suit.

0 votes

Paul Girardin

That may be a bit much for noobs.

But as long as Linux is already installed on the computer they have, it should be good to go!

If they have to install it themselves, it’s another kettle of fish, way beyond what a noob can do.

0 votes

Vipul Jain

Linux sure has the benefit of being free but since here we are talking about noobs, Working on linux isn’t really that easy. Many softwares do not support it, even MS Office.
Now there are workarounds but one cannot expect a noob to mess around DLL’s and scripts.

0 votes

Kenny

Linux isn’t cheaper than Windows because their computer already has Windows or Mac OS. A pre-built Linux computer is going to be too much effort for them, they’d rather spend the extra $25 or so.

0 votes

Paul Girardin

First of all, we are dealing with noobs (some of these people are scared of their own shadow when it come to computing)

I agree with you except on point 2!

Let them use IE at first so they know its ups and downs.

Since it is bundled, it’s a no brainer for noobs!

Then after a couple of weeks of use, have them switch to something better (Chromium, Opera, Firefox) to enlarge their experience

0 votes

Vipul Jain

haha, i think we should save them from the embarrassment they would face if someone saw them using IE as their primary browser. Thus we should show them the right path from the start :D

0 votes

Paul Girardin

We start by dividing groups of noobs!

We have to know if we are dealing with young noobs on their first computer (generally a hand me down one) or with elder noobs or somewhere in between.

Some elders may be wiser than we think because with age comes a certain experience of life.

In other words, don’t take anything for granted!

We should in any case have them use a clean computer to start with … be it a entirely new computer or a hand me down one!

In the case of a hand me down, the person giving that away should (if they know what they are doing) bring it back to basics (with the OS discs or partition) and ensure it is like it was at the beginning.

Now on to the learning part!

Never assume the level of knowing from the noobs, again you might be surprised at what they know!

=================================================================

They should at least know

A) Their OS and its basic parts: file system, notepad, calculator, games, ETC …

B) The basics of the bundled applications (varies by computer makers)

Then they should learn about security (and that is no laughing matter) BEFORE setting foot in online activities (be it E-Mail, Internet, chat or forums)

It is IMPORTANT they learn and understand about protection against viruses, malware and other REAL dangers of online traveling.

Then they can move on to other things as they feel comfortable about it!

=================================================================

On top of what I just said, the very best way (IMHO) to start is to take advantage of your local public library and read about computers in the For Dummies and Complete Idiot Guide collection of books.

Despite the names, these books really explain the basics in an understandable way for noobs.

Just remember it’s not the destination that is important but the way to get there!

Have FUN while you travel the learning roads.

0 votes

Patrick Jackson

Easy boy!

That’s is too much for most of the n00bs to learn for the first time at straight, much like a ‘torture’, if one may put it like that.

Just the ‘browsing’ thing is good as today, we can do most of the things online, can’t we?

0 votes

Lachlan Blackwood

Teach how to use a computer on the OS being used, like navigating menus and opening files, then teach how to use software like Microsoft Office, then the Internet and progress from there

0 votes

hearsetrax

personally when I runn across a noob…..

I get thar email address and give them my list 4 beginners of roughly15 sites and 5 basic tips that if they fully explore will have them up speed in roughly 2 weeks provided they dedicate the time to thar studies

of course I give them a list of my 4 favorite search tools that doesn’t included google

0 votes

Asif Mistry

Assuming the student knows basic hardware (cpu, keyboard, mouse and monitor) and how to plugin the power.This is what I would like them to learn (in that order)

1) How to start and shutdown the PC is the first lesson although using a mouse is confusing if the student is an elderly but kids do great with mice.

2) Accessing local files, comes afterward which basically letting the student get comfortable using the windows explorer and understand the file system(local drives, files and folders)

3) If they require to be online(like use skype or facebook) then Internet browser (I recommend newbies use Chrome, its simple) and google should be thought

The rest can be thought as necessary.

0 votes

Shakirah Faleh Lai

Firstly, tell them using a computer is as easy as ABC. They must be taught to use the essential applications like Word then show them how to download Chrome using IE. Let them know how Chrome works and how they can do impressive things with it. Don’t forget to make them now how to turn computer on and off. Lastly, they must be informed how to do maintain PC health.

0 votes

Carolyn

I agree with the person who said that mouse skills have to come first. Learning how to double click is really hard for most people to manage. Also knowing when to double click, when to single click, and when you don’t have to click at all and just hover over something.

I’ve taught computers to noobs before. Believe me, every time you think you have a basics list figured out, someone comes along who is even more ignorant that you could have imagined. Some of the things I’ve had to explain to students.
- That having a computer does not automatically mean that you can access the internet. You have actually buy an internet subscription separately. Likewise, not every program works on every computer. You have to know your specs.
- That you have to hit enter to move the cursor to a new line when you are typing.
- That “program,” “toolbar,” “computer file,” “search engine,” and “website” are not synonyms. Any of them.
- Saving files: how to save them in folders, how to do a search for them, and how you can’t just make up any file extension you want.
- How to recognize when you should click to install something and when you should not, to avoid malware. Also how to avoid suspicious links and spam instant messages.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Older people do tend to find the concept of double-clicking rather alien. Good list :)

0 votes

43f9ebae0fba91fa95bcdf6bc1178d5d

I agree with the basics of the OS, and mouse useage, as the first things to teach.

After that:

Find a computer user group nearby, which will provide them the ability to find other noobs, and see that they are not the only ones who do not know much.

Learn one thing at a time, and become comfortable before moving to the next thing to learn. Trying to learn too much at one time will only make them frustrated.

0 votes

Seppe

Begin with a game of Solitaire :) like this they can learn the basics of moving your mouse and clicking things in a game they know for years.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

That’s actually a great tip. Get noobs doing something fun and they’ll learn more quickly.

0 votes

Boyd Yocum

Basic hardware fundamentals such as adding USB devices, having them to read the EULA not adding on those little pesky add ons, toolbars. making sure that there is a trust worth security program, and knowing when to scan your system for virus/malware. There is noting wrong with finding someone with some computer knowledge I believe that there is no such thing as a stupid question

0 votes

Dave Parrack

The presence of toolbars is a classic sign of a noob!

0 votes

Ivan Antochiw

I would start by giving them some basic hardware directions. In my personal experience, the most important is: “that’s not a cup holder… it’s a CD tray!!!” (I had to replace a customer’s ‘cup holder’… twice!)

I still believe that giving your student a basic orientation about hw, copying files, mailing, social networking and word processing is the first thing you must do. I know it feels like having skating lessons without having you skates on, but that’s the way it is…

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Wait, you mean that isn’t a cup holder? Damn.

0 votes

Ivan Antochiw

Can’t blame anyone… it seems like holding a cup might be a more frequent use for those trays these days

0 votes

Vicente Limsan Jr.

It’s better to get to know your soon-to-be-buddy (computer) first. By saying getting to know, it’s about how computer works (what a monitor does, etc..), then what connects you and your soon-to-be-buddy–that’s your operating system (OS). Familiar enough with your OS, it’s time to familiarize with the ability of your computer (softwares) and gradually, connect to the world through the Internet. Read. Explore. Discover. Try. Learn. Apply. :)

0 votes

Curtis C.

How to go on the internet, using the mouse and keyboard

0 votes

Sumaiya

i am 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 her..so far shes going great :) (and she absolutely LOVES youtube)

0 votes

hao

‘ctrl’ + ‘alt’ + ‘delete’

0 votes

Dave Parrack

Ain’t that the truth!

0 votes

AP

About MS-WORDS , most of other apps functions are some what similar to it’s any one of the function . In my opinion if a person can work on WORDS then he can easily figure out himself with little diligence how other apps works.

0 votes

Timothy Liem

how about Libre Office? Ms. Office is expensive dude..

0 votes

Shawnee

I think that they should first be taught the basic uses of the different parts of the computer (mouse, keyboard, monitor, tower) and then how to turn it on and which buttons do what. Then once they are on, show them My Computer (or Mac equivalent) and go from there.

0 votes

Matheus Pratta

I would start by explaining the basics for the OS and it’s main programs, like the file manager and the browser. Also, would give some explainations to not go clicking everywhere, because of the risk of malware or not believing all these advertisements that pop on our browsers everyday.
And at last, I would give them some tips of Netiquette, so they have some idea of how to socialize on the internet…

0 votes

Chris Ireland

First thing to teach a newbie is to not FEAR doing anything. The first time they use the computer they cannot break anything or “screw it up”—So test everything out. Play with everything to their hearts content. The more you click and enter, the more you learn.
Second, teach them that there are many ways to do the same functions, so if one thing works, then there is probably at least one more way of doing that function.
Third, Just because it is on the Internet does not make it factual!

0 votes

Dave Parrack

The Internet is full of truth and only truth, and that’s the truth.

0 votes

Mark Sofman

First: How to connect all the components, how to connect to power source, how to power up and shut down.

0 votes

Doc

Teach them the importance of ANTIVIRUS and ANTIMALWARE apps, then how to maintain their PC. If they don’t realize that a PC is like a car – you have to take care of it – they won’t know how to take care of it until they actually get INFECTED or something stops working.

One friend couldn’t surf at all – Chrome and Firefox just wouldn’t open – until the crappy pre-loaded antivirus was removed, replaced with AVG Free 2012, and the hard drive was cleaned up and updates applied. PC Decrapifier and Revo Uninstaller were lifesavers, as were CCleaner and Defraggler.

If you need to teach someone how to type, how to use a mouse, and how to open programs, click things, turn on and shut down the computer, then you’re not done until they know how and why the computer and antivirus are maintained; would you send somebody into the back alleys of the Internet without teaching them self-defense?

0 votes

Tori Pagani

Learn how to open a document and SAVE a document – and actually know where it is on your computer – so you can find it at a later date.

0 votes

Balazs

I think they should understand that they must try things to be better. I know people (especially older ones), who are scared that they mess up everything, so they don’t even try it. So they should realize that it isn’t a big problem if something happens, its restorable

0 votes

infmom

It’s more a matter of confidence than anything else. That can’t really be taught, only learned.

A lot depends on the age of the newcomer, too. Older people have learned from experience that gadgets can be fragile and expensive and they can get in big trouble if they cause damage, so the most common concern is that they might “break something” or “mess something up” beyond anyone’s ability to fix it. Sometimes I’d have people deliberately hit the keyboard or click on everything they could possibly find to click on, and then show them that nothing had been harmed.
It’s also important to find something that a computer can do that is of interest to the newcomer. My mother, after disparaging computers for years, became an avid learner in her 70s because of email and the New York Times web site.

MIddle-aged people might have the same concerns about breaking things or messing things up, but it’s easier to find fields of interest to have them explore while they gain confidence.

Kids… well, a kid’s natural impulse is to just dive right in and see what’s there. The main skill they need is to understand that there’s a big wide world to play in, too. :)

0 votes

Kakaru Korn

First of he should be introduced in front of a computer, then explain to him the computer peripheral and devices like, say “this is keyboard, this is monitor, CPU,..etc”.
Then coming to next step(practical part) , he/she should be taught basic softwares like MS-word, paint, then how to create folders,delete , copy, paste and some basic stuff. When he/she become a bit familiar in those things ,then he can be exposed to next level in the field of networking, explaining the use and working of emails, social networks ,etc..In this way , slowly by slowly one can be taught compuer..
Note: Starting with OS (as mention above)will be too far beyond to someone who has not even seen a computer.
To be frank , I taught my brother in that way, and now he’s a pro :-)

0 votes

gary ross

Turn on and ask questions always

0 votes

Bruce Epper

First, introduce them to the major compnents by name (keyboard, mouse, monitor, etc). Next, how to turn it on and PROPERLY shut it down. Then, how to use the mouse (left-click, right-click, double-click, etc) and keyboard encouraging them to actually learn how to type. What the objects they are seeing on the screen (in its default configuration) are called and what they do (icons, taskbar, menus, notification area, gadgets, mouse pointer, etc). How to start and exit programs. How the filesystem is laid out. How to locate their files and WHERE THEY SHOULD BE! How to create and save files. The difference between executable files and data files. The difference between a web browser and a webmail account. (Can’t even count how many times I have heard that a user’s email provider is Internet Explorer or another browser.) How to access their email whether via webmail or a local email client. How to use a search engine. How to download a file from the internet and recognize where they saved it. The difference between downloading a program and installing it. How to properly install and remove programs. (They still love to just delete the files and folders.) How to update the OS and installed software. How to backup the system (and why it is necessary). How to fire up TeamViewer so I can get in and remotely fix whatever they happened to break. How to recognize spam, phishing attacks, blind links and the risks of opening or clicking on any of them. That ought to be pleny to get them in enough trouble to start.

0 votes

Jeff

Speaking from experience in a corporate environment, explain to them what the Desktop is, how to manage (minimize, maximize, close) windows, and give them a place to put their files. For anything they need to do, PUT A SHORTCUT ON THE DESKTOP!!! Make sure that they know how to work the “Show Desktop” button in the system tray.

The important thing is giving them a single place to go to do everything they need to do. They won’t need to do much, so put it all on the desktop.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I still use shortcuts like they’re going out of fashion. Yes, I have a messy desktop, but I know where everything is.

0 votes

Thomas G

There are some wonderful answers posted. A lot of great tips.

Start with a way to get them interested, enthusiastic and eager to explore.

Ask them what they would like to do: read a paper, send an email, watch a video or find something to buy. Then, open a browser (chrome) and show them how easy it is, how much is available. This will help with any sense of fear or trepidation – they are immediately having fun with something they already like to do – just using a new tool to do it with.

From the momentum of the initial enthusiasm and success, other skills will have a value – a reason for being needed and a framework for use. Mouse skills, the difference in hardware and software, OS familiarity and so forth will have a framework and will be learned more quickly with better retention.

0 votes

Dennis

I would think total computer noobs need to understand what exactly is a computer and the basic functions/benefits of a computer system and how it can benefit them. I would point elder people skype, so they can see how much delight it can bring to them when they see their grand kids, then go from there.

0 votes

Dennis Coen

I would think total computer noobs need to understand what exactly is a computer and the basic functions/benefits of a computer system and how it can benefit them. I would point elder people skype, so they can see how much delight it can bring to them when they see their grand kids, then go from there.

0 votes

Rob Hindle

We may be thinking about not just noobs but maybe technophobes – or at least people who aren’t running to embrace the technology.

In that case the first step needs to be positive, show them some of the wonders of the internet. That in itself isn’t an answer because different people will be impressed by different things. So the first step isn’t for them, it’s for you. As their mentor what you do is going to critically affect their perception of and attitude towards the internet. Your task is to think long and hard about what will change their attitude so they are not just thinking of it as a chore or a classroom exercise. The aim is to help them understand what all the fuss is about and place them in a position where they want to be able to use some aspect of the computer themselves.

For my mother in law the killer application was Skype, it enables her to have a daily video chat with her 4 year old grand-daughter in Geneva, otherwise her contact was limited to a day or two a year.

Even knowing that Skype would be her killer app wasn’t enough, the next thing to think about was how to introduce her to it. Just sitting her down like a schoolkid and giving a tutorial wouldn’t have worked. The answer was to use it myself and let her see and overhear what was going on so she chose to come closer to the PC. That gave me the opportunity to suggest that she say something. Soon we’d swapped places and she was sitting in front of the PC having the conversation.

After a few days of me establishing the connection and having her join in I suggested that she could do it herself when I wasn’t around. She needed some reassurance that she couldn’t break anything and it wasn’t costing long-distance phone call charge rates. Then I switched everything off and took her through the process – switch on here, wait till the skype icon is on screen, click, select the Geneva address and click on “Call”. Dead simple to you or I but to an 85 year old need to be patient. Repeat the process while she takes notes if that’s what she feels comfortable with. Let her repeat the process with me watching and maybe prompting, repeat until no prompting is necessary.

Once she’s understood that this is a fantastic tool she wants to use, sadly we do need to address the bad stuff. Malware. At this stage keep it simple and take advantage of her inherent concern that touching any button on the keyboard could wreak havoc. Of course the PC is fully loaded with a commercial online updating security suite, connected through a router with NAT offering some degree of security and OpenDNS to add another layer but at this stage the message is simple: Don’t click on anything you don’t understand. Ask your mentor. Introduce new tools at a rate she’s comfortable with and alerting to any specific risks as you go.

Of course this scenario was great in the specific circumstance but for someone else the introduction might be through web-sites devoted to one of their interests.

Some will say “tell people new to computers: you can’t break it, so play and experiment”. Unfortunately it’s not true. When they click on that popup or link to a malware site, boy have they broken it!

Then there’s the academic approach – teach them how to use a mouse, how the file system works, what the hard disk is. Fine if you are in a teaching environment. Maybe OK if you have an eager student but it’s so much easier if you’ve got their interest in the first place. Would you teach someone to drive a car if they had no particular wish to learn? If you did would you give them a tutorial on the carburettor? No you’d start out by explaining the benefits, why you think they’d personally benefit and maybe taking them places they’d enjoy but would not otherwise be able to visit.

0 votes

Alex

I would say security would be the first thing to teach to them after they got the hang of their OS

0 votes

Wendy Joint

One of the most important things to pass on to learners, especially older ones, is not to be frightened of the computer. It’s really quite difficult to totally cock it up, even doing things that are wrong, such as not shutting down properly. There’s only a few things that can cause real trouble, such as right clicking on the harddrive icon and formatting (good old XP is still with me!). Also washing the keyboard in water:-) Of couse, total frustration at a later date might cause them to go at it with a hammer, but they might be better off kicking the cat, or just having a break. Another thing that can easily be overlooked by the enthusiast is the ergonomics of sitting at a machine and the health risks of sitting there too long without a break. All terribly obvious, I’m afraid……

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Richard Otoo

this is a very interesting question which computer amateurs shy away from.taking it from the very scratch,it is very important that a beginner acquaints himself with the fundamentals,i mean the basics first.knowing the computer and its associated functions is a good beginning although many expostulate vehemently against this approach.actually it is this loophole grows into colossal holes in the skills of many computer addicts.having a fair idea of the computers versatile nature unlocks the creative minds,an achievement which may go missing in other approaches.from here ,we can then talk of typing issue which is a crucial computer skill .introducing games that build up typing skills is worth considering.this may involve knowing the function of the keyboard and how to apply them effectively. this marks the first significant approach in the development of the basic skills.next on my list of the basic skills is the ability to take control of the computer which has a lot of ingredients to be imbibed.last on my list is the use of the internet to enable the beginner have a say in the wilds of cyberspace.with all these skills in place,you will be surprised that computer literacy may become easier than you thought.

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scott mac dobald

I teach people how to turn it off. Computers and all kinds of tech are going to do things you don’t like or don’t understand. When things get ugly, you need to know how to shut ‘er down.

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John Rogers

Believe it or not most noobies need to learn how to use the mouse, once they master that things from that point go smoother. Also though not the first thing I would definitely teach them how important backups are and how to make them.

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Mark

I think the first thing that should be taught is what exactly is a computer. Knowing the basic components of computer. Input devices, output devices and the cpu.

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Nicut Alexandru

If I were to teach someone how to use an computer, here is the order I would teach:
- safety rules: ergonomy when using an computer
- what an computer is made of – in and out components: keyboard, mouse, monitor, scanner, pci cards, etc
- how to connect different devices and their compatibility
- glossary of different terms used like: CPU, RAM, videoRAM, GPU, mB, mBps, mHz, FSB / HTT, etc
- how to clean different components from dust
- what is an OS, an software, BIOS, firmware.
- how to type from the keyboard: how to use capital letters and insert other symbols like !,#,<,?,/ etc
- different aspects of the GUI in order to understand what the monitor shows
- then I would teach about security and maintaining the OS running smooth
- after that what is an free / open and closed software.
- the basics of networking
- websearch
- IM, e-mail
Notes:
- if the newbie would use the computer to do some office work, I would add office apps like openoffice
- if the newbie would use the computer to design something, I would add CAD apps, like FreeCAD
- if the newbie would use the computer to edit audio, I would add audio edit apps, like Audacity
- bassicly this is how I learned to use the computer: first the tehnical part, the the software part. The main advantage I think it has is that you can self-repair, self-maintain and self-build or self-upgrade the computer.

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Jacob Twitchel

I would say they first need to learn how to manage their files and storage and then how to install programs/get to the internet. Then I would teach people how to update their computer. Thats assuming the computer they have doesn’t need any drivers and doesn’t need any maintenance when they are learning how to use it. I am trying to teach my Mom how to use the computer and do different things and sometimes I feel like its impossible. She always asks me how to do stuff like move a word document to her flash drive, I think everyone should know how to do stuff like that! lol

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Ben Mordecai

Solitaire was written by a Microsoft intern to teach people mouse skills. I would start there.

0 votes

Dave Parrack

I’ve learned something new today. Thanks :)

0 votes

oldschool

This is the perfect order for understanding most processors and most OS flavors of windoze and nix:

C, then C++, then asm, then debugging basics, then device drivers, then basic reverse engineering, and the last critical lesson is cobbled-together for all the reasons why windows is annoying

(eg keeps its source closed to all but countries and MAJOR customers so it probably has backdoors in it, no access to ‘native api’/syscalls, it actively spys on you while you do stuff, inaccurate paging and vulnerable software protection schemes (sony DRM’s rootkit was made for doze boxes, DEP/ASLR can be bypassed fairly easily and alternatives cant be as easily implemented, its hard to implement your own custom TCP/IP stack and will break windows functionality if you try hardening it (eg limiting max port #), windows firewall is the easiest IDS to evade, etc)

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KenP

Mouse and keyboard clearly are the first thing but after that, the the most useful skill anyone can have is STOP AND READ WHAT’S ON THE SCREEN! 90% of ‘How do I’ questions can be resolved by simply reading what is already on the screen.

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James Egan

Turning on the machine is a good start along with learning what cable go where and do what, the amount of times I have been summoned as the family computer ‘expert’ (not my term but my grandmothers and my mothers), only to see a network cable has been knocked out. People do genuinely get frightened of cables when they dont know what they do. A simple laminated card is now on the computer desk of my mothers and my grandmothers studies and shows the shapes and colours of each cable, what they do and where they go back into. Has saved me hours of time and helped them become more confident with their machines.

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druv vb

The computer is a machine. Basically a tool that allows you to do several tasks. A few of these tasks are writing letters, sending emails and create drawings. Then there is also learning other subjects and gaming. From there the new computer users should be taught how to manipulate the mouse and keyboard. How to open a simple word processing software and start writing some words. Then the drawing part as interesting things happen here.
To sum it all, new computer users are always keen to learn new things. It is upto the person to teach them how well to use it.

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DashaR

Firstly and most importantly correct posture, and the use of a height adjustable chair.
Secondly Instruction in the difference between hardware and software and the operating system and programmes .
Understanding the use of important keys on the keyboard is also helpfull in using a word processing program or typing up an email.
File management (basic) is another important subject that needs to be shown so that saving, renaming, and moving files can be achieved.

0 votes

c

I bought my first computer because I am a gadget addict. I have little patience waiting to be taught the right way. I prefer to find out by trial & error. Since then I am compelled to constantly go online or mess about offline. My main problem has been the boring way information is presented to the user. Which is why I like using makeuseof. Here I can search directly for informatioin needed and often I am directed to other relevant sections which I find very useful. This way I can find out what ‘ I want to know ‘ and not fill my head with useless information.

0 votes

Marty Troum

The first and most important element to teach (after a few moments of getting the terminology correct…DESKTOP, TASKBAR, ICONS, ETC.) is the method of interfacing with the computer/tablet/laptop/etc. That is, if it’s a mouse, then using the mouse (left-click, right-click, scroll wheel, click-and-drag, etc.) is the critical learning. An exercise that forces different mouse usage, like solitaire, or another fun exercise, is useful. If it’s a trackpad, then showing the same types of actions above using the trackpad. Once the interface is discussed, the basic operating system controls are next…minimize, maximize, closing program windows, moving windows around the desktop, etc. Once these “basics” are understood, then you can dive into things like word processing, internet surfing, email, one at a time and repetitively.

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raj gopal

first and foremost a new learner must be acknowledged as a beginner and not a “noob”, and as far as answer goes they must be thought productive apps such as Microsoft office(that’s what i learned first) followed by secondary apps such as image editing, video editing and last but not the least different programing languages such as c,c++ and mainly java

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Denise Durham

Teach them the desktop, folders, then how to access the web. Once on the web, teach them a homepage, then an email for them to use.
Keep everything as simple as possible so they don’t get overwhelmed.

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Roger Leer

Your work is fantastic! A teriffic source for accurate digestible information. I am so happy to have found your site.

First Lessons:

1. Cut, paste, copy, ect.
2. System Restore.
3. Backup.
4. Virus and Malware removal.
5. CYA when sharing personal information.
6. Computers are smarter than you are! They never forget.
7. Never write or do anything online that you wouldn’t want your mother to see or read.
8. Keep your ego in check.
9. Have fun and try to expand your scope of thinking.
10. Respect yourself and all others you meet online. Remember we all bleed the same and share similar pain thresholds.
11. One more for the road. Try voice recognition. It is slow and tedious at the start, but you can really become a much better writer and PC user. Caution: Don’t be cheap, get a very good microphone, it really makes a BIG difference.

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bonioloff

Learn typing, because when you already familiar to type with 2 fingers, it is a lot difficult to learn 10 fingers :D

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John Wilkers

The first and most important thing to learn new users is that they should make backups of their valuable data. The second thing to learn new users is that they should make backups of their valuable data. The third thing to learn new users is that they shoul d make backups of their valuable data. The fourth thing they should learn is WHY they must make backups of their valuable data.
You should not learn them something new if they dont get the first, second, third and fourth thing. Period..

0 votes

Freecycle Me

My personal advice would be don’t learn alone. There are more people who know how to use computers than not so fin a friend, someone you trust, and who does not take over, then invite them round for coffee to show you some of the basics. They would have an email address and this would give an immediate person to contact and get to use the software. If someone is too shy, reclusive or burnt all their bridges, then most local colleges or libraries give sessions on how to learn computing. It is much better to share the experience. So – phone a friend, ask the audience and share the problems 50/50 :D

0 votes

AP

One can also try ‘Open Office’, its also an open source software.