What Should Computer Noobs Be Taught First? [You Told Us]

By Dave Parrack, MakeUseOfSeptember 18, 2012 at 10:31PM

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 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, as well as the respect of myself and hopefully everybody reading this, receives 150 MakeUseOf points to use for Rewards or Giveaways. Their contribution:

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 her..so 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