Basic computer skills needed to survive in the online world

Use the common left-hand keystrokes to save your right arm from fatigue.
Use the common left-hand keystrokes to save your right arm from fatigue.

Learning new skills can be frustrating for some. Sometimes this frustration is a direct result of poor teaching, poor listening/watching skills, lack of experience with pre-skills, or other distractions. And sometimes, the frustration is normal! Learning is not something that is easily acquired the first time it is heard or seen. A learner must experience the task first hand and practice it again and again to fully understand and make it part of rote memory.

Learning in a workshop can be particularly trying when the purpose of the task to learn is not clear, the computer you use does not look like your own, or others students progress at a different pace. Experienced educators who teach in a computer lab situation know that not all students will listen and watch carefully, stay together, or tell the instructor when he/she is going too fast. Some educators create and print extensive tutorials for students to use in their learning only to find out they are not used. Many students want instructors to do the work for them because they do not want to struggle. Learning computer skills is like playing a game…you must explore like a detective to persevere.

If you are learning a new skill and don’t feel you have a complete handle on it, try showing someone else. Sharing and teaching is one of the best ways to learn something well (fully understand and retain the new knowledge). Dr. Gary Phillips of the National School Improvement Project (based on Piaget’s theories about learning) makes this claim: People retain learned material at the following levels:

  • 10% of what we hear
  • 15% of what we see
  • 30% of what we see and hear
  • 80% of what we experience actively
  • 90% of what we teach others

The following list of basic computer skills will be linked to tutorials as I can find good ones. Check off the ones you know and begin to practice the others. Please do not feel like you are supposed to master a skill immediately. Some skills include “setup”, which is done one time. After that it is a matter of using the tool or skill often in order to remember it.

Skills that are 20+ years old.

  • Turn your computer on and off.
    • Turn the volume up and down.
    • Adjust the screen brightness and contrast.
  • Open an application/program.
    • Make a new file in the application.
    • Save and close a file.
    • Reopen the file.
  • Use the common file and edit functions (using right-click or these keystrokes):
    • Open Ctl+o
    • Quit Ctl+q
    • Save Ctl+s
    • Find Ctl+f
    • Copy Ctl+c
    • Cut Ctl+x
    • Paste Ctl+v
    • Undo Ctl+z
    • Select All Ctl+a
  • Find/search a file.
  • Copy a file from one folder/directory to another.
  • Copy a file or folder/directory from the hard drive to another device.
    • Back up files to floppy or Zip disk.
    • Consider a copy a backup file.
  • Rename a file.
  • Put a disk/disc in the computer and view its file list.
    • Eject a disk.
    • A disk can be thought of as a floppy disk, CD-ROM disc, DVD disc, USB stick/thumb/jump drive.
  • Print a document.
    • Change the page orientation.
    • Change the color/ink settings.
  • Archive and decompress a set of files and folders/directories.
  • Use word processing and spreadsheet programs.
    • Type text and numbers
    • Tab to indent or tab to move from one cell to another.
    • Return to start a new paragraph or new row.
    • Set margins.
    • Set custom tabs.
    • Bold and italicize text.

Skills that are 10+ years old

  • Connect to the internet.
  • Setup an email account.
    • Update the name that will show when someone receives the email.
    • Add an email signature.
    • Set new messages to retain the original message when replying.
  • Send and receive email.
    • Attach a document to an email.
    • Download email attachments and file them on your hard drive.
  • Search for a file online.
  • Download a program, Acrobat (.pdf) file, or picture file.
  • Decompress an archive file.
  • Copy/back up files to a CD-ROM.

Skills artists need

  • Open, enhance, optimize, and save photo files in various formats for print and online use.
  • Organize inventory.
  • Send professional looking email messages.
  • Upload photo files to online service sites.
  • Write and edit in a variety of local applications/programs.
  • Write and edit in a variety of online service sites.
  • Back up files to CD-ROM, DVD, and/or USB drive.