I got a chance to implement my changes to the way I teach the beginning computer class in Reno. The way the class runs, we introduce the mouse buttons, the keyboard and some of the special characters, and the shift, control (Ctrl), and escape keys (Esc). Then we move on to the desktop and the three controls that are at the top of every window .
This time, I had my students just move their mouse around on the screen before I even showed them the buttons. I just wanted to get them used to the pointer moving around. Next, I introduced them to the “thumb drive” that we always recommend that they buy in order to save their work. I showed them my thumb drive, and I demonstrated how to plug it in upside down (well, kind of) and how to insert it correctly. I demonstrated that on some computers, plugging in a thumb drive doesn’t appear to do anything. I introduced them to icons, and showed them the “My Computer” icon and how the thumb drive I just plugged in could be found there. I showed them two ways of opening up the icon, and then I demonstrated how their “My computer” icon had just the C drive, the A drive, and the D drive (DVD) on it while mine had an extra drive (the thumb drive) that theirs didn’t.
Next, I demonstrated opening the thumb drive and then I started the slide show demonstration. This all took a little time, but I think it was more valuable to show them that I could now “see” the thumb drive that I just plugged into the computer.
I ran the slide show like normal, but I kind of rushed through the keyboard, because I wanted to do a live demonstration of the keys on an actual keyboard and program.
When I got to the slide with the desktop and icons on it, I bailed on the slide show. I showed them the icon for MS Word, and I had them open and close it a few times, maximize, minimize, and “restore down”. Then I had them type a bunch of gibberish on the screen. I told them to use the keyboard the way a little kid plays the piano. They took to that quite well. Next, I showed them how the spell checker was trying to make sense out of the gibberish they just typed. I showed them how it would work with real misspelled words (like the ones I type every day), and then I demonstrated copy and paste using control C and control V. I also showed them undo with control Z and dragging and the mouse to mark text.
After this, I had them delete all the junk from the screen, and type in their full names with a period between their first and last names followed by the month and day they were born. (Duncan.Winn0605). Next, I had them chose an 8 character word that they could remember. I told them to use a name followed by a number. After this, I showed them how to save the word file using “save as”, and then I had them exit word and re-enter word to re-load their data file. I had them print their file, and then shrink the window for “Word” down but leave it running.
Now I was about an hour into the two hour course, and I had them open up Google and go to Gmail. When they went to the “new user” portion of the program, they already had their user name and passwords saved on an open MS Word window, so I just had them copy and paste it into the Gmail window. This avoided the confusion of attempting to type the password in two times when you can’t see the characters you are typing. Selecting a user name that nobody else is using helped a lot too.
One big challenge (even for me) at the end of signing up for a new Gmail account is typing in the messed up characters at the end of the sign up screen. We all tend to misread them, and when you enter them wrong, you have to go back and re-enter your password twice. This process was taking the majority of the time in classes previous to this one. Having the password available for cutting and pasting really proved to be a time saver. We got most people done entering their info with twenty minutes to spare.
I may have to try and formalize this lesson plan since it worked so well.
I can’t take all the credit for the smooth way this class ran. I couldn’t have done it without the help of Daunine and Robin, my two Pronet helpers.