Although there might be computers at the Bijawar high schools available for teachers to use (see here), we’re taking four laptops on which to help people learn. This move is partly for ease and portability, so that we can hold sessions at my grandmother’s house whenever people are free, and partly so that we have some control over what standard programs will be installed. I realize that the setup at their schools will likely be different, and we will hopefully be taking a close look at what’s available there. We’ll also be taking some other supplies – mice, flash drives, blank CDs, headphones, extension cords, plug converters, and other things along those lines.

I grew up around computers, so it’s surprisingly hard for me to imagine what a rank beginner would see when faced with a laptop. The most relevant resource I’ve found is an Ask Metafilter question about teaching introduction to computers. The advice therein is pretty good. Starting from the basics includes explaining the distinction between desktops and laptops, and how to turn them on (or open them up!). To teach basic mousing and typing skills, we might try a little Solitaire. We’ll have to talk about running application, right-clicking and double-clicking, moving things around, what the taskbar does, how to minimize and maximize applications. Explaining the desktop metaphor will take some thought – the distinction between files, folders, and the desktop itself, as well as what a “window” is. We’ll have to point out the difference between the pointer (mouse cursor) and the text cursor. The act of highlighting something seems obvious to me, but it’s an entire skill.

And then there’s actually learning to word process and manipulate spreadsheets and create presentations. We bought three For Dummies Quick Reference books – for Windows XP, Word, and Excel. Hopefully, those will provide a basic outline from which to work, as well as a reference guide for the computer users after we leave.