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Teaching the wife how to use a computer

I'm trying to teach my wife how to use a computer (with Windows 98) for general-purpose. For those like her that have no experience whatsoever with computers, much less a Windows-type interface, how do we begin teaching them to be proficient in things we don’t even think about anymore?

What would be your lesson plan?

At first I assumed that this would be an easy task, but as I started on the "basics" with my wife I realized that I am teaching her a new paradigm. Things like copying and pasting, understanding Windows Explorer, formatting a Word document, adding a new e-mail address to the address book and scanning a photograph actually require many, many choices, which can be frustrating to the new computer user.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

This is a excellent question!

You have many things to start with. Perhaps the best start is solitaire. You can click, double click, and can even drag and drop a card.

I would startup with solitaire. How to find it. (she will learn the use of the start menu here!). Then how it works.

The next thing I would teach is the web, and surfing. The reason for this is one of motivation. The web is so cool, and she can pick any subject she is interesting in. Get her using a search engine, and again the key is enjoyment here!. That is good start, and will keep her busy for hours.

After the above two, then you might start on email

Word processing is  most useful...but I would start with solitaire as it does not require typing skills!

So, first find something that does not need typing skills, and then browsing the web (again, little typing is needed).

There is also a ton of beginning books etc for new users.

Albert D. Kallal
Edmonton, Alberta Canada

Albert D. Kallal
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Why does your wife have time to play with the computer? She should be doing the ironing and cooking your dinner!

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

I let my kids teach her... 

Nat Ersoz
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

In once gave Windows usage courses for housewifes from the neighbourhood. It was a lot of fun, but I had the same problems you describe: Where to start?

I settled for concentrating on the things they wanted to DO with the computer (like typing a letter for example, or sending and receiving e-mail).

Windows always gives you multiple ways to do things. That is nice. It is also totally confusing for a beginner. So if you show a way to open a file in Word, for example, show only one way at the beginning, like always use the toolbar button. Do not bother to explain that there is also a menu entry doing the same thing or that you can also drag and drop files into word or that you can also doubleclick on the file in the explorer.

Do not change the places where files are stored away from the default folders (My Documents). Looking for files on the harddisk as long as you are not familiar with the file system and using the explorer is awful. Leave it for later.

Have fun,

Jutta Jordans
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

have you tried to teach her to drive?
best solution in both cases, pay someone else to do it.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

- Ask what she wants (email, browse the Internet, type and print letters)
- One step at a time
- Get some good books

My mother started to use a computer a few months ago (her only hardware requirement was a non-beige flat screen). It was an interesting experience to say the least: "You have to press that button on the white box to switch the computer on. No, you don't use that same button to switch it off."

I was impressed with the quality of some of the books for absolute beginners (many of them are targeted at seniors). They explain very well with lots of pictures how to perform standard tasks (starting the computer, moving/resizing windows, sending an email) step by step. The important thing here is that the book is covering exactly the same system that the user is working on. A book for Windows 98 on a Windows XP system will not work (or you will get asked/called a lot when that button in the book isn't in on her system).

Also WindowsXP is really good for absolute beginners. Having the close cross in red makes it much easier to find. As much I hate the My Documents and My Images folders, it really helps users that are confused by the file system.

You know when they are ready for the next step, when they ask for it. And yes my mother is addicted to solitaire too.

Jan Derk
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

I would recommend that you introduce your wife to Linux. GNOME 2.0 was just released and its usability has really improved. I think it surpasses Windows XP and Mac OS X combined.

Plus most Linux distributions include so much free software, she'll probably never need to worry about installing any other applications. But if she does, it's very easy to just do an "apt-get mozilla", for example.

Linus Torvalds
Tuesday, July 2, 2002


My wife can beat up your wife.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Big deal... my wife can beat up me.

Joe AA.
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Actually, I'm in much this situation with two of my clients. They recently purchases a POS system from us and we installed the computers and the network for them. Since they didn't have much money, the choice was made for them to try Linux and the new KDE [3.0]. So far they love it. After introducing them to a few details about how to treat the systems [Care and Feeding of Linux Boxen] and how the mouse clicks work, I had one of them customizing the look and feel using themes and the other playing solitaire and minesweeper. In my opinion, getting them addicted to games was a good idea, as their technical skills seem to be increasing very quickly. My goal is to have them recompiling their kernel in two years or less.

Dustin Alexander
Tuesday, July 2, 2002

There are tons of "windows for dummies"  books and multimedia tutorials.  Your time is best spent starting her off on one of these.  This will also prevent fights and yelling, if youre the impatient type.

Tuesday, July 2, 2002

Keep it simple for her by ensuring any shortcuts she is unfamiliar with is not cluttering up the desktop. Show her how to access the programs/services from the Start button. Let her do this at her own pace (of course with you riding shotgun). Giving her a cookie when she is finished is optional, but make sure she can take a joke - run and duck if she can't.

Gary 07/03/2002
Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Dear billg, Mrs Torvalds was Finland's karate champion for several years

Yes, I know I shouldn't bother
Thursday, July 4, 2002

My wife took a "computer literacy" class at commmunity college (as part of another course) ... it was teacherless, i.e. it was a computer-based tutorial program.

Christopher Wells
Wednesday, July 10, 2002

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