“I don’t know anything about computers. I can’t do anything with them. They’re not for me.”

How many times has a member of your family said something like this when talking about their computer literacy?

Concerns about technology and digital devices are very common amongst both the elderly and the young.  The latter are more likely to be ashamed by a lack of basic computer skills since their whole generation seems to be masters of it. It's very rare that a 20-something would be a complete beginner when it comes to using a personal computer.

Fortunately, Superprof is here to help you learn everything you need about computer basics and get over your fear of them. Say goodbye to your digital concerns and start making fast and steady progress with computers by taking IT courses.

You won’t become an adept computer programmer after just one day of computer classes but you should feel more comfortable with computers by the time you’ve finished reading this article.

If you're new to computer technology, things like knowing how to send and receive emails (electronic mail), adding attachments, mastering your web browser, safely using the internet, keeping your accounts safe from hackers, choosing secure passwords, and adding a link to a document probably seem impossible.

There are so many aspects of digital literacy that probably weren’t even part of the curriculum if you’re over a certain age. However, computing training is now accessible to everyone! Whether it’s evening tutorials, free training, computer courses for the elderly, or in-home private IT tutors, there are now plenty of different ways to get to grips with the digital world.

What’s the Point in Learning About Computers and How to Use Them?

IT lingo probably sounds like a foreign language to most beginners. Words like framework, MOOC, implementation, operating system, graphic interface, jQuery, spyware, UML, Java, MySQL, C, cloud computing, and e-learning may as well be written in hieroglyphics if you’ve never worked in IT or attended online computer classes.

Don’t worry if you didn’t know any of those fundamental terms, you’ll soon know what all of them mean. If you work hard enough at it, you might one day be teaching others what they mean!

While most of the younger generation learn a variety of different computing terms from a young age (especially given that a lot of the concepts are now part of the national curriculum), others may have to find different ways to work out what they all mean.

This brief article will introduce you to concepts such as how you browse the web with ease, install a keyboard, search for things online, use word processing software, clean your PC, a few keyboard shortcuts, and the best applications and programmes to use for programming in languages such as Python.

It’s important that you teach yourself. Using a desktop computer or laptop on a daily basis is a good way to learn a few basic skills and speed up your typing.

What are the best ways to learn how to use computers?
The first step to using computers is overcoming the fear to use them. (Source: startupstockphotos.com)

You’ll also need to familiarise yourself with abstraction as you’ll be doing it a lot with code. Once you’ve got over your apprehensions, you’ll start to enjoy learning more about computing and putting your new skills to the test.

As you teach yourself more about computing, you’ll come across more and more operating systems like GNU/Linux, OS X, Bios, Windows, etc. You’ll also learn more about different developer tools as well. It’s important that you experiment with the user interface on your computer in order to familiarise yourself with all the ins and outs of it. Just try not to fall into the trap of getting really geeky about it.

When teaching yourself, make sure you step outside of your comfort zone by going from one programme to another: start with programmes like Microsoft PowerPoint (for making a presentation), Word (for documents), or Visual Studio (to help you learn computer programming).

The best thing to do is go above and beyond a basic beginners’ IT course. In-home IT tuition should be backed up with practising programming and coding. You can take online computer courses or look for places that offer computer classes near me in the evenings.

Having a rounded knowledge of programming languages and techniques might make you the next Mark Zuckerberg. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt this century, it’s that a good computer engineer is the key to success. IT development and programming, when done right, can earn you an absolute fortune.

With this in mind, you should consider boosting your maths knowledge with quality private tutors who are familiar with IT and maths. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’ll have to be a Fields Medal holder.

With a good understanding of maths, computer science, algorithms, mathematics, and algebra, you should be able to start learning how to code and get to grips with web development and software engineering. Then you can move improving your computer knowledge and study things like HTML5, XHTML, C, Visual Basic, PHP, Ocaml, Python, COBOL, Perl, and Java.

There are also jobs in IT, like computer repair technician, which are becoming more and more important. At the right firm with the right certification, you can make an absolute fortune repairing and maintaining an IT system and you could even give private IT tutorials on the side to boost your income if you wanted.

1. Understand IT Systems

Before you do anything, you’ll need to know what an IT system is:

  • How does a computer work? What’s inside one?

  • How do you turn it on or off?

  • What peripherals can you connect to it and what type of connection do they use (USB, Firewire, HDMI, etc.)?

  • How do you set up a printer?

  • How can you connect to a WiFi network?

You’ll need to start with the foundations before moving onto more complicated things. If you want to learn more about how computers work, you should learn how to fix:

  • Screens or monitors

  • The system unit which houses the processor (this is sometimes integrated into the models, especially when it comes Apple products. These are famous for being notoriously difficult to change faulty components).

  • Wireless or wired keyboard and mice

  • Computer hardware and devices like modems, printers, scanners, graphics tablets, hard drives, USB keys, and speakers which are either connected to the system unit internally or externally by USB (or other) ports.

How much do private computing tutorials cost?
Novices might be scared of venturing inside their computer. (Source: jeshoots.com)

Even if you’re starting from scratch, you can read tutorials on the internet and guides for beginners that will explain the basic components of a computer and explain basic computer jargon. There are plenty of lessons online worth taking a look at!

2. Browsing the Internet

You can’t start thinking about becoming a web designer or programming or coding with HTML if you can’t effortlessly browse the internet and have to call your technically-minded friend every couple of days to help you!

Find some coding courses near you here.

Firstly, to connect to the Internet, you need an Internet Service Provider (ISP) in order to give you access to the World Wide Web (which is where the www. in web addresses comes from). There are plenty of different ISPs in the country offering access to the internet (often combined with phone and television packages) which are often between £20 and £50 per month. “Unlimited” is the buzzword for providers at the moment whether they’re providing ADSL, VDSL, or fibre optic internet connections. There are plenty of options when it comes to choosing the right connection for you.

While we’re not going to go through every single offer available, you should know that:

  • contract length is one of the deciding factors when it comes to price. In some cases, the offer you get initially is only for the first year and then they hike up the price of your connection.

  • the prices depend on the speed of the internet connection you’re getting (this is normally quoted in terms of download speeds). However, where you live can also affect this. For example, rural speeds are often lower than those in big cities.

  • if you happen to live in very remote areas or in the countryside, you can even opt for satellite internet.

  • there are deals for those who get their internet with their mobile phone tariffs and providers.

You should install a web browser. Some of the most popular include:

  • Internet Explorer (now replaced by Edge)

  • Opera

  • Google Chrome

Mac users (those with Apple products) often use Safari, Apple’s own web browser, which is becoming increasingly popular.

If you want to know more about the different types of browsers available, there are plenty of articles online comparing the different ones.

3. Using Word Processors

Learning to use the cornerstone of office suites will probably be your first foray into IT. However, you needn’t attend specialised IT classes in order to learn the basics of Microsoft Word. There are plenty of free computer tutorials available online. A resourceful learner will probably be able to master all of the different functions.

Whether you’re taking the minutes of a meeting, updating your CV, putting together a shopping list, or just writing out emails, you’ll need to be familiar with the functions of word processing software (like Word) or design software (such as QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign).

If you don’t feel like spending a fortune on software, there are office suites you don't have to pay for. These options tend to get better and better as they’re updated. The same goes for anti-malware software.

Once you’ve installed your word processor, why not look for private IT tutorials for beginners on Superprof? If you’re shrewd, you could always offer something other than money in exchange for a tutorial. For example, why not invite your tech-savvy friend out for a few drinks as a way to say thank you for them helping you with getting to grips with word processing!

How do you use Microsoft Word?
Once you've got a word processing programme, you'll be able to make documents much more quickly than you can with hand. (Source: pixabay.com)

If you want to get in touch with other tutors, you should think about getting an email address (Gmail is one of the best providers on the market and they offer 15GB of storage) and installing an email client such as Outlook, Thunderbird, or Apple Mail (if you’re using a Mac).

There are also email clients available on the web. This also means that smartphone users can check their emails easily. There are also plenty of websites explaining how to set up your email client as well as how to browse the internet from your mobile.

4. Saving Your Data

So you’ve finally created your first Excel documents to get your accounts in order. Great! Imagine if you woke up the next day and found that your documents, holiday photos, PowerPoint presentations, and your programmes were all gone! It can happen...

How can you safely protect your data?
If you have data worth saving, you need to make sure that it's securely saved. (Source: pixabay.com)

You don’t need to learn how to programme in order to back up your documents.

There are two main ways to back up your documents and data:

  1. Online: you can save your data to a secure server (often referred to as “the cloud”). Web hosts often do this for their customers’ websites.

  2. On an external device: you can save your data to an external hard drive or USB key. You should ideally do this once a week or, at the very least, once a month.

Backing up regularly is a good practice and you should often go through both your internal hard drive and your backups. The two techniques as described before can be used in tandem to ensure that your data is safe and sound. There’s nothing wrong with storing your backups on two different external hard drive if the data’s really important.

There are a number of cloud storage solutions available for free where you’ll get a couple of gigabytes (you can upgrade and pay for more storage).

5. Learn the Basics of Some of the Most Important Programmes

Even if you’re not planning on becoming a programmer, there are still a few things you should probably learn about to improve your IT skills:

  • photo editing software such as Adobe Photoshop

  • video editing software for your home movies (you can add subtitles, put different clips together, and add a soundtrack, etc.).

  • HTML so that you know how to create websites.

How do you safely browse the internet?
Browsing the internet safely and securely will be child's play after a few tutorials. (Source: Caio Resende)

Consider taking private IT tutorials with Superprof. This is one of the quickest and easiest ways to learn important IT skills such as how the command line works.

There are plenty of different tutors available with a variety of different backgrounds, qualifications, and experience.

6. Carry Out Basic IT Maintenance

If you follow the free tutorials on the web or just do a quick search for IT maintenance, you’ll find a plethora of different ways to keep your system running smoothly such as:

  • cleaning screens and keyboards

  • emptying your browser’s cache

  • deleting temporary files

  • formatting a USB drive

  • dusting the inside of your computer

  • or properly and cleanly uninstalling a programme

You’ll be surprised at how many of these tasks you can easily do yourself.

7. How do You Code or Programme?

If you want to learn the basics of programming, there are plenty of video tutorials on websites like YouTube.

Are you looking for free online lessons? You should check out Codeacademy, an interactive online platform offering lessons in six different programming languages including Python, PHP, JavaScript, HTML, and CSS.

Whether you’re on Windows, Mac, or Linux, learning PHP can be really useful.

8. Make Your Own Website!

You don’t need to be a web designer to make a website. There are plenty of sites that can help you do it quickly and easily. You can buy and modify pre-built websites before publishing them on platforms such as WordPress.

How do you build your own website?
If you want to make a website, you should study HTML and CSS. (Source: pixabay.com)

The best thing is that WordPress is free! PrestaShop is more or less the equivalent for online retailers though it can be far more complicated than WordPress.

9. What is IT Security?

When you learn about IT, you’ll learn that securing the wealth of information transferred over networks is imperative. In some cases, losing data can cost companies thousands.

Some of the world’s best hackers are even working for government agencies and multinationals in order to help secure their data from the threat of piracy or theft.

At the very least, you should make sure that you have antivirus software and a firewall. Additionally, tutorials on IT security wouldn’t hurt.

10. Take Private Tutorials to Learn about IT

What’s stopping you from taking private IT tutorials?

You can learn a lot and go at your own speed.

  • Thinking about learning how to code?

  • Interested in object-oriented programming?

  • Want to learn more about developing apps?

  • Or are you trying to build a robot?

What are the best ways to learn to code?
When you learn to programme, you should start with simple functions. (Source: Sabrina Gelbart)

There are so many different ways that an IT tutor could help you. The advantage of choosing a tutor on Superprof is that our tutors are reviewed and you can get an idea of how much their students (both past and present) like their teaching.

You should also consider computer courses for seniors since there’s no age limit when it comes to learning about computers!

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