TECHNOLOGY FOCUS- Learn basic skills to enhance computer literacy

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN ALEEN RATZLAFF
The technology revolution has made knowing how to use your computer as necessary as knowing how to read and write.

For novices who cringe at navigating their way on the computer, learning some basic skills can alleviate a lot of angst.

Sorb Computers in Hillsboro and Great Plains Computers & Networking in Marion offer a variety of classes for individuals who want to gain some basic as well as advanced knowledge about computers.

Jon Denning and Marc Penner of Sorb recently finished teaching a two-week basic computer skills class at their store on South Main.

“The first session was geared toward people who have never touched a computer before,” Denning said.

The classes, deliberately kept small, give students plenty of hands-on experience as well as opportunities to ask questions.

“The first class is mostly geared toward becoming familiar with how to use the computer, as far as keyboard, mouse and Windows,” Denning said.

During the second week students focus on using icons, managing folders and organizing files, Denning said.

The computer training also gives students basic understanding about computer terminology.

“If, for instance, they were having a problem (with the computer) and we were talking it through with them over the phone, they could be able to follow if we said, ‘click on this, don’t click on that,'” Denning said.

Sorb also offers a second-level class for those who want to become more familiar with using the Microsoft Office software package.

“It’s a crash course in familiarizing yourself with the computer,” Denning said, adding that frequency for offering the courses is based on demand.

Cost for lessons at Sorb is $60 per session.

Great Plains Computers & Networking also offers computer classes, which are normally scheduled during the spring and fall, depending on enrollment numbers, said Shelley Plett of GPC&N.

Classes, which require a minimum of two students, are offered for businesses and individuals, beginners and advanced, she said.

GPC&N offers four types of courses-Computer Basics, Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word and Microsoft Access.

“We are currently renovating the upstairs to our building, which will give us expanded areas to hold our classes and seminars,” Plett said, adding they also will set up training for a department or office.

Cost for classes differ, depending on the course. The Computer Basics class is $35 for the first level and $55 for two levels, while the software courses are $45 for the first level and $80 for two levels.

Two area women, Jane Unruh and Lea Isaac of Supreme Floor Co. on North Main in Hillsboro, recently completed a basic computer class at Sorb Computers.

“The computer was very new to me,” Unruh said. “I’ve been a housewife and stay-at-home mom all these years.”

Unruh said she answers the phone, waits on customers and does some work on the computer at Supreme Floor Co., owned by Stuart and Lea Isaac, which opened April 1.

Becoming comfortable with the computer has been a challenge for her.

“When I first used the mouse, I had a terrible time using it,” Unruh said. “My son-in-law tried to help me. I just had a time with that mouse, getting it to go where I wanted it to…but the classes helped with that.”

Unruh said the classes were held from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Marc Penner taught the first session and Jon Denning taught the second.

“The sessions were hands-on,” she said. “We each sat at a computer, which is nice-very informal.”

Unruh said she appreciated the one-on-one input from her instructors.

“We were free to ask questions,” she said. “They sat right beside us and helped us.”

Because each women was seated at a computer, they were able to practice different skills and tasks on the computer.

“For one thing we talked about what folders were and how to organize your files,” Unruh said.

Denning said Isaac had more familiarity with the computer than Unruh.

“Lea has used the computer for some time,” Denning said. “She does very few things on it. It was good for her to be able to learn other aspects of the computer and the programs.”

Although the curriculum had specific input planned for the different sessions, the instructors were able to adapt the lessons to the students’ needs and to give them time to practice and ask specific questions, Unruh said.

At the store, both Unruh and Isaac often use the computer for word-processing.

One of their frequent tasks is sending information printed on letterhead paper. Denning said in the past, they would have to make sure to leave enough space at the top of the page for the letterhead.

“We set up the page margins to make default margins-then you never have to think about it again,” Denning said.

Unruh said she became more familiar with terminology. “I just brought a notebook and took notes,” she said. “They did give us a book that came with the class, so we can always look things.”

Unruh said she found the book relatively easy to understand. In the past, the class had followed the book more closely, she said, but they did more picking and choosing this time.

The classes focused on the basics for using the computer, learning the keys, learning about moving files, sending e-mail and using the word-processing program.

“I still dealing with that a little bit, but the more you use it, the more comfortable you get with it,” she said.

Unruh recommends that others take the class at Sorb. “It helped me understand the computer a little more, how it worked and what you can do,” she said.

Unruh also said she’s found that what she learns in one Windows program is often transferrable to others.

“It has a pattern that you can pretty much follow,” Unruh said.

At the store, she was working in QuickBook and she had to add an entry.

“I actually figured out something on my own,” she said. “And I just felt like jumping up and down. Before I was never able to do that.”

For information about enrolling in computer classes, contact Sorb Computers at 947-5000 or Great Plains Computers & Networking at 620-382-2006.

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