SOS Computers

 A course in computer skills for recent Sudanese refugees in the Boston area
schedule, location, attendees
what we'll learn about
what we have learned about so far
additional resources
Instructors: Xavier Haurie (SOS volunteer) with help from Sara Bursac (ROCA), and other friends. 
This is going to be fun!  no tests. no lectures. 

We're working on getting books for the class or producing printed notes. I'm also going to list resources on the internet.

Location, Schedule, Attendees

Location: Computer Lab (ground floor) ROCA, Chelsea.  

We're up to 17 students in two sessions. We can accommodate 1 more students in the 6pm session. 

Classes will be held on the following Sundays in November and December: 

  • November 11: 5:30pm
  • November 18: 4pm and 6pm
  • November 25: no class (Thanksgiving holiday)
  • December 2: 4pm and 6pm
  • December 9: 4pm and 6pm
  • December 16: 4pm and 6pm
  • December 23: to be determined
Students in the 4pm session: 
  1. Maluk 
  2. Justin 
  3. John 
  4. Simon B. 
  5. Peter
  6. Simon M.
  7. David G.
  8. Ayuen
  9. Santino
Students in the 6pm session: 
  1. Peter G.
  2. Isaac
  3. Abraham
  4. Arkanjelo
  5. Panther
  6. David L.
  7. Michael
  8. Daniel
  9. (space for one more student)

What We'll Learn About

We'll learn about things like: 
  • what is a computer, and what does a computers do?
  • What are the Internet, the web, email, word processors, printers? What re they used for? How does one use them?
  • Note: all the words in orange have a special meaning when talking about computers. One of the objectives of the course is to learn their meaning.
Sounds complicated? It can be, until you get used to it. Then it will be simple. We'll do it step by step so the students never feel lost. 

I think we'll cover the following topics, but you can all tell me what you want to do instead, at any time. Also, we don't need to stick to this order, and we can cover the same topic again if needed. 

Part 1: using a computer for the very first time  

  • question: what is your experience with computers?
  • question: what do you want to do with a computer?
  • turning the computer on
  • using the mouse (moving, clicking, selecting, dragging, dropping)
    • activity: the "folder race"
  • all the icons on the screen, what do they mean?
  • starting a program (notepad)
  • using the keyboard to type a short text
  • saving the text in a file
  • exiting the program
  • opening the file again
  • modifying the text and saving it again
    • activity: "passing the bucket" (if network allows it)
  • printing the text
  • turning the computer off
  • conclusions
    • perspective: what's the difference between a file and a program?
    • perspective: all computers are not identical!
    • perspective: so what can one do with a computer? it depends on the programs that are installed on it.
Part 2: using the web for the very first time 
  • question: what do you know about the web?
  • question: what do you expect to find on the web?
  • starting a web browser (Internet Explorer)
  • looking at a web page
  • what do all the icons, buttons and messages on the browser mean?
  • what are all the things on the web page? (links, images, text, buttons, forms)
  • surfing the web using the mouse
    • activity: finding "leaf" pages
  • bookmarks
  • saving (and printing) a web page
  • going to a specific place on the web using a URL
  • what are good starting points for surfing? (yahoo, google, etc.)
  • finding information on the web using search engines
    • activity: pick a topic and find as many facts about that topic as there are students in the class. Make a single folder with all the web pages saved in it.
  • reading the news on the web
    • activity: find as many versions of the same news story as possible
    • perspective: where you get your information influences what information you get
  • what are places where one can access the Internet (libraries, internet cafes, friends)
  • conclusions
    • perspective: what's the difference between the Internet and the web?
    • perspective: there are billions of web pages
    • perspective: the quality of information on the web varies a lot
    • perspective: webbed services (banking, shopping, etc.)
Part 3: using web based email 
  • question: how many persons outside of the Boston area do you communicate with each week?
  • getting a web email account
  • sending email to someone's email address
  • saving mail for later and printing email
  • receiving and reading email
  • forwarding and quoting received email
    • activity: "passing the bucket" (this time with email). Send the final email to the volunteers list.
  • sending a web page or a link by email
  • subscribing to a mailing list (the SOS-computers mailing list!)
  • sending email to a mailing list
  • unsubscribing from a mailing list
  • conclusions
    • perspective: what do people use email for?
    • perspective: what are mailing lists useful for?
    • perspective: "netiquette"
Part 4: some basic "office" skills 
  • question: how many computers do you see in a single day, at work and elsewhere? who uses them?
  • keyboard skills: how to type faster
    • activity: typing your name without looking, until you get it right!
  • writing a letter using a word processor
  • printing the letter
  • maybe: doing simple things using a spreadsheet
  • copying files to a diskette
  • reading a CD-ROM
Part 5: fun stuff 
  • many different kinds of games
  • playing an audio CD
  • listening to music on the web
Part 6: how to use the Internet from home? 
  • one needs a computer with a modem
  • one needs a telephone line
  • getting an account with an Internet Service Provider
  • setting up the connection
  • connecting the computer to the Internet
  • closing the connection
Part 7: caring for your home computer 
  • good habits to have so your computer will keep working
  • what if things go wrong?
  • finding things on your computer
  • "cleaning" your computer (literally, and figuratively)
Advanced topics (we will try to cover some of them) 
  • creating and hosting a web page
  • doing more things with a word processor
  • doing more things with a spreadsheet
  • installing software

What We Have Learned About so Far

Part 1: using a computer for the very first time  
  • question: what is your experience with computers?
  • question: what do you want to do with a computer?
  • terminology: hard drive, monitor/screen/display, keyboard, mouse, desktop 
  • using the mouse (moving, clicking, selecting)
  • opening and closing windows
  • the "Cancel" button
  • the "My Computer" icon
  • creating a new text file (using the right mouse button)
  • starting a notepad
  • using the keyboard to type a short text
  • saving the text in a file
  • exiting the program
  • printing the text
  • perspective: all computers are not identical!
  • perspective: things one do with a computer: design print material (letters, documents, posters, etc.), search for information on the web, send email, create web sites and mailing lists, run an office or a factory

Additional Resources

Access to the Computer Lab:

ROCA's computer lab can be used by individual students on weekday afternoons. Enquire with Sara Bursac for exact times.

Teaching materials:

Learning to use Internet Explorer 5 (meant for highschool but great for everybody)
Free Hardware?

David Chanoff said the University of  New Hampshire may be able to donate used computers to us. If that happens we'll be able to equip many more apartments with their own computer. I am looking into it. 

Help outside the classroom

I'll make myself available for house calls! Getting a computer to run and keeping it in working order can sometimes be tricky. And sometimes you may just want a simple answer to a simple question. You can contact me by telephone or by email: 

  • telephone: 781-648-3318 (leave a message if  I'm not there)
  • email:

updated November 18, 2001.
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