Entering the third decade of the 21st Century, everyone must have basic computer skills. There is no established list of what should comprise these essential skills. But it’s more important that people feel comfortable around computers.
At this point, it’s generally agreed that anyone who doesn’t know how to boot a computer or open a file needs immediate computer literacy training. Fortunately, that training available at libraries, literacy centers, and elsewhere.
Here, we’re looking primarily at the technology basics someone would need to complete an online application, get a foot in the job market, etc.
1. Basic Computer Skills: Functions You Should Know
Let’s begin with some of the basics of computer literacy. As with print literacy, computer literacy has progressive levels of ability and experience. And as with any education, once someone knows the basics, they can go in different directions.
But what are the basics? We would say that using a word-processing program is a necessity. People need to write, but most have horrible handwriting, and typewriters are almost non-existent.
Knowing how and where to save a document is essential, as is sending it to a printer. And, speaking of modern written communication, everyone should have an e-mail account and know how to use it.
Even knowing how to take a screenshot is very helpful. If you don’t know how to save something you’ve created, at least you can snap a photo of it. Screenshots are also great for documenting problems if you need to contact a help desk.
2. Microsoft Office
Most employers consider a broad knowledge of the programs comprising Microsoft Office to be fundamental to any job. A job candidate would need at least an intermediate-level fluency with Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.
Know, too, that a growing alternative to Office is Google’s G-Suite. Despite some palpable differences from Office, G-Suite is a flexible general-use software bundle.
As you learn the different Office programs, you’ll also pick up keyboard basics like shortcuts, function keys, cut and paste, the escape key, and more.
3. Video Conferencing
If you’re at all familiar with computer basics, you won’t have trouble learning popular video conferencing programs like Zoom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex Meetings, BlueJeans, and GoToMeeting.
As more and more people work from home or decrease their corporate travel, virtual meetings and events are rising. The COVID pandemic sealed the deal on this, and we doubt there will be any going back to how things were.
4. Adobe Creative Suite
We don’t know anyone who has learned even several Adobe Creative Suite programs, much less the many functions of each. Once you have the technology basics under your belt, though, feel free to challenge yourself.
A great deal of today’s marketing collateral and other publicity materials are produced with Adobe programs like Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign. And as videos and interactive features become the norm, many of Adobe’s audio-visual programs fill that need.
5. Collaboration Tools
Many collaboration tools exist today. Using them effectively might be a generational concern as much as it is about computer literacy or technological skills.
There once was a distinction between collaborative spaces and private workspaces like offices and cubicles. It’s hard to get used to Facebook-type collaboration programs like Slack that have taken over both.
Nonetheless, Slack and counterparts (e.g., Trello and Microsoft Teams) play a critical role. They organize an otherwise ultra-flexible and often dispersed workplace. So we agree that facility with collaboration programs needs to be considered basic computer skills.
6. Internet and Social Media Savvy
This item is more about computer literacy than essential technological skills. It’s one thing to look something up with a search engine or login to a social media site. It’s another thing entirely to find what you need using these websites.
Being able to distinguish fake news from properly sourced and vetted information is a learned skill. It requires computer literacy of a type that now has to be taught in K-12 schools or even required as part of colleges’ basic curricula.
7. Data Analytics
Data analytics demands both high-level computer skills and sophisticated computer literacy. You could say that this is the opposite end of the spectrum from simply knowing how to write, save, and print a document.
“Data analytics” is an encompassing term for many and diverse types of data analysis. Any kind of information can be used in data analytics techniques to gather insight.
This burgeoning field matters because businesses rely on it to optimize performance. Integrating it in a business model means a company can help reduce its costs. Using data analytics to discover more efficient ways of doing business is now routine.
We include data analytics as the last item in our list because of its growing use today and much greater potential for future years. A generation or two from now, data analytics (or its successor) might be so fundamental as to be a grade school learning standard.
What Goes Around…
In the grand scheme of history, the 15th Century wasn’t all that long ago. But that’s when Johannes Gutenberg turned a wine press into a movable type printing press and changed the world.
Not only did Gutenberg’s press foreshadow the mass production of industrialization, but it introduced literacy. And along with that, illiteracy. These would not become social concerns until centuries later. But the roots of exclusion were evident.
Just as data analytics might feel like second nature to a young child 50 years from now, so too did reading skills in the late 20th Century. Without print literacy, there would be no internet.
Just a few decades ago, basic computer skills meant knowing how to turn on a computer and start the operating system. It wasn’t as simple as it is today.
Despite stereotypes of today’s elders avoiding computers, many of them understand computer basics and, in many cases, much more. Every new technology has an adoption curve, and for technological sea changes, that curve can take centuries.
What’s more, all of us need to remain current with the fast-paced digital environment if we’re claiming to understand computer basics. These change daily. Keep following our site if you want to stay current.