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Preparing to Use Technology

Preparing to Use Technology

Author: Alison DeRudder

Recognize the basic computer skills and related tools required in higher education.

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Tutorial Audio

what's covered
This tutorial offers some advice about how to prepare to use technology as a student in higher education. Here is a list of what’s covered:
  1. Basic Technological Requirements
  2. Your Computer Literacy
  3. Improving Your Computer Literacy

1. Basic Technological Requirements

Your individual classes are going to require you to use technology in different ways, but there are a few basic aspects of contemporary technology and computer literacy that you will definitely need to have access to and know how to use. Your instructors won't be going over these things in class—they will expect that you already have access to these things and can use them:

  • A computer. What about other devices? Depending on the model, a tablet may be sufficient, but a laptop is what most students prefer because it is portable and versatile. A smartphone is probably not the right device to use for all of your coursework, although you could use it for some things like basic research and participating in some online discussions. You are not required to purchase your own new computer, but at a minimum, you do need to have regular, reliable access to one that works well. Many schools have computer labs and libraries with computers you could use, but they may not be available when you need them. Secure your access to a computer that works well, and learn how to turn it on and use it before you start classes.
  • Stable internet connection. You will need to get online to research, access and send emails, and participate in online courses. If you don't have internet access at home, you could visit your campus, a cafe, or another place that does have internet you can access for free. A "stable" connection is one that is available when you need it and does not drop out when you are working. Your instructors may not be lenient if you claim you lost your work because of a poor connection. Save yourself the frustration, and find a place with a good connection to complete your schoolwork before you start your classes.
  • Word processing software. Most courses require you to do some writing. Handwritten papers and papers written on a typewriter are a thing of the past, and many instructors would not accept a handwritten paper. Microsoft Word is the most popular software, and if you do not already own this software on your computer, you can obtain a student license for a reduced fee. Alternatively, the computer labs on campus or your public library would have this software. At a minimum, learn how to type, format a document, and add citations to a paper.

  • Email. At most schools, you will be set up with an email address that is specific to your school which you will use for your communications with faculty, administration, and other students. At a minimum, you should know how to access your school email account, read emails, and compose emails with attachments.

These technologies are your baseline; you’ll almost certainly learn to work with more advanced and specific media, but familiarity with these things is a good starting point.

2. Your Computer Literacy

If you’re not completely confident in your access to or ability to use the baseline elements of technological capability and computer literacy—access to a stable internet connection and the ability to use email and word processing—test these things out and make sure!

You want to be as prepared and up-to-speed with the everyday functioning of your class as possible, so it’s best to figure out whether and how your computer literacy could stand to improve. If you are going to be using an older computer, another precaution is to make sure your operating system and web browser are sufficiently up-to-date.

3. Improving Your Computer Literacy

If you feel you’ve fallen way behind the rest of the world in terms of your computer literacy, there is no need to panic. You might have to proactively seek some extra help and spend some time getting situated in your new digital educational environment, but these are far from insurmountable obstacles. The upside of a world where everyone seems to know more about technology than you do is that all those people can potentially help you with technology!

In addition to the valuable resources you might have within your social circles, you can find help with computer literacy at a school or public library (and you can consult both the books and the librarians).

Finally, if you know how to conduct a web search, the internet is a great place to find basic tutorials on computer literacy.

The basic technological requirements you need to have access to are a computer, a reliable internet connection, word processing software, and your school email account. Reflect on where your computer literacy stands, and if you haven't mastered the basics of these technologies, you need to take the time to improve your computer literacy before you start classes.