Want to learn computer skills? If you’re heading north of 50, you’ll clearly remember a time when computers weren’t present in every classroom and every household. In fact, you’ll probably remember when computers were roughly the size of a minivan.
These days, your average smartphone is far more powerful than the computers that landed people on the moon, and your standard laptop even more so. With all this tech packed into such small devices, it’s little wonder they can seem intimidating. We can’t promise you a moon landing, but once you learn computer skills and master technology, a whole new world can open up to you.
Here is some advice on how to learn computer skills in Port Macquarie. Make this year the year you get tech-savvy, without feeling overwhelmed by everything that’s out there.
Why it’s important to learn computer skills
You may wonder, ‘Why do I need to be computer savvy? I’ve lived this long without computers”.
This may be true, but remember, times are always changing. Until the 1980s, you had no choice but to go into the bank to withdraw cash for the week and pay your bills. Nowadays, banks charge fees for many over the counter services! This is just one of the reasons most people do all their banking on their computers and via ATMs. Bills are paid online or electronically, with no cash changing hands, and without making the banks too much richer.
Even when you’re doing the weekly shopping, technology has changed. With more and more shops bringing in self-service counters, a level of knowledge is needed just to buy groceries. The self-serve queue can often be a lot shorter than all the others. Getting the heck out of the supermarket faster has got to be motivating, right?
At places like Centrelink, the staff are as likely to sit you in front of a computer as they are to assist with you in person. You will need to have an online account, plus keep track of your passwords in order to update your details or make a claim.
For almost everything these days, being self-reliant means you must learn computer skills. The upside of this is you can save a lot of time by taking care of tasks online. You can also assume a lot more control over many aspects of your life.
Outside of these more pressing needs, there is a remarkable social advantage to being online. Younger people live their lives on their phones and computers now and there is no better way to stay in touch with them than via social media.
Photos of your children and/or grandchildren will be easy to see online if you know how to use Facebook or Instagram. You can even see what far away friends have been up to lately. Having this type of connection can bring so much joy into your life and create strengthened bonds with distant relatives and people you’ve lost touch with.
Don’t let social media feel overwhelming. You can use these platforms (as they are known) to share as much or as little as you like with your friends and family.
Remember, it’s designed to be easy! Find a family member to help you get started and you will be a whizz on social media before you know it.
Entertainment and lifestyle
One thing that may be surprising is how many uses computers have. They are a tool to keep your brain engaged and even continue your skills and hobbies.
For those who may be having trouble holding a paintbrush like they used to, computers offer a variety of options. From the most basic drawing applications to the highly sophisticated Photoshop, more and more artists are going digital. When the eyes are a little fuzzy and the knees are a little achy, keyboard and mouse may prove more accessible than a physical canvas.
If you enjoy card and board games, computers offer a huge array of options. From Solitaire to Candy Crush to interactive online games, the options are staggering. You can even play Scrabble or cards with friends or relatives who live too far away to visit.
In our increasingly online world, computers also offer excellent advantages to those who may suffer from less mobility than they are used to. Almost anything can be ordered online these days and delivered to your door. From dinner to electronics to entertainment, the internet is the place to look for what you need. Most major supermarkets offer online shopping these days, meaning you can have your groceries delivered. It can save a trip to the shop when you’re just not feeling like battling the crowds.
The internet is known as the ‘information highway’ for a reason. No matter what you wish to learn about, the answer you seek lies behind your screen. Many people find a great deal of enjoyment by signing up for online learning. Searching on YouTube for ‘how-to’ videos on almost any subject is also fun and can help you get physical tasks done. Genealogy is another hobby which can be greatly helped along by the Internet.
Where to learn computer skills in Port Macquarie
If all the many uses of computers seem over your head, don’t worry. There are several services in Port Macquarie to help you learn computer skills.
With classes held in the Port Macquarie Library, the Port Macquarie Seniors Computer Group is a very welcoming group, focusing on teaching seniors vital computer skills. They hold a large range of courses including Basic Skills, Sending Emails with Windows and Online Safety.
Also in Port Macquarie, SkillsLink Training supplies an array of different courses, with IT and Digital Media are among these. In conjunction with the NSW government, SkillsLink provides low cost or free training to help make seniors tech savvy. Along with computer skills, they also provide training on smartphones and tablets so you can stay digitally connected from anywhere.
What devices should you consider?
When it comes to computers, you can spend an awful lot of money but you don’t necessarily need to. Unless you are doing major video editing or playing very high tech games, you’ll most likely be mostly using the word processor and the web browser.
If you wish to purchase a new laptop or computer, avoid letting any salesperson talk you into something highly powerful when all you plan to do is check Facebook, pay bills and write emails.
Be specific about what you are using the machine for and good salespeople will guide you in the right direction. Even if you don’t mind spending in excess of $1,000 on a cutting edge machine, you still need to think about what you intend to use it for.
As you may know, there are two main types of computers; Apple Macs and Windows. Both have their strengths and faults and many people fiercely prefer one over the other.
Don’t get swept up in the hype! If you have used one type of computer more, it is best to stick with that type. The only caveat being; if you do intend to play cutting edge games (and more and more over fifties are discovering how fun they can be) you may find a Microsoft machine more suited to this purpose.
Laptop vs Desktop Computer
The final decision is between a portable (laptop) computer or a desktop. Laptops are lightweight and you can take them with you on holiday or to your friends’ places, but they do have their limitations. They are sometimes more expensive than desktop computers while having a smaller screen.
If you want to take your machine wherever you go, a laptop is ideal but odds are you will only need it at home. As such, a desktop computer will do the job perfectly. Desktops have some very impressive screens these days and will handle anything you need to do.
Ask your friends what type of computer they use and how it works for them. Get an idea of what they spent before you make a purchase of your own.
You may find your needs are quite basic and you are happy with a tablet like an iPad. This will allow you to do simple online tasks like checking emails and paying bills. The advantage of a tablet is you can comfortably play games or watch videos from the couch. Again, do some research and speak to the sales assistant at your local computer dealer to find out of a tablet is really what you’re after.
How to avoid the pitfalls of technology
Once you have set yourself up online, be careful. The world is full of a lot of unscrupulous people who wish to take advantage of others.
The first and simplest rule, much with all other things in life is: if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you receive an email or see a link purporting to give you a miracle cure or make you millions of dollars, STAY AWAY! This is one way criminals lure their victims so avoid clicking on strange looking links or replying to unsolicited emails.
Phishing: Don’t get caught
One of the other biggest criminal problems online is called phishing. It sounds worrying but is actually easily avoidable with a little care.
The criminals behind phishing cast a metaphorical hook, like a scam email, and hope to land a ‘fish’. Many scam emails are made to look like official emails from banks or other financial institutions. Criminals will often illegally use official logos to make their emails look convincing.
The emails coming from phishing thieves may claim there has been a banking error and they need your password or credit card number to fix it. Never give these out online (or even over the phone) without being completely sure you are dealing with somebody legitimate.
Many phishing scams rely on making you panic. They may indicate some error has been made which may lead to your arrest. It is highly unlikely that any institution (especially the tax office) would contact you about something this serious over email.
If you receive a message like this, pick up the phone and contact whoever is claiming to send the email. Use a phone number that you’ve found yourself, rather than a phone number from the message. If it is genuine, they can help you sort it out. In the case of phishing, they need to know and can confirm your suspicions.
When an email arrives in your inbox and you can pick it as fake, delete it. There is no need to reply. As the old saying goes, ‘it is better safe than sorry’ so avoid anything slightly worrying at all costs and contact the associated parties before you click on any links or share your personal information.
Learn computer skills: how to deal with passwords
One of the trickiest things on the internet is passwords. Unfortunately, it’s best to use a different password for every service that requires one. If a criminal gets hold of one of your passwords, they will try it on any service of yours that they can find. Having multiple passwords is frustrating but it will prevent this.
The good news is most web browsers will remember your passwords for you. With a separate password for the computer itself, it is near impossible for anyone to get into your accounts.
Another service you can use is LastPass. This will securely store your passwords for free so you don’t have to write them all down.
Not ready to buy a computer? Here’s where to go to practice
Probably the best place to get some practice with a computer is the public library, Not only are computers free to use, the staff can help you a little. Most public libraries have internet accessible computers available to members. These computers will usually have all the most common programs as well as printing facilities, although printing may cost you a few cents per page.
If you’re over fifty, it’s more than likely you have offspring or friends with computers. When you visit, ask to have a go on theirs and pick their brains about the skills you can learn.
How to get help with technology when you’re stuck
No matter how savvy you’ve become, you can still you get stuck. Don’t despair, help is available.
Your first stop is your local computer repair company. There are a few providers in Port Macquarie, including PC Pitstop, Hastings IT and Port PC & Electronic Services.
If you need a cheaper alternative, you can always look to teenagers! Not all teens are computer savvy but most have good, broad knowledge. If it’s a simple problem they will probably be able to fix it for you.
A trip to the library or a seniors centre may well prove helpful too. Such community centres usually have staff who are there to support locals when they can. At the very least, they can point you in the right direction.
When it comes to using technology, you don’t have to dive right in and learn everything at once. Start with the basics like switching your device on and accessing your email. As you build your skills, learning more becomes easier.
Try not to get frustrated but to ask for help. Here’s one of the most helpful tips, which even the experts turn to: If it’s not working, turn the machine off and on again. Often, this is all that’s needed.
If you have a laptop or iPad, why not bring it to Westport Club? We offer free Wifi and welcome members who would like to browse the web while enjoying our facilities.