Computer Literacy/Foreword

This page explains whys and hows of the book. It is intended for parents, teachers, and independent learners. It should not be recited to little children as it would just bore them.

Why desktop computers?


Computers come in many flavors. Most people come across two variants: phones/tablets and desktops/laptops. While popularity of phones and tablets has soared, desktops and laptops offer a number of advantages in education:

  • Laptops and especially desktops have large screens. Everything is easy to see.
  • Desktops have a comfortable mouse that allows precise positioning. Even laptops have a usable touchpad and mouse can be connected when needed. Tablets and phones only allow inaccurate taps.
  • Laptops and especially desktops have full keyboard, which allows comfortable typing. It also supports keyboard shortcuts, which are essential in some apps, for example Blender.
  • Software on tablets and phones is dumbed down and limited, which is contrary to the computer literacy goal of teaching people how to fully exploit the potential of computers.
  • Hardware and software on tablets and phones is designed for consumption of information, but a good computer literacy book would show how to create new information.
  • Desktops are fast. Even laptops are way faster than tablets and phones. This makes desktops and laptops comfortable to use and allows them to run more advanced software. Performance is particularly important in browsers.
  • Desktops are the least costly option, even when compared to tablets. They can be assembled for less than $300. They last a long time. They don't get dropped. Failed components can be replaced individually instead of having to replace the whole device.
  • High-quality free software is available for desktops/laptops.
  • Online ads are easier to disable on desktops/laptops, which helps students concentrate.

This wikibook nevertheless covers specifics of tablets and phones after all the main concepts are introduced on desktops.

Why Linux?


Computer literacy courses were first introduced in the 90s. Back then, Windows was an obvious choice. Times have changed and the choice is no longer obvious. While Windows is still popular, especially in business, there are good reasons to build new computer literacy courses on Linux:

  • Linux is available free of charge and without licensing restrictions. That makes it compatible with the goal of this wikibook to provide a free computer literacy textbook.
  • Linux comes packed with a large number of free applications.
  • Cutting software costs and indirectly also hardware costs enables wider adoption of computer literacy courses in financially strained public education.
  • Zero licensing costs make it possible to always use the latest version with all features included.
  • The free licensing makes students independent of the school lab. They can try everything at home.
  • On a more philosophical level, computer literacy helps students regain control over their computers and opensource is part of that.
  • After the collapse of the license fee model, commercial software vendors are looking for other revenue sources like advertising, gathering of personal data, hidden limitations, squeeze sales, or even malware, none of which are conductive to learning. Linux and largely also the apps that run on it are free of these tactics.
  • Opensource is gaining ground everywhere. It is expected that children learning to use computers now will be mostly using opensource software when they grow up.
  • The permissive licensing allows virtualization, backup, and duplication of customized learning environments, which can ease classroom management if it is done at scale.

More arguments can be found in FOSS Education wikibook.

Windows is still an important part of computing world. This book provides a brief introduction to Windows and MacOS specifics after demonstrating most of the concepts in Linux.

Conventions used in this book


Text is written so that it can be read directly to children. Or children can read it themselves. Information for parents and teachers is separated into the following types of boxes. This information might be also of interest to older children and adult learners.

Every page has a navigation box at the top of the page, so that you can move to the next or previous lesson without going through the table of contents on the main page.


To do:
Tips and tricks.