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Introduction to Computers Curriculum

Throughout the course, we will use the Absolute Beginner's Guide to Computer Basics (4th Ed.) as our textbook. This will be referred to below as the Absolute Beginner's Guide.

Introduction to Computers

Getting to Know Your Personal ComputerAbsolute Beginner's Guide: Getting to Know Your Personal Computer System (pp. 11–14).

What are all those stupid cables for? – Interestingly, the article misses three very old and important cables. The black cable with 9-pins is called a serial data plug. The gray, very wide plug is called a parallel data connector. Both are used on Windows computers to transfer data to printers and other peripherals. The picture doesn't even show your most important cable, the three wire power plug! The article also doesn't mention an important feature of the RJ45 (Internet) connector. The RJ45 has plastic springy clip to keep it "locked" into the socket. You must squeeze the clip when pulling out the plug, or you will either break the clip or rip out the wiring! Fortunately, the eMac is an all-in-one-unit, minimizing the number of cables it needs.

Computer HardwareAbsolute Beginner's Guide: Computer Hardware Basics, Part I (pp. 14–20, 20–26).

The Windows WorldAbsolute Beginner's Guide: Getting to Know Windows Vista (pp. 47–53, 53–59, 60–66). While students will be using Apple eMac computers, it's important for students to be able to switch flexibly between Windows computers and Macs.

Files and FoldersAbsolute Beginner's Guide: Working with Files, Folders, and Disks (pp. 91–97, 98–104). The text describes the Windows system, but actually both Windows and Macs use very similar systems.


Microtype – Students learn how to type using the Microtype keyboard training system. Emphasis will be placed on keeping students to touch-type by keeping their hands on the "home" keys at all times.

Google Earth

In my Google Earth unit, students use Google Earth software to explore the planet using satellite-image photographs. The students can zoom in on the earth's surface as though they looking down from outer space. The students see how orbiting satellites can view into anyone's backyard and see objects as small as automobiles. Many people, especially in Europe, are concerned about pricvacy issues. English village covers Google lens (LA Times, 12/13/09). In a related article in the Los Angeles Times, Google Earth devotees scan images from around the world looking for chance events captured by satellite photographs. (Did you know that Google Earth has a built-in flight simulator?)

Sky-High Map Guys – (Newsweek, 10/16/06) The old business of aerial mapping is taking off in the Internet age.

Google Mappers Banned from U.S. Bases – (LA Times, 3/7/08) Should Google mappers be allowed to go anywhere? How about military installations?


Absolute Beginner's Guide: The Suite Spot: Working with Microsoft Works. For the Painting and Drawing units, the class will be using AppleWorks. However, the same skills can be used on a Windows computer using the Microsoft Works suite, which comes pre-installed on all Windows computers. Similarities and differences will be noted. Microsoft works can also be used instead of AppleWorks during our Spreadsheet and Database units.

Travel Poster – Students use Appleworks to draw travel posters for their favorite destinations.

Greeting Cards – Students use Appleworks to draw their own holiday greeting cards.

Is Seeing Believing? – If photos can be altered, what images in the media can you trust? Students watch, "Is Seeing Believing" video. In the Advanced Class, we will use Adobe Photoshop to modify photographs.


Map of Muir – Students use AppleWorks to draw maps of the Muir campus and learn how "drawing" software differs from "painting" software.

Exploring the Internet

In this unit students explore interesting websites on the Internet.

Internet Words to Know – The basic vocabulary students need to know to discuss using the Internet.

Quick tips when searching on the Internet:

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Using the Internet (pp. 117–122, 123–128, 223–229).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Surfing the Web with Internet Explorer (pp. 241–245, 246–251). Our class will be using Firefox to access the Internet; however, students will find that Internet Explorer (used in the Windows world) is very similar.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Searching the Web (pp. 253–259).

Google Maps – Students get a street-level, 360-degree view of the city. How the pictures are taken. What problems do you think might occur if there are trucks driving around all-day long taking street-level pictures of the city? Do you think they might sometimes capture pictures of things people might not want others to see? Things people have seen on Goggle Maps.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Shopping Online (pp. 261–269).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: eBay Online Auctions (pp. 271–277, 277–283).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Blogs (pp. 285–290).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Podcasts (pp. 291–294).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Social Networking with Myspace (pp. 295–303).

Video: Fox News: Stalking the Stalkers. Dangers of online predators. When you are surfing the Internet, you never EVER give out: your real name, address, phone, e-mail, or school to people you meet over the Internet.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Creating Your Own Web Page (pp. 305–311). This subject will be covered in much greater detail in the Advance Class.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Other Cool and Useful Websites (pp. 313–321).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Instant Messaging (pp. 323–328). Instant Messaging is block on school computers by the school district; however, within the classroom students can use iChat.

What is copyright? See the description below in the Computer Ethics section.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Downloading and Playing Digital Music (pp. 367–373, 373–379).

Video: 60 Minutes: Pirates of the Internet. See the description below in the Computer Ethics section. (If you think the guy in the video is getting away with something, read what happened to Napster later).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Playing DVDs and Videos on your PC (pp. 393–397, 398–401).

Yahooligans at the Window (Newsweek 2/11/08) – Microsoft vs. Google. Who will dominate the Internet? Billions of dollars are at stake.


E-mail. Students set up their own Yahoo Mail and Gaggle e-mail accounts.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Protecting Your PC from Viruses, Spam, and Other Online Nuisances (pp. 147–153, 154–159).

What if you don't want to give out your e-mail address, but a company requires the address to log in? Get a one-day, disposable e-mail address from (LAUSD blocks this website at school, but it's useful outside of school.)

Computer Fraud – There are many forms of computer fraud. Students learn what "phishing" is, and how to spot e-mail scam letters. Examples of phishing attacks (the 19-Apr-05 Banks of America attack is a good example.) There is even a game called Anti-Phishing Phil you can play online to help you learn about how to avoid phishing attacks. (Move your mouse around to move "Phil the fish" over one of the worms. Press E to eat the worm, R to reject the worm, or T to have the computer teach you.) You should also take the Sonicwall Phishing Test. A recent article in Scientific American on avoiding phishing attacks. FBI cyber investigations.

Computer Ethics

What are Ethics?What are we talking about when we use the word "ethics?" (from Internet & Computer Ethics for Kids)

Copyright – What is copyright and when is it okay to copy music, software and other things you find on the Internet? Students watch and discuss the CBS 60 Minutes video, "Pirates of the Internet," about the problem of Internet piracy and illegal copying. What is "Fair Use" and under what circumstances may you use copyrighted material? What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA)? How does it affect users of electronic copyrighted material? (if you think the guy in the video is getting away with something, read what happened to Napster later). Piracy May Keep the Beat From Going On – For typing practice, students copy an Los Times article on CD music piracy. Students also read an article on how the MPAA plans to use lawsuits to stop film piracy. The SIIA Anti-Piracy website has more information on the subject, as does the Motion Picture Association of America. People seldom realize that by illegally downloading music they leave themselves open to big lawsuits by record companies. A federal jury recently ordered one student to pay $675,000 to four record companies for illegally downloading and distributing 30 songs.

Cheating – Students watch a CBS 60 Minutes video,"Cheaters," on how universities are using computer systems to catch students who cheat on term papers by downloading ready-made reports from "cheating" websites. In US, some students buy--not try--to excel at schaool. Students discuss why cheating is self-defeating. LA Times article (3-30-08) High tech cheats, low tech reasons.

Online Harassment – Students read the USA Today article, "Town may criminalize online harassment". They then discuss and comment on the issues involved in online harassment. Finally, the students read the worksheet "Dealing with Online Bullies" and write an essay about how they would respond to the situation described on the worksheet. More information on the subject can be found at and

Computer Hacking – Students learn about the consequences of computer hacking by reading Teen Faces 38 Years in Prison For Hacking School Computers.

Technology and Global Poverty – Individuals in first-world countries spend billions on technological gadgets while billions of people around the world live on less than $1 a day. Where does technology fit in, in a world of global suffering? Students watch a video from Feed the Children and discuss the issues.


Internet Safety – Students watch a Fox news video, "Stalking the Stalker," on cyberstalkers and discuss the dangers of giving out personal information over the internet. More information on cyberstalking. CBS News 48 Hours article on FBI program to catch cyberpredators. More information about Internet safety is available at and

Privacy in the Information Age – Technology has increasingly allowed business and government to monitor and invade people's private affairs? Where will it all end? LA Times article on how it will soon be possible for individuals to be tracked by their cellphones.

Computer Viruses – Students learn how to protect their computers from computer viruses, worms and "trojan horses."

Identity Theft – Even teens need to be aware of Identity Theft. What can you do to keep your personal and financial information private.

How Computers Work

The Journey Inside – Students watch the Intel video series "The Journey Inside" to learn how computers operate.

Microsoft Word

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Introducing Microsoft Office (pp. 174–177). Once students have mastered the keyboard, we will have more advanced assignments using Microsoft Word, part of the Microsoft Office Suite.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Working with Microsoft Word (pp. 179–185). Both Windows and Macs use Microsoft Word for creating documents.

Mary Had a Little Lamb – Practice using Microsoft Word. Students will learn how to format a Word document, as well as such features as Find and Replace.

What Went Wrong

Business Letters – Students learn the proper format for a business letter and envelope.

Resume – A resume is a sheet that tells a potential employer what your qualifiations are. Students practice typing a sample resume.

When Is It Okay to Copy Computer Software? – Sometimes it's okay, and soemtimes not.

When Will Ever Use THIS? – Why are we learning all this computer stuff?

My Bullied Son – Online bullying can have tragic consequences.

Why Not Cheat?

The Man Behind the Glass Wall – Check your vocabulary using an Internet dictionary. Read The Man Behind the Glass Wall. Then write a 250-word, properly-formatted essay. Pretend it is now twenty years in the future. You are the man (or woman) behind the glass wall. What would you like to say to the person you are today.


Absolute Beginner's Guide: Working with Microsoft Excel (pp. 193–198, 198–202). We will use Excel for making tables, charts, and graphs.

Ice Cream Survey – Students make their first Excel spreadsheet and pie chart.

Dogs and Cats Survey – The class does a slightly more complex spreadsheet and column chart with formulas.

Weather Data. Students enter weather data from around the world onto an Excel spreadsheet, and use that data to prepare temperature charts.

Who has the Fastest Reflexes? – Students drop rulers through one another's fingers to see who can catch the falling ruler the fastest. Student then compile their results on a spreadsheet and chart the results.

Lemonade Sales. As one of the projects in our unit on spreadsheets, students were assigned to create an Excel spreadsheet showing the sales and profits of a hypothetical lemonade stand over a five day period.

Population Growth – Students watch a video on population growth, A Popular Little Planet, and then create a graph showing the world's population growth.


Absolute Beginner's Guide: Working with Microsoft PowerPoint (pp. 203–207, 208–211). The Windows version of PowerPoint is very similar to the Mac version.

Ancient Civilizations – Students view a PowerPoint presentation on the major early civilizations, and then are shown how it was created.

Healthy Foods – Students create a PointPoint presentation of nutritious foods.

My Favorite Artist – Students use Powerpoint to create a presentation highlighting their favorite musical artist or band.

Trade Tech – Students make a presentation of career training options available at Los Angeles Trade Technical College. View Trade Tech College Catalog. Related article: A No-Fail Career in Just Two Years


We will use AppleWorks for creating databases, but Windows users can use the database module in Microsoft Works.

Store Inventory – Students learn about databases by creating a simple store inventory using Appleworks (Note: Windows users can use Microsoft Works)

Sport Interest Database – Students use Appleworks to create a database of which students are interested in which sports. From that, students prepare a mailing to invite recipients to join a basketball league.

What Cereal Has the Most Sugar? – Using the Appleworks database module, students compile a database of information on the nutritional content of breakfast cereals to discover which cereals are high or low in sugar content.

Careers in Computing

Building Jobs—In Manufacturing – Jobs are plentiful, if you have computer skills. The jobs leaving the United States for overseas are the low-paying, unskilled assembly-line jobs. The demand for manufacturing workers with computer skills remains high.

Other Topics

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Using Your PC with a Digital Camera (pp. 329–335). This topic will be covered in much greater detail in the Advanced Class.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Organizing and Editing Your Digital Photos (pp. 337–340, 341–345). This topic will be covered in much greater detail in the Advanced Class.

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Playing, Ripping, and Burning CDs (pp. 353–359, 359–365).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Using Your PC with an iPod or MP3 Player (pp. 381–386).

Absolute Beginner's Guide: Making Your Own Digital Movies (pp. 403–410). This topic will be covered in much greater detail in the Advanced Class.



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