The Computer Connection

“I need to learn about computers”, say more and more people these days. And our students are no exceptions.

People who are looking for work know that computers are regular fixtures in most workplaces. Parents want their children to have the advantages of computer knowledge to help them with schoolwork. People running home-based businesses know the benefit of on-line advertising. And others just want to know what the excitement is all about.

The advantages of using computers in literacy tutoring are many. It motivates people to read and write more. They can follow their interests by searching the Web. People with lousy handwriting can produce pieces that look neat, and it takes the agony out of editing. And for those who are embarrassed to admit that they need to attend literacy classes, it provides them with a more dignified reason – they can say they’re taking a computer course (which they are).

Here are some of the ways you can integrate computers into your tutoring:

Word-Processing (e.g. MS Word)

  • Key in lists, sentences and paragraphs that have first been written by hand.
  • Keep an up-to-date spelling list in alphabetical order.
  • Improve keyboarding skills (Typing Tutor, Mario Teaches Typing).
  • Write letters – business and personal.
  • Write résumés (Don’t use wizards! They’re more trouble than they’re worth).
  • Practise formatting and changing fonts (when writing letters, titles and sub-titles, résumés, etc.).
  • (for the tutor) Make cloze and comprehension exercises from passages that have already been keyed in.


Desktop Publishing (e.g. MS Publisher)

  • Make greeting cards, fancy borders for letters, inspirational fridge slogans
  • Make business cards, brochures or signs for small businesses or job searches
  • Write memoirs, family histories, kids’ stories or recipes in booklet format.


Spreadsheets (e.g. MS Excel)

  • Make a personal budget, display it in pie chart format.
  • Keep a record of monthly expenses.
  • Use pie charts to learn about fractions and percents.
  • Record and graph information from newspaper, magazines or Internet (weather, population, etc.)



  • Prepare a short slide show about a trip, the family, a hobby.
  • Use clip art or scan in personal photos.
  • Find an occasion to show it to a small group.

A Power Point presentation also provides an opportunity to practice the verbal skills needed to speak in front of a small group – each slide should be introduced and discussed.


The Internet

  • Sign up for a free e-mail account (e.g. Yahoo!) and exchange messages with family, friends and each other.
  • Search for topics of interest, learn different search techniques.
  • (for the tutor) Copy and paste articles from the Web into a word-processor, then re-write and re-format to suit your student’s reading level.
  • Do on-line quizzes, games and self-tests.
  • Research a family tree.

Try some of the many sites designed for adult literacy learners. Here are just a few:


If you feel that you need to know more about using these programs before teaching someone else, we have some computer training books in our resources. As well, there are many free options available online.

This site offers training in different types of common software. These courses are very detailed and very thorough. You’ll need some time to take full advantage of them.


Session 5 Index