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Computer fundamentals refers to the basics of using digital devices such as computers, smart phones and tablets. “Computer” used to only refer to the basics of using a computer and associated devices; however, it has since expanded to include most frequently-used digital devices. “Fundamentals” refers to basics, or the general skills someone should know to be able to use and navigate these devices.

Mastering computer fundamentals is important not only for students, but for adults as well. In our increasingly digital world, countless tasks, education, activities and communication rely on the use of digital tools. From tablets and smartphone applications, laptops and digital commerce tools, internet research and communication and more, digital devices are deeply ingrained in our everyday life and are projected to become even more so in the foreseeable future. Enabling our students with computer fundamentals skills provides them with skills and knowledge to utilize the digital devices of today as well as providing foundations that will empower them to more easily understand and use future technology as well.

What is Included in Computer Fundamentals?

Computer fundamentals refers to a basic understanding of how to navigate and use digital devices, including how they interact with each other. As such, the following are typically included in computer fundamentals curriculum:

  • Identifying typical computer and digital device components, including processors, keyboards, monitors, speakers, power buttons, etc.
  • Understanding the function of basic digital components, such as identifying and using a mouse, powering on external monitors, understanding inputs and outputs of different devices and more.
  • Associating hardware with digital devices, such as being able to connect and use a printer, bluetooth, speakers, an external monitor and internet modems.
  • Navigating digital devices, such as being able to select and use software or applications, using multiple windows or tabs and identifying and finding files.
  • Understanding cloud computing and its uses.
  • Utilizing digital storage, including identifying a variety of media storage devices as well as understanding basic use cases.
  • Troubleshooting basic digital issues, including common hardware and software issues.
  • Understanding online safety and responsibility including protecting privacy online and using information responsibly.

Why Do Students Need to Study Computer Fundamentals?

Studying computer fundamentals is important for students because it empowers them with necessary skills for their education as well as for future careers. Computer fundamentals are becoming more and more necessary in our increasingly digital world. 

The tools and knowledge to effectively use and utilize digital tools enables students to progress better in education as well as preparing them for daily tasks and careers in their future lives.

The Workforce Is Increasingly Reliant on Digital Tools

One of the most important reasons students need to study computer fundamentals and programming is because of the great rate at which the economy relies on digitalization. In a study, Oxford Economics estimated that in 2016 the digital economy accounted for 22.5% of global gross domestic product (GDP). Analysts at the research firm IDC have estimated that by the end of 2022, as much as 60% of global GDP will be digitalized, meaning it will be largely impacted by the introduction of digital tools.

Brookings discovered similar outcomes, finding that while in 2002 only 44% of U.S. jobs required medium-high digital skill levels, that number had increased to 70% by 2016.

As education aims to equip students with knowledge and skills for future success, the necessity of teaching students digital and computer science skills has increased dramatically

Staying Competitive in a Global Market

According to Coursera, the United States ranks only 29th out of 100 countries in the digital acumen of its workforce in business, technology, and data science. With the statistics stated in the prior section, it’s apparent that in order to stay competitive in an increasingly digital market, the United States needs to continue to encourage citizens to learn and master computer fundamentals and programming skills.

In the U.S. alone, 2021 saw over 918,000 vacancies in computer science jobs. This number is expected to increase to over 1.2 million by 2026, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, with anticipated growth projected at 25% from 2021 to 2031.

A lack of a pipeline of workers who can fill these vacancies can slow economic growth in the United States, purportedly to the tune of a five-billion-dollar loss at its current rate, according to a report by CS1C@OC.

Increased Salary Potential

Study after study suggests that salaries for careers in computer science are higher than the average salary of non-computer-science-related careers, including this analysis, which finds salaries for computer science-related careers are over double the national average. Without early computer fundamentals and programming skills, students may lack the knowledge, tools and resources to master critical computer skills that would support them in these higher paying positions.

Improves Education

Finally, computer fundamentals also empower students to better participate in schools as education programs increasingly turn toward the utilization of digital tools. With confidence in computer fundamentals, students can more readily focus on the subjects they are learning as opposed to struggling with utilizing the technology properly and effectively.

Which Computer Fundamentals Skills are Important for Students?

As technology continues to increase in prominence in our educational, professional and social worlds, it’s more important than ever that students develop fundamental computer skills so they may have a strong foundation for future development.

Mastering computer fundamentals is essential to a student’s digital literacy, and contributes to digital equity, as well. Starting as early as kindergarten, learning computer fundamentals skills can give a child the head start they need to use computers efficiently, effectively, responsibly and, most importantly, safely.

Computer Fundamentals Skills for Students – by Grade Band

Computer fundamentals blend computer science and digital literacy to help students develop confidence in technology operations. These skills can be applied in everyday life by helping them to choose technology and use it effectively, troubleshoot current technologies, and transfer that knowledge to explore emerging technologies.

Kindergarten – 2nd Grade

For younger students, computer fundamentals curriculum should be centered around understanding basic computer hardware and software components as well as their specific functionality. Examples include

  • Identifying computer components such as the processor, keyboard, mouse, monitor, speakers and printer.
  • Being able to use a mouse to select, drag and click objects on the screen.
  • Associating computer components with their function.
  • Performing basic hardware functions such as using a scanner, printer and connecting to the internet.
  • Identifying and using computer files and software.
  • Mastering the use of windows, including minimizing, maximizing, restoring, resizing and using the scroll bar.
  • Being able to select and use basic task-appropriate software.

3rd Grade – 5th Grade 

Older elementary students should begin learning computer fundamentals skills related to how computer systems input, store, process, and output data. They should also advance their knowledge in digital citizenship and safety. This includes

  • Defining input, output and processing devices.
  • Describing how internal and external parts of computing devices work together.
  • Conceptualizing the cloud and understanding cloud computing and its uses.
  • Discussing privacy issues and how personal information should be protected.

6th Grade – 8th Grade

Middle school students should learn more advanced computer fundamentals skills that connect digital skills to more complex real-world applications. They should have a mastery of digital citizenship and the skills to use technology effectively and responsibly and to translate those skills into other types of technology. This includes

  • Effectively using computer applications and hardware.
  • Identifying and using a variety of media storage and understanding use cases.
  • Developing an understanding of operating systems and graphic user interfaces.
  • Identifying successful troubleshooting strategies for common hardware and software issues.
  • Understanding transferrable functions between different types of software.
  • Differentiating between software types and common use cases.
  • Applying computer fundamentals knowledge to other technology, including mobile devices.
  • Understanding network technology and applying knowledge in cross-platform connectivity uses.
  • Mastering safety and responsibility online, including how to be a good digital citizen.

Final Thoughts 

Teaching students computer fundamentals skills should blend learning sequences with collaborative activities and hands-on projects. This allows students to better grasp and apply technology skills, gain experience applying these skills in real-world scenarios, and augment these skills with computational thinking and problem-solving skills that can be applied across their academic and professional careers. 

For more information about and our computer fundamentals program for students, click “Explore EasyTech” below. Staff Writers Team

Staff Writers

Founded in 1999, provides educators with solutions to prepare their students with critical digital skills. Our web-based curriculum for grades K-12 engages students as they learn keyboarding, online safety, applied productivity tools, computational thinking, coding and more.

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