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Chapter 1   |   Chapter 2   |   Chapter 3   |   Chapter 4
Introduction to Computers
Unit 1
Chapter One – From the Ground Up

This lesson is designed to give you basic information about the computer and take away any fears you may have about using it. The computer is a tool and can help you in many ways when you learn how to interact with it. Thank you for your interest in computers. We hope this lesson helps you on your quest to use computers as a tool in your educational setting.

A Computer System
What is a Computer System?

A computer system includes hardware, software and peripheral devices. The computer is a device that accepts input, processes/stores data, and produces an outcome. The typical computer system that is found in homes, schools and small offices are called microcomputers better known as personal computers or PC's. The microcomputer system that you use might be a stand-alone system or it might be connected to a network system so others can share data and software.

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The Brains of the Computer
Central Processing Unit

The tower usually holds the CD-ROM drive, floppy drives, and the on/off button. After you turn it on, the computer goes through the standard startup procedure, and technical information pops up on-screen that scrolls on and off the screen quickly.

The Monitor Buttons
The Monitor

The monitor on/off button is usually on the front of the monitor, with a light indicator beside or in the button. Pressing the on/off button will either display on the screen the startup procedure screen or the desktop of icons depending on where the computer is in the startup process. Pressing the on/off button to shut off will turn off the screen. (This does not turn off the computer – so don't panic if it is accidentally pushed – push it back on and nothing is lost.) Other buttons on the monitor control the volume, screen color, brightness, vertical/horizontal control, and several other controls that help with the look of the screen.

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Introducing the Keyboard
The Keyboard

The keyboard is the primary input device for most computers. You use the keys to input commands, respond to prompts, and type the text of documents.

Letter and Number Keys
Letter and Number Keys

The letter keys are used mainly for word processing functions. The number keys are used for word processing and data entry. These are two of the most common uses of the keyboard keys. Many keyboards have small bumps on the D and K or the F and J keys. These bumps help touch typists quickly position their fingers on the keyboard without looking. If you hold down a key, it will automatically begin to repeat. Example: hold down the D key and it will repeat itself on the screen until you release the key.

Esc, Tab, and Caps Lock

ESC is the way to back out of a command you started. If you accidentally click on something and need to go back simply press the ESC. In a Power Point presentation or image slide show, pressing ESC will exit the program.

TAB is often used in spreadsheet programs and tables to navigate from one cell to the next. It is also used in word processing to create indents and columns.

CAP LOCK key, should be used with caution. Some programs do not work correctly if the CAP LOCK is engaged. Using all caps on the Internet is interpreted as "yelling" at someone.

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Modifier Keys

The modifier keys are used with other letter or function keys to navigate through the computer options. They are also used in some software programs as shortcuts to menu options.

Pressing CTRL, ALT, and DELETE keys will bring up a screen that lets you exit a program that is stuck and not proceeding properly. It will also let you "warm boot" or shut down. ALT and CTRL keys may be used with the letter keys to access the menu options at the top of a program instead of using the mouse. These are called keyboard shortcuts.

The SHIFT key is useful for highlighting text. Press the SHIFT and then use the arrows to highlight the text you wish to copy, move, or delete.

Backspace and Enter

If the BACKSPACE key is held down, multiple characters to the left are deleted one by one until the key is released.

The ENTER key should not be pressed to go to the next line in word processing as most programs have continuous word wrapping. Press ENTER to begin a new paragraph. In a spreadsheet or database program ENTER allows you to input a value in the cell or give a command.

Insert and Delete

The INSERT key toggles with the OVERWRITE option. The default position is INSERT; pressing the INSERT key will put it to OVERWRITE, which allows you to type over existing text.

If the DELETE key is held down, multiple characters to the right are deleted one by one until the key is released.

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Home and End

In Office Suite programs CTRL-HOME takes you to the beginning of a document.

In Office Suite programs CTRL-END takes you to the end of the document.

Page Up, Page Down and Cursor Keys

PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN keys let you navigate through a document one screen at a time. They also allow you to move through a slide show one slide at a time.

The CURSOR is the flashing line that indicates where the next character will be typed on the screen. You can also move your position by moving the mouse arrow to a particular location and clicking to position the cursor.

Print Screen and Scroll Lock

With some software, the PRINT SCREEN key stores a copy of your screen in memory that can be manipulated with a draw, paint, or photograph software. Many of the pictures included in presentations such as this one are the result of using the PRINT SCREEN key. (Some programs use ALT + PRINT SCREEN)

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Pause and NUM Lock

The PAUSE key is rarely used in Windows systems. In the past it was used in DOS applications to stop the task.

The NUM LOCK key allows you to use the numeric keypad to input numeric data into a program or document.

The NUMERIC KEYPAD provides a calculator-style input device for numbers and mathematical symbols. Numbers can be typed using either the set of number keys at the top of the keyboard or the keys on the numeric keypad. Some keys on the numeric keypad have two symbols. When the NUM LOCK key is activated, the numeric keypad will create numbers when pressed. When the NUM LOCK is not activated, the keys on the numeric keypad move the cursor in the direction indicated by the symbols or words on the keys.

Function Keys

The FUNCTION keys are not standardized in all software programs. However, with many software packages [F1] is the key you press to get the help menu. Function keys are a quick way to give special commands within programs.

Indicator Lights

If you are ever unable to make the keyboard do what you think it should do, check to be sure these lock keys are in the proper position. The indicator light will let you know if the lock is on.

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The Mouse

How you move the mouse on a hard surface or mouse pad corresponds with the movement of the pointer on the screen. Roll the mouse up, down, and side to side until the arrow onscreen points to an area of the screen.

Hand Position on Mouse

The mouse can be programmed for use by either the right hand or left hand. Instructions for this are often found in the operator manual of the computer.

Moving the Pointer

As you move the mouse pointer it may change to another form to indicate different capabilities. A vertical bar indicates the ability to edit text. A two-way arrow would indicate that you could resize a graphic. A four-way arrow indicates the ability to move that graphic. A hand (or other specialized shape) may indicate a link, such as a web address or other document.

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Mouse Buttons
Mouse Functions

Click – to select something on-screen, click the left button quickly and lightly – whatever you are pointing to when you click appears highlighted to show that it's selected.

Double-click – to activate an object on-screen, click twice in rapid succession. Click-Click will manipulate the object usually resulting in the opening of a specific program.

Drag – to move or size an object on-screen, hold down the mouse button while you move the mouse across the mouse pad. Dragging moves the object to a new location. Dragging a border or frame changes the size of the object.

Right-click – displays special menus. When you right-click, you see a menu of commands related to the icon or area of the screen that you are pointing to.

Wheel Button – Some mice have a third button or wheel button. The Wheel Button allows you to scroll from screen to screen in a multiple screen document. It also allows you to move to a certain location in the document quickly by moving the mouse button, similar to dragging the navigation bar on a web page.

The Printer

The printer is the only output device that gives you a hard copy (paper copy) of your output. There are three types of printers – laser, ink-jet, and dot matrix (seldom seen).

Laser printers – use the same technology as duplicating machines. A laser charges a pattern of particles on a drum which picks up a powdery black substance called toner.

Ink-jet printers – produce characters and graphics by spraying ink onto paper. The print head is a matrix of fine spray nozzles. Patterns are formed by activating selected nozzles.

Dot matrix printers – create letters and graphics by striking an inked ribbon with a column of small wires. This is the type of printer that uses the continuous feed paper on tractor feeders – great for making banners.

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Input device – a unit that allows you to put data into the computer and to manipulate that data. Keyboard and mouse are the two main input devices.

Output device – a unit that allows you to get processed data from the computer. Monitor and printer are the two main output devices.

Processor – a device that processes the data. A process can be anything that changes the data or performs an action, such as adding, subtracting, or putting letters on a page. Central Processing Unit (CPU)

Storage device – a unit that stores the data and information until you need it again. This includes the memory chip inside the computer, floppy disk and CD-ROMs.

* The newest storage devices of today are DVDs, Zip Drives, and CD-ROM Burner (CDRW drive). Hardware is something you can see and touch.


After the information is entered into the processor, the computer has to decode it so that it understands what you want it to do. Software programs help the computer decode the information.

Software comes in two basic varieties:

  • Operating system software – starts the computer and tells it what to do.
  • Applications software – is designed to help you accomplish something useful.

* CD-ROM disks are the latest software storage units. Software programs are something you do not see or touch.

On to Chapter Two

Now that you have mastered the parts of the computer it is time to continue on. The next chapter is about start-up and log-in. Ready to go?

Chapter 2"Start-Up and Log-In"
Checking Your UnderstandingFrom the Ground Up
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Chapter 1   |   Chapter 2   |   Chapter 3   |   Chapter 4
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