Edited Version of January 17, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Classroom Presentation

"Can You Pass the Road Test to Drive on the Information Highway?"

Amy Sebring
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the January 17, 2001 online Virtual Classroom presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.

[Opening / Presentation]

Amy Sebring: Welcome to the Virtual Classroom. Today we are going to try something a little different which we are calling "Can You Pass the Road Test to Drive on the Information Highway?"

The tremendous growth of interest in the World Wide Web, combined with the falling prices for personal computers have served to bring many new users on line. This in my opinion is a good thing. And I believe that in the near and long term future, that mastery of some fundamental computer skills will be essential in almost every professional occupation, as well as opening up possibilities for personal and professional growth.

So I am very supportive of anyone who is willing to take the plunge, and learn something new. BUT, sometimes I feel that before someone is let loose in cyberspace, there are some fundamental skills that should be learned.

One of the reasons we decided to do this session is that we have hoped for quite awhile to make some distance learning available through the EIIP. We do not know if we will have the funding necessary to do this. But if we did, we wondered what might make a good first professional development course to offer. Basic computer skills might be a good candidate and one of our purposes today is to get your input.

What do you think are some of the basic areas that would be useful to cover? We thought of this potential course as issuing a "learner's permit" for the Information Highway, hence the idea of a road test.

I will be presenting a series of questions. We will dispense with the question marks today. Please play along and pop in your responses to the questions, and if you have comments on the particular topic, please put them in also. At the end, we will leave some time for you to put in your own ideas about topics we may not have covered.

We will be focused on the Windows operating system because of its widespread use, and we are talking about basics. I disclaim expert knowledge about all topics, and have my own biases, which is why we come to you with this. Let's start with our first question.

Question # 1:

The best way to go about learning what you need to know about using computers is to:

A. Pretend you already know everything and hope that nobody finds out you are a novice

B. Pick up a software manual and read it cover to cover

C. Read all the topics in the Help section

D. Find somebody that knows what they are doing and ask questions


Rick Tobin: D

LindaUnderwood: D

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: D

Roger Kershaw: D with some use of C

Ray Pena: None of the above.

Bob Rosenbush: Practice along with appropriate reading.

LoriWieber: D with a healthy dose of C thrown in.

Ray Pena: Bob's closest.

Charlotte Duggan: D. I think definitely hands-on is the way to learn!

Avagene Moore: D

LindaUnderwood: Also read a beginner's book about how computers work, not the software manual in B.

Charlotte Duggan: Also, many on-line help functions aren't very helpful.

Amy Sebring: The point of this question is that it is okay to admit you are a novice if you are. Nobody expects you to be an expert. Someone that is experienced and is trying to help you can do that best if they have a good idea of what you do or do not already know. So answer A is definitely wrong! The problem with B is that most of us do not have the time to read manuals cover to cover. We want to get to the essentials quickly. Answer B is okay, if you have unlimited time. It is also okay if you want to thoroughly know a particular software application because you want to use all of its features. The same is also true of answer C, however, on-line help indexes are very useful for finding specifics about a particular topic. The trouble can be with knowing what term to use to look something up. So my suggestion on this question is to go with answer D. Find someone who is willing to help you. Try to give that person a good idea of what specifically you want to know about. If you do not understand an explanation, try to identify which part of the explanation you don't understand and ask for clarification.

So you are all correct. You are passing so far.

Question # 2

After learning where the ON button is, the next most important thing to know about your personal computer is:

A. How to find Napster and download and play music

B. How to get the latest football scores

C. How to get the latest stock quotes

D. What "files" are and how to manage them


Elaine M. Sudanowicz: Virus Protection.

Roger Kershaw: Elaine is cheating...lol

LindaUnderwood: D

Ray Pena: Learning where the OFF button is.

Darla Chafin: D

LoriWieber: D

Roger Kershaw: D

Charlotte Duggan: D

Avagene Moore: D

LindaUnderwood: Learning that the OFF button is also the ON button.

Christopher Effgen: How to download games.

Charlotte Duggan: I also agree with Elaine.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: E. Virus Protection.

Bob Rosenbush: Going to the Program button to see what software is loaded on the machine.

Amy Sebring: You are all whizzes! You may have your own priorities about answers A - C. However, answer D is the one that I think will be fundamental to most of the tasks you will do with your computer. You need to know how to organize your files so that you will be able to find them again. You need to know how to copy, move, or delete files. You need to figure out what works for you in terms of assigning file names. You might be surprised at how some do not know how to do these things as software programs try to make it simple for you. Speaking of files, next question.

Question #3:

A file extension means:

A. If it ends in .gif, it is a kind of peanut butter

B. If it ends in .doc, it has something to do with your health

C. If it ends in .xls, the content is most excellent

D. Assign file extensions the meaning of which is known only to you

E. It is a good idea to leave the file extension that is assigned by a software application alone unless you have a good reason to change it


Lloyd Colston: I use the Internet much like we do here, with my volunteers. I have an email list. One of my goals is a virtual EOC. Users will be tied wireless to a PDA.

Roger Kershaw: E

LindaUnderwood: e

Avagene Moore: E

Isabel McCurdy: E

Nita Archer: e

Christopher Effgen: e

LoriWieber: e

Gil Gibbs: E

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: E

Charlotte Duggan: E

Ray Pena: mmm peanut butter

Lloyd Colston: I use http://www.egroups.com for my list. Chat, calendar, and file storage is built in there.

Charlotte Duggan: DITTO!!!

Amy Sebring: Sounds interesting, Lloyd. --- You are all correct. The answer is E. Whether it is a good idea or not, Windows programs for the most part use the file extensions to indicate to other programs what the file format is. Changing the extension may confuse things. I find this especially true when somebody attaches a file to an email. Next question.

Question # 4:

True or False. In the context of computers, the Clipboard is what you use to attach an exercise evaluation form to.


LindaUnderwood: F

Roger Kershaw: F

Christopher Effgen: f

Charlotte Duggan: False

Isabel McCurdy: F

Avagene Moore: False

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: False

Nita Archer: f

Darla Chafin: f

Gil Gibbs: F

Lori Wieber: F

Amy Sebring: Right again. The answer is False in this context. The Clipboard is a place in memory that will temporarily hold stuff that you copy from one application so that you can paste it into other applications. You can actually see what is in the Clipboard at any given time by opening it up from Start, Programs, Accessories, System Tools, Clipboard Viewer in Windows 98. Once you get past word processing, you may want to do something with graphics. This is becoming increasingly popular with the use of digital cameras and scanners as those prices come down.

Lloyd Colston: Amy, using clipstack, you can have multiple clipboards, however.

Amy Sebring: Thanks Lloyd, will check it out. Next question.

Question # 5:

I have a graphic file that is in Windows bit map format (.bmp) I don't have any graphics software. How can I convert to a format that can be used on the Web?

A. Give up. It can't be done. Go out and get a sophisticated graphics program

B. Find somebody else that can do it for you

C. Print it out, scan it and hope that you will end up with the right format

D. Use your Windows accessory, Paint, use File, Save As and select either .gif or .jpg format


Roger Kershaw: D

Avagene Moore: D

LindaUnderwood: D

Charlotte Duggan: D

Isabel McCurdy: D

Gil Gibbs: D

Nita Archer: d

Lloyd Colston: Copy to Word and save as an HTML file.

Ray Pena: b. It's called delegating

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: D Sounds most convincing.

Darla Chafin: I'm impressed and on a learning curve.

Bob Rosenbush: I've been troubled by this dilemma.

Amy Sebring: Answer B might be a good solution. However, you would have to take the time to find somebody and you will not know how to do it in the future unless he shows you. The built in Paint accessory can usually do what you want. A couple of more hints on graphics: If you want to capture something on your screen and make a picture, you can use the PrtSc key to capture your entire screen, or Alt+PrtSc to capture just the window you want. You can then open Paint and use Edit, Paste to paste what you have captured into Paint where you can save it in a graphic format.

Another common task you may want to do is to crop your picture. You can do that by inserting your picture into Word, double clicking on the image, displaying your Picture Tools options, and there is a cropping tool available, which may be easier than trying to resize with Paint.

LindaUnderwood: Amy, at the end, will you tell us who the person who knows everything is?

Lloyd Colston: Amy, if you paste it into your word processor, it saves a step.

Amy Sebring: Yes, same idea Lloyd.

Amy Sebring: Don't know who that person would be Linda because most people use some applications more intensely than others.

Lloyd Colston: Locally, I try to attract volunteers that are conversant on a number of different products.

Amy Sebring: Okay, now you are connected to the Internet and are ready to start communicating with the world. Next question.

Question # 6:

The best way to immediately let everyone know you are a "newbie" is to:

A. Send everyone in your address book every virus warning you get

B. Send everyone in your address book every joke that you get

C. Immediately pass on every chain letter you receive

D. Leave at least 6 exchanges of quoted material in your correspondence and add your latest comments at the bottom

E. Mark all your correspondence Highest Priority, Return Receipt Requested

F. Attach your latest 4 megabyte PowerPoint presentation

G. All of the above


LindaUnderwood: G

Christopher Effgen: g

Ray Pena: All of the above.

Isabel McCurdy: G

Gil Gibbs: G

LoriWieber: G all of the above.

Lloyd Colston: G

Charlotte Duggan: ALL BUT C

Avagene Moore: All but C

Nita Archer: f none

Roger Kershaw: None of above.

Charlotte Duggan: Never mind. I thought pass on meant PASS on every letter

Avagene Moore: Me too, Charlotte. Something we should do.

Amy Sebring: It all boils down to thoughtfulness. Any other ways you can think of?

Lloyd Colston: H. Find all the Urban Legends and email them.

Roger Kershaw: I would just send a short personal note telling others of my new email addy.

Charlotte Duggan: People need to know about the web sites to check out hoaxes.

LindaUnderwood: I. Call someone to tell them you emailed them.

Amy Sebring: Good one, Linda.

Lloyd Colston: <http://www.snopes.com> is one for hoax evaluation.

Amy Sebring: However, one mistake that is commonly made is that one assumes that email is infallible and always goes through and confirm that they have, in fact received it.

Roger Kershaw: Isn't calling someone to tell them they got mail, redundant?

LindaUnderwood: Of course.

Amy Sebring: If you do not get a response from somebody it would not hurt to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: Not for people who never read their e-mail you send them.

Nita Archer: Set your browser for email received, then you know if they got it

Ray Pena: Hard to believe but true - some people don't read their email!

Roger Kershaw: What does return receipt mean? And how does it work, I never use it

Nita Archer: In your browser preferences, Roger.

Lloyd Colston: Amy?

Amy Sebring: Go ahead please, Lloyd.

Lloyd Colston: Amy, regarding the infallibility of email, I have one account that forwards to three. I then know I get the email because I can scan all three to see if there are any important ones I missed. It is at <http://www.bigfoot.com>.

Amy Sebring: Now that IS redundancy, Lloyd.

Lloyd Colston: Never can have too much backup.

Roger Kershaw: I change IP's so often that I don't use the pop mail though, another problem

Nita Archer: Browser preferences. Netscape or IE.

Amy Sebring: In Netscape, you can also request a return receipt. The recipient gets a message notifying him that a return receipt was requested and if he says OK, the software will send back a confirmation to the sender. This is probably best used when the content is time significant.

Roger Kershaw: Aha, so recipient has to get the mail, and authorize return of receipt, Amy?

Amy Sebring: That's the way it works in Netscape, Roger. Not sure how Outlook handles. Is it similar if others know?

Avagene Moore: However, some people use that on everything they send out which is pretty ridiculous, in my opinion.

Lloyd Colston: I use Pegasus which allows me to get acknowledgement of delivery, not reading. Sometimes I use it because it is not dependent on the user authorizing the return receipt.

Charlotte Duggan: My e-mail has the same thing, Lloyd. Then I know that someone at least opened it.

Amy Sebring: One more question regarding email. Question 7.

Question # 7:

This is a fill in the blank. You have written to someone for some information and they have sent it to you. You _______________.


Christopher Effgen: Thank them.

Nita Archer: Thank them

Ray Pena: Say thanks!

Avagene Moore: Thank them --- acknowledge your appreciation.

Roger Kershaw: Reply with thanks

Darla Chafin: Ditto.

Charlotte Duggan: Send a reply thanking them.

Gil Gibbs: Reply with thanks!

Isabel McCurdy: Reply saying THANK you!

Amy Sebring: Absolutely. The answer is to "write back and say thank you." You might be surprised at how often this gets overlooked.

Charlotte Duggan: That's just common courtesy - Internet or not.

Ray Pena: Not by any of us!

Final, Question # 8:

You are now quite experienced and a newbie comes along and asks you a question. You __________.


Nita Archer: Answer.

Charlotte Duggan: Answer as helpfully as possible in a way not to make them feel stupid.

Isabel McCurdy: Reply with an answer.

Lloyd Colston: Tell them it's on my website.

Roger Kershaw: Pretend to be an expert and make up answers to his questions....lol

Gil Gibbs: Listen with interest, then give your best guess!

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: Help them the best way you can, then give them the phone number to tech support because you may be at an emergency and cannot help them when not available.

Amy Sebring: The answer is "you remember you were a newbie once and all the folks that helped you, so you try to provide patient assistance."

Well, congratulations to everybody here. You all passed the road test as we expected. And you now have your license to drive. But be careful out there. There are still road hazards!

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Amy Sebring: These are some of the relatively simple basics from my own experience. I promised to leave some time for your suggestions and comments. Let's go back to using the question marks now please. If you have a comment on something you think should be included in fundamental knowledge, or if you have a SIMPLE related question, please enter a question mark, compose your comment or question, then wait until you are called on to send it in. If it is a question I can't answer, perhaps somebody else that is here today may know. We would also be interested in hearing what other kinds of professional development courses you think would be useful, beyond what is available from FEMA for example.


Roger Kershaw: Amy, in this weekly session. I think it would be helpful to tell others about ctrl +c ctrl+v for making questions ready ahead of time. I didn't know how to do that.

Amy Sebring: Yes, Roger. We do teach our presenters how to use copy and paste.

Roger Kershaw: I mean the questioners, Amy.

Amy Sebring: But we have never really given our attendees the instructions. The main way it would be useful is if you have a really long question and we haven't wanted to encourage long questions!

Roger Kershaw: Many put a ?, then are typing long sentences when it's their turn.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: It seems that way when your system gets shut down due to one of these computer viruses.


Avagene Moore: Amy, I think knowing the copy paste technique would be useful if someone read the background information and had a number of questions they wanted to have ready in advance.

Amy Sebring: That is true, Ava, although I guess we don't expect folks to be so well prepared!

Avagene Moore: At a minimum, they could have them handwritten on a notepad or piece of paper. That is true, Amy.


Amy Sebring: I do feel that those who achieve a certain proficiency do have some advantages in their jobs over those who do not. Agree? Disagree?

Roger Kershaw: Absolutely.

Avagene Moore: Agree.

Ray Pena: Agree absolutely.


Amy Sebring: Do you think it will become increasingly important in the future?

LindaUnderwood: Yes.

Gil Gibbs: Agree totally!

Ray Pena: Yes.

Roger Kershaw: Absolutely.

Bob Rosenbush: Suggest that computer basic training include: file management, word processing, spread sheets, data bases, and geographic information systems.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: I prefer and enjoy the spontaneous dialogue.

Lloyd Colston: Amy, I would agree with that because, with technology, I am more efficient than those who do not know how to use it. However, take my technology away and I am pretty much in the same boat as everyone.

Avagene Moore: And the Internet is such a wonderful tool for information and communication.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Bob. I agree also on those key items. Did not have time to cover all of them here.

Roger Kershaw: I think many of us might make certain things more complicated and time consuming using technology at times too.

Ray Pena: Roger is right.

Amy Sebring: I agree with you, Roger. It is still easier for me to keep a check book manually than use a spreadsheet for example. Did you have some other specific examples, Roger?

Roger Kershaw: Just in terms of, we should use the technology to do the jobs that are required to be done using computers, rather than make everything in daily lives revolve around the computer.


Amy Sebring: Lloyd, do you use your skills to find information that may not be readily available otherwise?

Lloyd Colston: Yes, I have a number of people on my team who rely on me to find information for them. In fact, one of my assistant directors asks me to find articles for her. I gave a fire chief information about the FEMA grants today. He does not have email.

Amy Sebring: Lloyd, we will be doing a chat session in February on the Fire Grants.

Lloyd Colston: I will let the word out then!

Amy Sebring: That is one of the professional courses we had thought about "How to write grant applications."

Avagene Moore: February 7 is the tentative date for that session, Lloyd.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: I could not do my job as well if I did not keep up-to-date on the events within CONUS and world-wide.

Isabel McCurdy: CONUS, Elaine??

Tim Murphy: Continental United States.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: It helps me track trends in emergency management.


Amy Sebring: What other kinds of courses might be useful for Emergency Management?

Effective communications?

Ray Pena: Effective Public Outreach.

Avagene Moore: How to write press releases, etc.

Lloyd Colston: I think the PIO class at Emmittsburg is well worth its time.

Roger Kershaw: How to do a competent internet resource search?

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: Awareness Level of Countering Terrorism.

Darla Chafin: Can we ever get too much on effective communications? Any ideas on the personal recovery front? And the use of volunteer agencies in that work?

Lloyd Colston: I am interested in courses in recovery. That, IMO, is one area that we have little training on.

Ray Pena: The Public Assistance Primer.

Roger Kershaw: I find it amazing that fire personnel are unaware of US Fire Administration's contract classes.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: There is a great Recovery from Disaster Course being offered by EMI.

Avagene Moore: Interpersonal Skills.

Amy Sebring: Yes, we were interested in something on managing conflict. I also am not aware of much available on the mental health aspects for victims and workers.

Lloyd Colston: Thankfully, one of my volunteers has his masters' degree in counseling and pastoral care.

Avagene Moore: I believe diversity training could be done via distance learning as well.

Roger Kershaw: I have seen useful sites for CIS, Amy, although not bookmarked.

Isabel McCurdy: I'd like to see the courses more inclusive to the international community.

Tim Murphy: Ditto.


Amy Sebring: If you were going to sign up for an on line course, how much time would you be willing to devote to it? How many weeks? How many hours per week? How much homework should there be?

Roger Kershaw: I would be willing to spend a few hours a week on a course. 3-4 weeks though.

Amy Sebring: Roger, you would favor a shorter length, but more intensive course?

Roger Kershaw: Yes, not drawn out, very hard to make long term commitments on the Internet at times.

Lloyd Colston: With my schedule, I would like to see coursework and tests online. This would let me finish the class at my own pace.

Amy Sebring: I can see where that would have its advantages in keeping the focus and motivation going.

Gil Gibbs: The course would have to include a variety of disaster situations. However, with the problems of each in mind.

Avagene Moore: No boundaries on the Net. One hour per week online with 1-2 hours study and homework. Run the course 4 to 6 weeks.

Amy Sebring: Some flexibility would probably be important also.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: Again, in this business your free time depends upon the emergency schedule. There are lulls and at times you can never be there.

Roger Kershaw: Would prefer a class that allows user his own timetable.

Avagene Moore: Flexibility in getting assignments, study and deliverables.

Elaine M. Sudanowicz: I agree with Roger.

Gil Gibbs: Roger has a point, especially for the volunteer(s)!

Amy Sebring: One thing more regarding the benefits of basic skills. I think it is a mistake to assume that the younger generation will automatically pick up what is needed. They may be highly skilled at games for example, but have very limited awareness of other uses. So I think it is important that they are deliberately taught.

Avagene Moore: Good point, Amy.

Ray Pena: I thought you guys were the younger generation!

Amy Sebring: No, we are the oldies but goodies Ray!

Lloyd Colston: One aspect of training that is overlooked is the disciplinary action related to training. If the volunteer fails to perform in a manner in which he has been trained, you have documentation of the training, you can discharge the volunteer. If not, you make be stuck.

Ray Pena: So long as it doesn't cost anything or take up any time, count me in!


Amy Sebring: I think it is about time to wrap up. We very much appreciate your input. We would love to make these kinds of courses available here. However, development can be expensive. We will have to see what can be done. These ideas and suggestions are very helpful. Avagene, can you tell us what is coming up next week.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy, for today's session. Thanks to all our participants as well. I enjoyed the 'road test' and hope it was beneficial to all.

Coming up next week, Wednesday January 24, 12:00 Noon EST, the EIIP Virtual Forum is pleased to present Dr. Walter Hays, Senior Program Manager, Sustainable Built Environment, American Society of Civil Engineers. Dr. Hays will be discussing the plans and goals of the "World Congress on Disaster Reduction." Over 200 of the World's Leading experts on all aspects of disaster reduction have committed to the development of Global Blueprints for Change and are working on this unique endeavor to help save lives and protect property and community infrastructure throughout world. The Global Blueprints for Change are key elements of the Pre-World Congress Summit Meeting in 2001 and World Congress 2002. You will want to be here to learn about this exciting world gathering. Join us next week.

Please see Amy's bio on the background page. It is a good one. You will like it. That's it for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Ava. We will adjourn for today, and again, our thanks for your participation.