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Commercial Education Society of Australia

Maureen Fairhurst

Maureen is currently General Secretary to the Commercial Education Society of Australia and has been the Chief Examiner in Computing for over 20 years. She also works from home for a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) and conducts individual training sessions in clients’ own homes on their own computers teaching any, and all, of the Business Services computer programs, particularly email and internet.

Her publications include Hands-on Word Processing, (McGraw-Hill), which she says she believes was the first Australian word processing textbook; Office Technology, (Thomas Nelson), adopted by TAFE as the recommended textbook when computing was a theory subject with an external examination; and Integrating Information Technology using Microsoft Works and Works for Windows, (Thomas Nelson). This textbook contained two sets of instructions because of the updated version of Works, a program still used in computers.

Her hobbies are physical culture (which she has done for 42 years, competing individually and in teams) and tap dancing, which she has been doing for over 20 years.

She belongs to a group called The Silver Belles Tap Dancing Group (a group of 42 ladies whose ages range from 45 to 80) who perform short day concerts in nursing homes, retirement villages and for lunches for service groups and charities. Every two years the group puts on a big concert and performs tap dancing, soft shoe and comedy routines. If interested, check out the website: silverbelles.com.au

They design and make their own costumes and simply love to perform in lycra and sequins. This year they proudly won a NSW Seniors Award in the Health and Wellbeing category. They have visited several country towns such as Yeoval, Wellington and Gulgong and performed full concerts there to raise funds for various charities. They also were invited to take part in a big concert in Whyalla, SA, and travelled by bus to perform there in a concert for the Leukaemia Foundation.

Maureen says, “I’m sure some people will agree with me when I say that if you have been a Secretary for many years typing and writing shorthand, and are still typing and writing shorthand and can use a computer, you land the job of Secretary in every club or organisation to which you belong.”

Email and Internet
Maureen Fairhurst

Email is not just for business as it originally started out. Nowadays email takes its place with the telephone, mobile phone, FAX and every other means of communication, and, let’s face it, more and more organisations are requiring the public to communicate by email or fill in forms through the Internet rather than by phone or mail.

There is, I have discovered, a ‘need’ for email and Internet training. The younger generation, still at school, operate a computer and use email and Internet the same way those of the older generation would make a phone call. Some of the older generation:

So I decided to go into the business of training in the use of email and Internet in a person’s own home on their own computer. There’s nothing like it! Yes, you may go to an educational establishment and participate in an official computer course, using the establishment’s computers. Then, when you get home you find that your computer (possibly a laptop) looks nothing like the one in class and you don’t know where to start.

My first visit to a client is to establish what computer programs are on the computer and what the client wishes to learn.

I then investigate the specific email program and write down the instructions in numbered order for the client to follow. It is very hard for a person to remember instructions for a first lesson, so I recommend that they build up an instruction manual from the notes I supply each lesson. This has worked well for many of my clients.

It is sometimes hard, even for me, to work out how to operate the email program as I am used to my own (use it like the telephone) and tend to compare it with others, which does not work. Therefore, for the first and second lesson it is a ‘trial and error’ routine until I can write some clear instructions for my client. I tell the clients that when they think they have learned what they wanted to learn they can dismiss me. This is the way I defuse any stress of learning something within a designated time frame.

Of course, I expect my clients to do homework. I usually require them to answer an email I send, or send me one about whether our session is ‘on’ for the next date. I have a very flexible approach to my training in that the client books a 2-hour lesson once a week, but if something occurs that prevents the lesson being conducted, they can email me and either miss it or change the date. This works well sometimes when the client may be ill or have to visit a doctor, dentist, or any of the other practitioners that the older generation needs to regularly consult.

I am happy to say that my visits sometimes turn into a social visit with a cup of tea or coffee and homemade biscuits halfway through the lesson. (I love homemade biscuits!) I feel that if my clients feel comfortable with what they are doing, and can tell me how they feel about their learning, it is a good thing.

Some of my clients have, in their earlier years, been teachers, or held down office jobs but left work before computers came into existence in the business world. I find that these people just need to be given a challenge (and what could be more challenging than wrestling with a computer that sometimes won’t do what it is instructed to do) to have success.

On the other hand, many clients just want to communicate with their relatives all over the world. Email for messages, and Internet for face-to-face communication with programs such as Skype, are the answer.

Then again, there might be people who wish to find out about different things, such as for a family tree, or research for other courses they may be doing. The Internet is the way to go! Also, the more mundane things are finding a telephone number, or finding out what time the next train leaves the local station. Then, of course, there are those who are retiring and have all that lovely superannuation to spend, and I show them how to go on the Internet to book a flight or cruise to anywhere in the world. If they are in the market for purchasing a home, car, boat etc. they can get some good bargains through the Internet.

I warn clients to be very careful how they transfer money through the Internet. While some systems are safe they need information about them before attempting to pay for anything through the Internet and they should check with their bank or credit union.

Unfortunately, everything has its downside and the downside of email and the Internet is ‘viruses’. I tell my clients that crazy people, known as ‘hackers’, just love to devise rogue computer programs that can enter the computer and either upset the workings or even wipe out all the files and programs on the computer hard disk. There are several good ‘anti-virus’ programs that can be installed on the computer and everyone should make sure they have sufficient security if they intend to communicate by either email or through the Internet. This is because the Internet is worldwide and viruses can be so easily sent along the ‘lines’ and infiltrate a computer when working in email programs or on the Internet.

I have found that some clients are so enthused with their success with email and Internet that they then want to tackle Word Processing or even learn to touch-type. As I have been a Business Services (Secretarial Studies) teacher for over 35 years, I am able to accommodate them. In fact, I would recommend that anyone wishing to be serious about their use of email (especially for home office use) should be familiar with a Word Processing program. It is so much quicker, composing your emails, if you know how to use the word processing program that is activated to do this. Then, again, it is even quicker, if you can touch-type.

My last word of advice is that learning to use email can hold you in good stead if you intend to do any type of academic or business-related course, because most of these courses are offered ‘on-line’ nowadays and what better way to study than in your own home at your own pace. Email and/or Internet are the media used for this type of training.

Happy computing!

Maureen Fairhurst
Grad Dip Ed (Computing), B Ed, Dip Ed (Technical), FCES, PDipWP, PDipT, PDipS, TAE40110, Diploma of Business (Administration)
General Secretary

© Copyright CESA November 2012