Welcome to Mouse Cork

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At a Cork World Book Festival event I got into conversation over coffee with others attending the talk.  Although at different stages in our writing pursuits, we all agreed that pitching up to these events motivated us to get on with the business of putting words on the page.   Writing is a solitary practice and these gatherings give a sense of validation as we discuss our world, and what safer place for writers than the comforting surroundings of the library. This got me thinking about how a non-intimidating environment is essential for progress, whatever the pursuit, although sometimes we have to step out of our comfort zone to take the initial steps toward a goal.   I believe that if you find yourself drawn to an interest, such as writing or continuing education an inner light is lit by your enthusiasm and it should be pursued.  This can begin by reading an article in a newspaper, going to an open day event or venturing into the safe space of your local library to hear a talk.  The coffee table discussion then turned to taking up education in later life. One of the group confided that she had always wanted to start a college course but was held back by her lack of computer skills ‘you see all the young ones on their laptops but I wouldn’t have a clue’.  This articulate and engaging woman was voicing a common concern. I returned to education at the age of 42 and had similar trepidation about entering the realm of the tech-savvy generation.   Now as a further education teacher I recognise that ICT (information and communication technology) remains a major cause of concern for many potential mature students. My teaching experience has been mainly with PLC (post leaving certificate) students who take on QQI (formerly FETAC) courses, generally starting at level 5.  They work through various modules that can appear to deviate from their main course subject, for example nursing studies may incorporate word processing skills.  However, the subjects undertaken are all relevant to progression on the course and are useful skills for the workplace or further studies but for some mature students the ICT modules can cause unnecessary stress. I have taught computer skills classes with ‘digital natives’, those young students fresh from the Leaving Certificate, working alongside students returning to education after many years out of the classroom.  Some of the mature students spent a lot of time in first semester struggling with unfamiliar processes such as the basics of a word document or logging on to the PC.   There are ways that a teacher can address this diversity in ability but this does not alleviate the initial distress of those who feel they are out of their depth and struggling to finish assignments. Many mature students focus on their deficiencies in ICT and fail to recognise that they have multiple talents and life skills that are extremely valuable in the further education classroom.  To offer another anecdote from a class I taught last year, a Business Studies class learning about quality control processes. The one mature student in the group felt that she had little to offer but in fact on this subject she had valuable insights having worked most of her life in catering.  The younger students being limited in workplace experience gained from her input.  She felt valued knowing her classmates benefited from her experience and in turn was happy to receive mentoring from a younger student to assist her with computer skills.   She completed the course with distinctions. My message to those who are considering returning to education is to go for it.  The light of enthusiasm has been lit.  Most PLC colleges accept applications up to September and the process usually involves a short interview.  Look out for college open days on websites, posters or in newspapers.  They are relaxed events where you will usually find a mature student officer available to talk to or current mature students offering advice. The light of enthusiasm may at first dim with lack of confidence but you will overcome those reservations, realise your worth and find the confidence for the next step.   I know from experience that the college you choose to further your education will become your safe place.  Shine on! For information on computer skills classes designed to individual needs, or just to talk through the process of applying for a further education course without commitment, drop into Mouse, 11 Barrack Street, Cork or email hello@mousecork.ie  or call 021 241 7064. Theresa Ryder is a writer, historian, classicist and qualified teacher in the further education sector.  She is the co-creator of Mouse, a new business in Cork city offering coffee and communications. https://mousecork.ie/computer-skills/

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