Back to school – it wasn’t like that when I was at school!

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make you feel old, it’s looking at how the education system or life as a student has changed from when you were at school.

Ok, I’m only in my 30s, and I’m not actually going back to school! But stay with me here!

I don’t even know if I mentioned this on the blog, but I’m starting a course with the Open University in October. I’m doing an IT degree, which will last for 6 years, because I’m doing it part-time around my other work.

This is not my first attempt to study with the OU, but the first time didn’t work out because unfortunately the materials for the course I wanted to study could not be provided in an accessible format. I don’t really want to dwell on that, but things do seem to have moved on in terms of accessibility. It’s not 100% accessible – things rarely are – but we are working on strategies for me to get round the problems that I’ll encounter. On occasions, a sighted helper will take instructions from me to interact with graphical interfaces and do things that I can’t do because I can’t use a mouse. Diagrams will be provided with descriptions. I will work from online copies of the materials, rather than printed books.

I’ll probably write more about the course when it’s started – I know that some of my readers will be more interested in what we’re doing than in my beauty product posts, so it will add a bit more diversity to the blog. I plan to make it a regular feature.

But that’s not what I want to talk about today.

The Open University students’ Association is active on Facebook and Twitter, so I decided to follow their page. I then had an idea that there may be other groups out there – local groups, special interest groups, or course-specific ones.

In terms of networking for business, online networking is my thing, much more than face-to-face, so I thought this could be a good idea.

I joined some groups. I got accepted. Suddenly I had the chance to virtually meet up with others setting out on the same path as me.

That doesn’t mean I’ll never go to a face-to-face event, but I just find online easier – unless of course I’m in a group where all people do is post pictures that I can’t see. Then it’s not fun.

But if people are talking to each other, I’m on more of a level playing field. I don’t have to worry about eye contact, finding my way around, or noise sensitivity. Messages can be answered one at a time, rather than feeling that people are talking to me from all sides. Some of it’s blindness-related. Some of it’s sensory sensitivity-related. But either way, online is great!

But when you join groups like that, people can get a snapshot of you – where you are – who you are as an individual – what makes you really you. I don’t share my heart and soul on Facebook, so it’s probably not that revealing, but I’ve chosen to link to both of my sites, so you can get a fair idea of the kind of person I am.

My profile picture with the wolves is maybe not the most glamourous, but it’s also unique to what I love – how many people have a genuine picture of themselves casually hanging out with a couple of massive wolves?!

Some of my articles are set to public, because they are in the public domain anyway and might drive traffic to my sites. But still, you can get some idea of who I am without even exchanging a message with me.

That never used to be the case. When I joined a new school in year 12, I didn’t know anyone and had to build up a picture of who was around, whom I wanted to try and befriend etc, all based on our interactions.

If anyone starts talking to me in one of the groups now, I can click on their profile to see who they are, or at least the version of themselves that they want people to see.

Then it got me thinking about schools.

When I was at school, we didn’t have social media networks. What would I have posted if I had? I was the Hermione Granger type, so probably a lot of stuff about learning and school that others didn’t care about! Or horses. Some of it would probably make me cringe now. I’m no less opinionated than I was then, but I choose my battles more carefully!

But children nowadays? If they have a Facebook account, it means they’re never really away from their friends, or people who definitely aren’t their friends. I can see the advantages of staying in touch, but there’s also this idea that you never really get away from people whom you haven’t chosen to share your life with. As an adult, it’s easier. As a child, I imagine that must be quite tough at times.

This is a pressure, and a challenge that people of my generation never had to deal with, so we don’t really know what it’s like. That struck me today as I was signing up to Facebook study groups!

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Author: englishwithkirsty

I have two blogs. Unseen Beauty is my personal blog. English with Kirsty is my business blog for people who are interested in languages or learning English.

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