Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Update and Some Thoughts On Education, Learning Disabilities, and Other Relevancies

So I'm reading this cool Commentary from Fortune by a one Clara Shih, CEO of a firm called Hearsay Social (

The company seems to provide social media solutions to business.

Ms. Shih's article was on the growing trend of the "Internet of Things," essentially a term identifying the state of how people are connected to each other via the Internet, phones, and other networks through the use of devices like smartphones, smart watches, health telemetering devices (Like FitBit, Polar, and other "fitness" devices that monitor heart rate, strides, and the like.)

That was one facet.

Another was the mention of how current health and fitness devices are moving forward from simple measurement, toward being enabled to provide real time solutions for health issues

Shih suggests: "In 2015, well evolve from simple measurement, tracking, and analytics to offering prescriptive action. An example: 23andMe, funded by Google and Genentech, is already working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) so it can analyze your DNA to provide you with hundreds of health reports that accurately predict whether youre prone to certain illnesses or conditions. Another company, Halo Neuroscience, is developing technology that stimulates your brain to boost memory and cognition (Disclosure: my husband Daniel S. Chao, M.D., M.S. is CEO at Halo Neuroscience.)"

The last part of that quote got me to thinking, so I looked up Halo Neuroscience.

I've suffered from memory deficits and cognitive learning disorders since I started school. Kindergarten--where I was yelled at and castigated in front of my peers because I "scribbled" in my coloring books. Read: Early Hand-Eye Coordination Problems.)--started the ball rolling.

When a teacher of preschoolers resorts to yelling, and your impressionable peers observe you being scolded by your teacher... Etc. You get the idea.

I was pretty a social outcast in elementary school, which, for me, was K-4.

Fifth through Twelfth wasn't much better. I barely graduated with a nearly flat 2.00 GPA in 1984, and, even with a "Learning Disabled" diagnosis, I've found very few, if any, "reasonably decent" resources available to me that can help me overcome and enable any latent abilities that couldn't be developed during my younger years.

So I look up Halo to see if some real science were being done to try to understand if light electrical simulation of the brain can increase learning ability. (The name of the technique is Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, or tDCS.)

This link from Halo's blog explains the technique:

Some results seem noteworthy. However, New Scientist, in a 28 November 2014 article, is, perhaps, a bit more sobering (always a good thing in science.)

Link To New Scientist Article:

Why I'm interested in what science can do for me is due to the fact I'm nearly completely fed up with people, and is the reason I'm not doing well academically in schools.

Colleges, Trade Schools, Technical Schools, you-name-it! I've attended them all and have never been able to apply myself enough to be able to succeed.  Or get the help I've needed, regardless of effort!

So what gives?

I mean, I want to succeed! Badly!

Which is why I'm interested in science and what it can do to enable me instead of me being disabled.

However, science is only one part of the entire matter-at-hand. The other part of the equation are the instructors, government agency counselors, and staff of the institutions I wish to attend!

Case-in-point: I'm attending a certain Missouri technical college for Computer Networking back in 2011. This particular educational track was decent, at first, but when I finally started to attend the actual Networking classes, everything was fine until I had to do a particular type of IP-Addressing Mathematics.

We were given a given range of Addresses, then we had to figure out what ranges were available for the given problem. Well, I couldn't do it. At all. My brain just doesn't function in certain situations unless extra time is spent with me on the problems.

Most instructors, one would think, would be delighted to assist a student attending what is, essentially, a Community College; albeit one with very specific and highly professional curriculums.

However, I wasn't enrolled in the Auto Mechanics curriculum, or the Cat Diesel Technician program, or the Heavy Equipment Operator programs, either. My field of interest is Information Technology, or IT.

I Love Technology! I would've enjoyed some extra time talking with someone for whom I, initially, had the deepest respect, about technology, the latest equipment and industry t However, that was before the incident that shattered any idea of my being able to be successful at that school.

Here's what happened: After struggling for twenty minutes, I was called up to do a problem on the board, and said I couldn't do it; I wasn't understanding it. So the instructor looks at me and says something to the effect of: “Well, I can't dumb down the class.”

I was quite shocked to hear those words come out of an instructor who was nearly the same age as me (46 or so, give or take), essentially insult me in front of a majority of eighteen-year-old-average young men and women.

I asked for help continually in that class, until one day when the shit hit the fan in a way I've never experienced before in higher education, and hope to never experience again, anywhere!

I had been having problems with certain learning issues all week, and was trying, unfruitfully, to speak to the instructor alone for a few minutes so I could highlight my learning issues and what I felt could be done to accommodate them.

Privacy was non existent, as instructors shared offices, and I didn't feel it appropriate to have other non-department personnel involved, possibly interrupting me if I said something they didn't like, etc.

I finally had to confront—and that's really the only word I can use to describe this, as this person possessed an extremely confrontational type of personality—the instructor at their desk, during class time, because I had absolutely no other choice.

I was polite, but firm, and was not yelling at all. I presented my case, regardless of others present because I had a verifiable and real need for accommodation so I could succeed . We bantered back and forth for a few moments, every student in the class watching, and the instructor just completely lost it and blew their stack at me!

Instructor proceeds to storm out of the classroom, straight to their department head—the head of the entire IT department—yelling something like “He's Out of Here!

To say I was a bit put out is putting it mildly. I've paid for my classes with my student loan and grant monies. I expect professionalism and assistance form instructors in a state-run college. I wasn't mean. I wasn't disrespectful. Still, I was treated with contempt, ill regard, and made to feel less-than-adequate, then, essentially, thrown out with the trash!

I did fine in my Honors Composition class. I did fine in my Computer Hardware—essentially an A+ Hardware Certification prep class—class. Got an A in it, actually. All these classes worked. Why? Because the instructors were concerned about their students and acted like adults, not temper-tantrum-throwing, older teenagers!

I didn't go back to school until January of 2013. Keeping this short, I attended a small “real university” for a change, my first time at a school with tenured professors who had their own research projects of varying kinds.

I liked the overall experience, but, as I was attending under the auspices of Vocational Rehabilitation, I was, by their own internal policies—which I tried to have altered slightly to accommodate my needs but without success—made to Attend Full Time!

Full-time attendance—for Financial Aid considerations—is a minimum of Twelve (12) Credit Hours in Missouri. I knew that I was going to have trouble keeping up with that heavy of a load, regardless of the classes. I could have taken all “easy electives” and still failed—which I did!

In this last case, it was the government agency of Vocational Rehabilitation that failed me, by making me attend classes full-time, instead of part time. Confusing the issue further is the fact that this was supposed to be a test semester to see what issues, if any, I might have attending future classes.

All this fuss to just get a degree!

So just what have I learned from all the foregoing? Quite a lot, but I still have nothing brought to fruition.

Lessons Learned

1. I must not interact with instructors of a particular temperament, who are inflexible. Being Learning Disabled by itself, denotes a need for flexibility in instructors and curriculum.

2. Govenment agencies, when utilized, must not have inflexibility in internal policies which by their very implementation and nature, Disable Instead of Enable Me, Their Client!

3. I am, probably, going to have to rely completely on the private sector for success. However, without a degree, this is proving to be very difficult. Some things have to be learned in an ordered fashion, as in a classroom or small study group, and I, at the present time, do not have access to the former, or know of anything local to the latter.

Summarizing, unless I can Become Enabled through whatever means are available to me—public or private—and I can actualize (make work in real life) those means—I will, in all equal measure, continue to experience failure.

Thank You For Reading