Saturday, March 10, 2018

How to Manage with a Broken Leg

Having broken my right fibula a month ago, I decided to put together an article with some advice on how to deal with it, and some practical advice on how to manage the normal daily activities.

First things first...

Having a broken leg will change your life for a couple of months, then it will be over, and normal life will resume, so don't panic too much, you just need to be patient, and you'll get through this.

Learning and Relearning

You are going to have to learn how to use crutches, and that will require that you relearn to how do a whole lot of things; walking, opening doors, washing, eating, and sleeping. Like all learning processes, there will be mistakes, there will be trail-and-error, there will be frustrations, but treat it as if you've just moved to another country where you are not familiar with the language and the customs, and don't be too hard on yourself, and it'll be OK.

Build a Nest

For several weeks, you are going to be bedbound (or couchbound), so you have to be prepared for that. For the first few weeks it's important to keep your leg elevated to prevent swelling, and I tried a variety of different things for that, including pillows, cushions, foam, a rolled up blanket, and a dog bed(!), what I found is that different things worked better on different days, not sure why, but there you go. What I also found is that no matter what I was using to elevate my leg, sometimes I could keep it in the same position for an hour or so with no discomfort, whereas other times no matter how I positioned my leg it was consistently sore or aching, so be ready for that.

IMPORTANT: Keep your phone within arms reach, and if possible have a phone charger within arms reach as well, people will be phoning you to see how you are doing, and it can be a really good distraction to have a long chat with someone. 

I also kept a notebook and pen with me, to write down anything I needed to remember, and as it was a A4 notebook, I keep all the documentation about the leg break in the notebook, including doctor appointment cards, invoices and bills, leaflets about different medical aids that I picked up at all the hospital visits, basically anything to do with the break.

Keep your painkillers, snacks, drinks, etc. on a tray near you.

Make sure your crutches are always with you, and find someplace that you can consistently place them, I found having them standing up and leaning on something is easier than leaving them lying on the floor beside you. 

I also used a grabber, which I found incredibly useful, to pick things up, and extend my range of influence: 

Those First Steps

Learning to walk with crutches takes a bit of practice, the one thing I learned was to take it slowly, there's no rush, and watch where you are putting the crutches. Keep looking at the ground, because you don't want the crutches to slip, so a loose mat, a spill of water, or a piece of paper on the floor can cause you problems, so just take it slowly and watch where you place your crutches and feet.

It is very important that you get used of using the crutches, you need to do some exercise, and I know it  can be nerve-racking, but it's important to move around, for a lot of reasons, to build up your confidence, to aid your digestion, and to avoid developing blood clots.

Having a seat

Sitting down using crutches is a bit tricky, under no circumstances try to sit down with your arms still in the cuffs, apparently you can break your arms quite easily if you do that. Instead, balance on your good foot, take your two crutches and point the handles towards each other so that they form a H shape, as below:

Now put one hand on both handles (as below), and using that, and your good foot, ease yourself gently into the seat, try not to "flop" into the seat, it might hurt.

Opening and Closing Doors

Opening a door while holding two crutches is really complicated, but it definitely gets easier with practice. The real key to opening a door that swings towards is judging where you can stand that is near enough that you can reach the handle, but far enough away so that when the door opens you don't need to adjust your feet. So when you find that spot, steady yourself with your good foot and one of the crutches; using the other arm to lean in and open the door, swing it towards you, and move back onto two crutches. It just takes a bit of practice.

Food and Drink

Drink lots of water, fruit juices and other fluids, it's very important to be hydrated, so much moreso than usual. Eat healthy food if possible also.

I found that if I made a cup of tea in the kitchen, then the kitchen was where I drank it, simply because I couldn't carry the cup of tea anywhere on crutches. I did try putting the tea in a flask, and putting that in my pocket, and having the tea on the couch, but honestly it was a lot less hassle just to have it where I made it. And it was the same for most food I prepared, it's just easier to have it in the kitchen, I tried putting a tray on the floor, and putting the food in the tray and slowly pushing it to the couch, but it took about 10 minutes!


I'm not a doctor, but two things I found helpful; taking fish oil tablets will reduce how itchy your leg becomes under the cast, and taking vitamins A-Z to help the bone heal.

Cleaning Up

Having a shower is very complicated with a broken leg, if possible it's easier to have a bath, with the cast hanging out of the bath. If you are going to take a shower, you really have to make sure that the cast doesn't get wet, so there are products you can wrap on the cast (see below), although what I did was the following; wrapped the top of the cast in cling film and taped that off with duct tape (aka duck tape), then got a trash bag and pulled it up my leg over the cast, and then taped that as well, particularly around the top of it to make sure there was a good seal, and then tape above and below the knee (to be sure, to be sure). Getting into the shower is tricky, so I would open the shower door, stand perpendicular to the entrance, put one crutch into the shower and leave one outside, the hop my good leg into the shower, and drag my bad leg in. Then I'd put the crutches outside the shower, balancing on one leg, and close the shower door.

Showering itself is very tricky, you are balancing on one leg, you are trying to use your arms to steady yourself, the environment is becoming progressively more slippy, so it's tricky. I found leaning myself up against the wall was the best thing to do, and not expecting to get a full shower for the first few weeks was sensible.

After a few weeks I got a lightweight metal stool for the shower to sit on, that was great, also consider using a plastic chair, if you have any garden furniture handy.

Getting out means opening the door, reaching over to get your crutches, putting one in the shower, one outside, and pushing yourself out, being very careful not be put the crutch in water. To dry myself, I lowered myself slowly onto the bathroom floor (sitting on a towel) and dried myself as much as possible sitting on the floor, then slowly eased myself up, and finished off drying (a non-trivial task to say the least).

Dress for Success

No big advice here, but try to wear loose-fitting clothing, that's easy to get on and off. I found tracksuit bottoms were comfortable and fairly easy to get into.

If you can get a jacket with a lot of pockets (see below) that can be really handy for carrying things while using crutches, otherwise a tote bag worn like a bib works just as well.

I found wearing braces (aka suspenders, aka galluses) made my life a whole lot easier, once I got my foot into my tracksuit bottoms, I was able to use the braces to help me pull them up, it saved a lot of pain!


It's very important to get exercise with a broken leg, I know it's the last thing you feel like, but it's important for your recovery and health to do it. As I mentioned above it's important to walk around on the crutches to build up your confidence, to aid your digestion, and to avoid developing blood clots. Other exercises you do don't have to be anything too dramatic, just wiggling your toes will help make sure your whole leg is getting circulation, and will reduce swelling. Additionally, I used a set of dumbbells to help build up my arm strength, because carrying myself around on crutches is sore on the hands, arms and shoulders, and after a week using the dumbbells it was much easier.


In many ways the entertainment aspect of this journey was the most surprising, I am an avid reader, I am normally reading between three to five books simultaneously at any given time, and I imagined having over a month in bed was going to be a great opportunity to get some serious reading done. This did not turn out to be the case, I found I couldn't concentrate on reading for more than about 20 minutes, some of it was to do with the pain in my leg, some of it was the frustration of not being able to go outside, some of it was to do with my arms being sore from using crutches.

Television on the other hand was definitely easier to manage, and I did look at a lot of comedy TV to maintain a level of happiness. I thought I was going to look at lots of DVDs, but hopping over to change the discs proved to be too tiring, so I stuck with Netflix and looked at a lot of fun shows, some great dramas, and some fascinating documentaries.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Chatting with the Trolls: Exploring Some of the Reasons behind the Leslie Jones' Cyberbullying (Part II)

In Part One of this article I suggested a few specific reasons why people are trolling Leslie Jones, in this part, I'm going to suggest an overall theory as to their motives.

So, that list of specific reasons are trolling Leslie again:
  1. Some of them think they are participating in a meme
  2. Some of them think that Leslie Jones has too much influence over Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter
  3. Some of them think that Leslie (or twitter) are in ISIS
  4. Some of them are just jerks
  5. Some of them are a bit sadistic
  6. Some of them feel they are justified because Leslie responds to trolls, and think she is trolling back
  7. Some of them feel justified because they think her responses to her trolls make her a troll and therefore a hypocrite
  8. Some of them know that they are haters
  9. Some of them don't know why they are doing it


Overall I think what's happening is broadly an example of Groupthink, I think anyone with right-wing views who is friends with other right-wingers on Twitter feel they have to troll Leslie because everyone else they know is doing it (or think they are).

One reason that I think this is particularly true is a repeated pattern I found when interacting with the trolls, I'd chat to one of them and be having quite a reasonable discussion as to why they trolled her, and suddenly between 4-8 other trolls would join in and start attacking me often in a coordinated way. These, I think, are so-called "mind guards" in the Groupthink literature, the self-appointed "protectors" of the group who try to stop members being exposed to adverse views to maintain unity within the group.

Another reason is their belief in the inherent morality (another common feature in the Groupthink literature) of what they are doing, they feel they are trying to expose the liberal bias of Twitter, that either Leslie is controlling Jack, or Jack is way too liberal, and banning conservatives, and therefore any tactic is acceptable in exposing that hypocrisy and (as they see it) gross injustice of the banning of Milo and others will be exposed also. Some of them also think Twitter is somehow working with ISIS (some of them are just mad).

One final reason I think that Groupthink is in play is the illusion of unanimity (another common feature in the Groupthink literature) that the trolls seem to have, although in practice (as I have mentioned above) there are very diverse reasons as to why different twitter users are trolling Leslie, when they swarmed together to attack me it was clear that some members were making comments that others felt went too far, so for example, at one point a group of about six twitter users were bombarding me with tweets, one sent a group tweet that said "he is almost ready for his hijab", a few others said agreed, but one tweeted directly to me saying "I don't agree with this" and quickly deleted the tweet. In another case one of the group said "when Trump gets elected, you and yours are going to get it", all but one of the rest of the group quickly agreed "Right on", etc. (as if this was a stock phrase, with an expected call-and-response), but one of the group didn't, and I think that is because they didn't agree with the sentiment.

Looking at the list above I think Groupthink explains reasons 1,2,3,6,7,8,9. Reason 9, in particular, "Some of them don't know why they are doing it" sounds like a perfect description of Groupthink to me. The other two reasons (4 and 5), because some are jerks and some are sadists, stand by themselves, those people will join any group if it allows them to spread pain.

I think if we can treat this twitter attack on Leslie as a Groupthink problem, we might be able to stop it completely.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Chatting with the Trolls: Exploring Some of the Reasons behind the Leslie Jones' Cyberbullying (Part I)


Like most people I was utterly disgusted by the cyberbullying on Twitter directed at Leslie Jones, so much so that I felt I had to do something about it, so for several days I monitored all tweets to Leslie Jones, and reported all of the abusive ones.

After a few days I concluded that reporting the bullies wasn't enough, I wanted to find out what was going on in their minds when they sent their abusive tweets, so I decided to have a chat with them. Here's what I did, I created a new generic twitter account, and every time a new abusive tweet was send to Leslie Jones, I'd report it to twitter, and then ask them why they were doing it; the answers were varied and surprising. I chatted to at least 250 trolls and below are some of the most striking.

I selected a fairly neutral logo for my twitter account:











Monday, December 7, 2015

Ken Robinson: Changing Education Paradigms

Ken Robinson is a wonderful speaker, but I think tends to generalize.

"Every country on earth at the moment is reforming public education." - Simply not true, since not all the countries in the world have public education.

"The problem is that the current system of education was designed and conceived and structured for a different age. It was conceived in the intellectual, culture of the enlightenment. And in the economic circumstances of the industrial revolution." - In my opinion, the current system of Western education goes back to Plato's The Republic

"And my view is that this model has caused chaos in many people's lives; it's been great for some, there have been people who have benefitted wonderfully from it. But most people have not. Instead they suffer this; this is the modern epidemic and it's as misplaced and as it’s fictitious. This is the plague of ADHD." - so, in essence, what is being say here is that non-academic people are being diagnosed as ADHD. I totally get what he is saying, but ADHD is a real and serious condition and it may be overdiagnosed in children, but may well be underdiagnosed in adults (Ginsberg, Quintero, Anand, Casillas, Upadhyaya, 2014). It could be genetic, it could be dopamine, allergies to junk being put into food, but it's definitely something more than being artistic.

"These kids are being medicated as routinely as we had our tonsils taken out. And on the same whimsical basis and for the same reason - medical fashion" - that is a crazy statement, it's not "whimsical", it's what the majority of doctors believe to be true. This is how science works, you work with what you know, and work on a hypothesis based on the evidence, and when new evidence comes along, you modify your hypothesis. Medicine doesn't know it all, nor does it pretend to; it does what it can with the best information it has, it's not whimsical, it's how all science works (read Kuhn or Lakatos).

"Our children are living in the most intensely stimulating period in the history of the earth." - I utterly disagree with this, for example, children who lived during the Hundred Years' War (from 1337 to 1453) would have found that way more stimulating, or if you lived in 1887 in China near the Yellow River you would be highly stimulated.

"It seems to me it's not a coincidence totally that the incidence of ADHD has risen in parallel with the growth of standardised testing. " - !!!

"And aesthetic experience is one in which your senses are operating at their peak, when you're present in the current moment, when you're resonating with the excitement of this thing that you're experiencing, when you're fully alive." - that sounds exactly what should be happening in a good classrooms -- no one is trying to stop children experience this, other than very bad teachers.

"Well I know kids who are much better than other kids at the same age in different disciplines, or at different times of the day, or better in smaller groups than in large groups, or sometimes they want to be on their own." -- easy to say, impossible to implement at the moment. Give a real practical alternative, or even the first steps to change the system.

"There was a great study done recently of divergent thinking" -  "Breakpoint and Beyond: Mastering the Future Today" by George Land and Beth Jarman was published in 1998 (so it's not that recent), it's a singe's a very good study, that asks interesting questions, but that's it. The divergent thinking issue needs multiple studies in multiple countries done by multiple researchers, to eliminate the fact that it might be an issue with with country's schooling system, or it might be cultural, or it might be something to do with the methodology being used.

"Divergent thinking isn't the same thing as creativity" - it's definitely not, it's not even 50% of creative thinking. If this argument is true, that schools are killing creativity, it would be reasonable to predict that since the implementation of this schooling system in the 1890s, the level of creativity has declined sharply, is that the case? Samuel Beckett was a product of that system, as was Haruki Murakami, as was Kingsley Amis, Gertrude Stein, Thomas Mann, Pablo Picasso, Tim Berners-Lee, Rosalind Franklin, Stephen Hawking, etc.

"And don't copy because that's cheating. Outside school that's called collaboration no but inside schools... " - come on, that's completely misleading, outside of school if you have a idea, and I steal it, that's intellectual property theft.

"Second, you have to recognise that most great learning happens in groups" - I don't agree, some people learn very well in groups, others learn better alone. using MBTI numbers, it might be 50/50.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips (advanced)

Following on from the Top Ten UDL Tips for beginners, and Top Ten UDL Tips for intermediates, in this posting we'll look at the Top Ten Universal Design for Learning tips for advanced teachers, remembering that the ultimate goal is to ensure multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement:

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Intermediate Tips (Advanced)

1. Communicate high expectations to all students in your class. If you have accommodated all students, everyone should have an equal chance at success.

2. Upload your videos onto YouTube, and and caption them.

3. When developing learning materials, in terms of the range of learners sensory preferences use the V-A-R-K Learning Styles model to create different types of learning materials and activities, e.g. PowerPoint, Podcasts, Pdfs, and Playdough

4. Learn more about the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI).

5. Pre-teach all symbols and unfamiliar vocabulary in an early class, and create a glossary booklet (with both text and visual descriptions) that you hand out at the start of the semester.

6. Consider the physical tasks that the students are required to do in class, find ways that you can provide alternatives in the requirements for speed, strength, timing, and range of these activities.

7. Create assessments so that the criteria to achieve a passing grade, a good grade, a very good grade, and an excellent grade are clearly articulated. Is it possible to provide alternative criteria for each level also?

8. Involve students as much as possible in setting their own learning goals.

9. When developing learning materials, in terms of the range of learners cognitive preferences use Keirsey Temperament Sorter to  to create different types of learning materials and activities, e.g. create activities that include aspects of problem solving, planning, personal growth, and proficiency.

10. Create a series of supporting documents to increase students' independent learning skills and discipline-specific skills that they can access at their own rate.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips (intermediate)

Following on from the Top Ten UDL Tips for beginners, here are ten more tips once you are comfortable with the first ten to help in Universal Design for Learning, remembering that the ultimate goal is to ensure multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement:

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Intermediate Tips (intermediate)

1. Start each lesson stating a set of learning outcomes you want the students to achieve in this class (and link these outcomes to material they have already covered in previous lessons where possible).

2. Provide sample assessments with solutions, and annotate these solutions with advice on answering questions and study tips.

3. If you are using videos and audio files, include a transcript. If it's a pre-existing video normally if you goggle a distinctive phrase from the video/audio, there's usually a transcript of it somewhere on the web.

4. Consider checking your materials using an accessibly tool where applicable.

5. Consider incorporating a peer reviewing element into your assessments, but make sure you teach students to be supportive and respectful of each other and their work.

6. Once a semester do an activity that gives the students some choice in the activity (it could be for example in terms of doing the activity individually or in groups; on-line or paper-based; in the classroom or as fieldwork; or some combination of these).

7. Instead of having a single large assessment, consider breaking it down into a few parts, and provide some quick feedback after each part to help the students understand what you are looking for in your assessments.

8. Give your students marks for participation in class (this is very easy to do on-line with discussion boards).

9. Create an anonymous comments box for students, you can do this on-line using SurveyMonkey

10. Give assessment instructions both orally and in written format, and remind students frequently of deadlines and delivery dates (Consider creating a class calendar also).

Friday, November 27, 2015

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips (beginners)

A colleague recently asked me for my top ten tips to introduce people easily to Universal Design for Learning, now we know that the ultimate goal is to ensure multiple means of representation, expression, and engagement, but we have to start somewhere, and here it is:

Universal Design for Learning: Top Ten Tips to Begin With

1. Use a minimum of 14pt font size where possible in all documents

2. Colour the document backgrounds with off-white/cream (for PowerPoints and other documents)

3. Try to break sentences into short readable units

4. Explain new terms when you first use them (consider creating a glossary)

5. Use bullet points, or better yet numbers, rather than long passages of prose

6. Include Pictures and Graphics to support text (e.g. flowcharts) and get students as an activity to create their own graphics/visuals for your topic

7. Make sure all handouts and notes are available well in advance of class

8. Try to break large documents (PowerPoints, Word docs, pdf, etc.) into multiple smaller documents, or at least create clear section breaks

9. Avoid Idioms, colloquialisms, and figurative language; also avoid examples that are too culturally specific, or gender biased

10. Consider using a font kind to people with dyslexia, like OpenDyslexic and Dyslexieotherwise stick with sans serif fonts such as Arial, Comic Sans, Verdana or Sassoon