Instead of setting New Year’s resolutions I’ve decided to instead make plans. Unlike resolutions, which feel like a big commitment, plans are adaptable, flexible and fluid. And also I’ll feel like less of a failure when my plans change (because, life) than I would if I break a resolution. So, here are the professional and personal plans for 2019.

Three years ago I deleted my Facebook account and have not missed a single thing that I care about. Late last year I deleted the Twitter app from my phone and tablet and as a result, stopped checking Twitter every day (I’ve been back once in the past month). I thought that I’d just probably continue to visit in the browser but now that it’s not on my phone I find that I just don’t think about it very much and, contrary to what I expected, I don’t miss it at all. Posts from this blog will keep being sent to Twitter for the time being but I may switch that off as well. Deleting an app from my phone seems like such a small thing but it’s really a thread that, when pulled, causes everything else to move. At some point, I’ll write about my reasons for moving away from social media. In the meantime, I’ll be experimenting with using this site to share the things that I find interesting, as well as more personal stuff.

My writing plans include putting aside an hour and a half every day during the week, usually from 08:30-10:00, which is just for me to write. Obviously, this will need to adapt to the requirements of teaching and admin but that’s my plan. I’m hoping to do a lot more writing both formally (i.e. academic papers) and informally (e.g. writing for The Conversation, and blogging). I currently have 11 articles under review, which I hope to get published during 2019 along with a few more ideas for papers that I have in the pipeline. These are mostly the result of clearing a backlog of papers arising from several projects that came to an end during 2017-2018. Since I don’t have any data from projects that are currently up and running my 2019 articles will most likely be more position/opinion papers that I’m using to build a foundation for my thinking around AI in healthcare and education. Once I’ve used those papers to consolidate the vocabulary and establish a few lines of inquiry, I’ll build a research agenda that should see me through the next 3-5 years.

I have two research projects that I’m busy spinning up; one on internationalisation with student exchange and another on the social implications of AI. The internationalisation project has been funded and includes a 2-week visit to Oslo, along with 5 of our undergraduate students. We’ll also be hosting 3 OsloMet colleagues and 5 of their students in Cape Town as part of the exchange programme. The implications of AI is something that’s been on my mind for the past year or so and I feel like I’m comfortable enough with the topic that I can start building a research plan around it. I’m really excited about these two projects and will share more of the details once we’ve nailed them down.

In May I’ll also be travelling to Geneva for the WCPT conference after having had two abstracts accepted. As part of that visit, I’m working with Ben Ellis, Joost van Wijchen and Guillaume Christe to plan the first In Beta Unconference, which will most likely take place in the days following the conference. If you’re interested in physiotherapy education then watch this space for an announcement in the next couple of weeks. This is part of our bigger plans to develop the In Beta community, which I wrote about during a reflection on 2018. This will most likely be my last time attending WCPT and in future, I’ll be looking at AMEE as my biennial international conference. I’ll also try to attend our local SAAHE conference, although that may not be possible given the significant expense of travelling to Geneva.

I’m going to try and expand the SAAHE podcast conversations that we started last year to include conversations with leaders in health professions education, in addition to the PhD graduates who I’ve been talking to so far. The idea is to talk about the development pathways of academics who have done a lot to drive growth in health professions education. I recorded three conversations near the end of last year and have another few planned for the next couple of months. However, like the In Beta podcast, the biggest challenge is getting the audio edited.

A few years ago I did what I called my 365 project, which was simply taking a photo a day for a year. I’ve re-started the project and have been reminded of just how many things I see every day that are quite beautiful. This is something that I’m really looking forward to, as the collection of a year’s worth of daily photos is both inspiring and wonderful to look back on.

Day 9 of the 365 project: Gaura flowers in the garden.

I’m going to try and get back into playing Go, which I did for a few years and then dropped. I really enjoyed it and can’t remember why I stopped. Last year my wife bought me a Go board (I still need the stones) so hopefully, that’ll be a big enough push to get me started again. Maybe I’ll teach the girls to play.

It’s a bit cliched but I’d like to get more exercise in 2019, especially on the moutain bike. It takes me 10 minutes to cycle to the Tokai mountain bike trails and it’s ridiculous that I don’t go more often.

Mountain biking in Tokai.

I try to read for about 3-4 hours a day and in 2018 I read 30 books (including Neal Stephensons Baroque Cycle trilogy, and Stephen Pinker’s Better Angels of our Nature, which are huge monsters) and 5.1 million words in Pocket. My daily reading time includes the minimum of 2 hours I spend commuting during the week, during which I mostly listen to articles I’ve saved in Pocket. I’ve now done a bit of re-shuffling of my daily schedule in an attempt to carve out a little bit more time for reading academic papers, which I’ve realised has been neglected since finishing my PhD.

During the last few weeks of the holidays we spent quite a bit of time spring cleaning the house and doing a bit of work in the garden. Even though we moved in 3 years ago there were still boxes and cupboards that were essentially the same as when we first arrived and dumped stuff into them to get it all off the floor. We did a huge cleanup in the garage, hung some pictures on the walls, donated a ton of stuff to charity, and finally moved an armchair into the study, which I’ve been wanting to do for at least 2 years. The change in my headspace has been amazing and so I’m planning to do more work around the house and garden in 2019. Related to this is the idea that we’d like to go away more for short breaks rather than having a single holiday at the end of the year. We spent 3 days in Greyton earlier this month and it was wonderful to get away somewhere quiet. So we’ll try to build in a few shorter breaks during 2019.

Standing in the Gobos River just outside of Greyton.

I’m going to continue my “No working in the evenings and on weekends” policy, which seems to have gone well in 2018. It means that I need to be really intentional during the 8-9 hours when I’m at work but then when I’m at home I’m mentally not at work, which has been great for my mental health. Speaking of which I’m going to reboot my attempts at daily meditation, spurred in part by the fact that I now have free access to the Waking Up app by Sam Harris as a result of being a paid subscriber to his podcast.

If I get through 2019 having achieved some of what I’ve described here, I think I’ll be pretty happy. If you read this far, thanks and all the best to you for the year ahead.

Uncertain times: A short reflection on career progression

As part of the 10 year celebration of SAFRI – the Southern African FAIMER Regional Institute – I was asked to contribute short reflection to a chapter on Professional development: Post fellowship on a personal and professional level. This is what I submitted (click here for a higher res PDF).

altPhysio | Personal reflection on the series

As part of the altPhysio series I’ll be writing a few reflective posts where I think out loud about the process of writing the series. This is really for my own benefit of documenting the process, so you may not find it very interesting. Just saying…

Over the past 2 or 3 years I’ve been thinking about what it would take to set up a private physiotherapy school that looked and worked very differently to what we’ve come to expect in a mainstream programme. I started seeing how ineffective and inefficient the system is for student learning and realised that a lot of what we simply accept as being normal, is actually the basis for many of the problems we experience. For the most part I kept my thoughts to myself, sharing with those who I knew had a similar bent. It wasn’t much of anything besides a few of us bouncing around some ideas but it was enough to keep the concepts slowly evolving in the back of my mind.

But over the past few months I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how much these ideas resonate with others. It’s mainly people I’ve connected with through the Critical Physiotherapy Network, so it’s clearly a certain kind of physio – one who would join the CPN – that finds these ideas interesting. I had no idea that there would be so much support for a newly imagined curriculum and the positive feedback has been wonderful. On that note, I’ve also realised that there are pockets of innovation in physiotherapy education where some of the ideas I’m writing about are being implemented. I’d love to hear more about those programmes in the comments.

Another thing that I’ve noticed is that as I spend more time working on a post for an idea, the less novel it seems. I just published something on getting rid of modules and when I put it out there I had a moment where I thought how pedestrian the argument seems. It’s almost like I’ve convinced myself of the truth of it and now simply accept that it’s the way to go. I guess this is why it’s so important to me that others push back against these ideas and find reasons for why they might not work. Or, to tell me that your school has already been doing it for years and it’s really not that innovative at all.

To be clear, this is a thought experiment and many of these ideas might be terrible on closer inspection. I’m just wondering out loud what kinds of changes in the system might help us to address the problems that we currently experience in our curricula. I’m crash testing my own ideas, which is why feedback (and push back) is so important. I really do want to know all the ways that the concept doesn’t work. By reconsidering the things we accept as being inherently true, we may be able to figure out how to resolve some of our problems anyway.

You have to do the hard things

I was really inspired by the post below, taken from Dan Waldschmidt’s post, 19 hard things you need to do to be successful.

You have to do the hard things

  1. You have to make the call you’re afraid to make.
  2. You have to get up earlier than you want to get up.
  3. You have to give more than you get in return right away.
  4. You have to care more about others than they care about you.
  5. You have to fight when you are already injured, bloody, and sore.
  6. You have to feel unsure and insecure when playing it safe seems smarter.
  7. You have to lead when no one else is following you yet.
  8. You have to invest in yourself even though no one else is.
  9. You have to look like a fool while you’re looking for answers you don’t have.
  10. You have to grind out the details when it’s easier to shrug them off.
  11. You have to deliver results when making excuses is an option.
  12. You have to search for your own explanations even when you’re told to accept the “facts”.
  13. You have to make mistakes and look like an idiot.
  14. You have try and fail and try again.
  15. You have to run faster even though you’re out of breath.
  16. You have to be kind to people who have been cruel to you.
  17. You have to meet deadlines that are unreasonable and deliver results that are unparalleled.
  18. You have to be accountable for your actions even when things go wrong.
  19. You have to keep moving towards where you want to be no matter what’s in front of you.

You have to do the hard things

The things that no one else is doing. The things that scare you. The things that make you wonder how much longer you can hold on.

Those are the things that define you. Those are the things that make the difference between living a life of mediocrity or outrageous success.

The hard things are the easiest things to avoid.  To excuse away. To pretend like they don’t apply to you.

The simple truth about how ordinary people accomplish outrageous feats of success is that they do the hard things that smarter, wealthier, more qualified people don’t have the courage — or desperation — to do.

In our faculty we’re currently having a lot of discussion around student success and the things we need to do to try and improve their outcomes. In the student engagement literature, there’s the idea of academic challenge, which suggests that students are not only capable of performing at high levels but that their outcomes are significantly improved when we expect more of them. In other words, when we set tasks that challenge students to go beyond what they believe they’re capable of (assisted with appropriate scaffolding), we may see higher levels of student success.

Academic challenge relates to challenging intellectual and creative work is central to student learning and collegiate quality. Colleges and universities promote high levels of student achievement by calling on students to engage in complex cognitive tasks requiring more than mere memorization of facts. This Engagement Indicator captures how much students’ coursework emphasizes challenging cognitive tasks such as application, analysis, judgment, and synthesis.

The other aspect of the above post that really struck a cord with me is the impact it had on my ideas around leadership. After chairing the organising committee of the SAAHE conference, there was a lot I needed to reflect on with regards leadership and my own development in that area. There’s a lot in this list about being vulnerable (“unsure and insecure”) and modelling a process and way of being that I think are valuable qualities in a leader. If you don’t think of yourself as a leader, then even when you are put into a position of leadership, will you really be able to lead? Don’t you have to believe that you’re a leader before others will believe you? The list of behaviours and beliefs above are about being successful but I think that if you look at it in terms of leadership, there’s a lot to be gained as well.

Movies about teacher-student relationships

The untimely passing of Robin Williams a few weeks ago reminded me of an idea for a post that’s been on my mind for a while (apparently I’m not the only person who thought about this). I’ve always loved movies about teachers and students, and I wanted to share some of the ones that have stuck with me. The idea began as a list of movies that inspired me to teach but ended up as a list of movies about relationships between people, that just happened to have teachers and students as a common theme.


Dead poets society (1989)


Finding Forrester (2000)


Good Will Hunting (1997)


Pay it forward (2000)


Real genius (1985)


A beautiful mind (2001)


Remember the Titans (2000)


Radio (2003)


With honors (1994)


School ties (1992)


Coach Carter (2005)

Starting new projects and catching up with old ones

It’s been a long time since I’ve updated my blog, for a few very good reasons. The first and most important is that in the middle of last year my daughter was born. I took time out from as many non-essential work-related activities as possible so that I could spend time with her whenever I could.

During this same period of time I also developed and ran an open online course on Professional Ethics in collaboration with Physiopedia as part of a sabbatical project I was working on. While I blogged extensively as part of the course, it meant that I had no time to write about other things I found interesting.

At about the same time, I agreed to chair the organising committee of the 2014 SAAHE conference, which was recently held in Cape Town. The conference organisation and sabbatical research project, together with my normal workload and commitment to family time meant that I had to take a step back from blogging.

However, now that the conference and research project is over and our family have settled into a more structured routine, I’m finding that I have a little more time to start blogging again. I thought that I’d get back into the swing of things by saying a little bit about the main projects that I anticipate working on during the next few months.

The first is my Clinical Teacher mobile app. It’s been ages since I’ve added any new content and I’m feeling really guilty about that, especially since interest in the project seems to be growing. I’ve slowly been adding bits and pieces to a few articles that I wanted to write but never had the time to finalise any of them. Over the next few months I’m hoping to finish 2 or 3 articles and get them published into the app. I’m also going to work on a visual refresh for the app. I’ve been really impressed with the material design principles highlighted in the the developer preview of Android “L”. The flat design and use of colour and depth, together with new ideas about fonts and how they display on many different screen sizes, has got me thinking differently about the app.


The change won’t be anything drastic but I do want to give the app a more modern look and feel, and remove the faux leather covers and gradients. I also want to come up with a consistent image theme for article headers. The more recent articles have had an “animal” theme, where I try to find an image of an animal that somehow speaks to the topic (even if the link is only in my mind). However, there have been times when I’ve ignored that trend and just used something clearly related. I haven’t yet decided what to do but am clear that it will be a design decision that will be consistently applied moving forward. Finally, I want to experiment with the new features that Snapplify have been building into the platform, including publishing video and audio, annotations, and text highlighting.

I mentioned earlier in the post that in 2013 I ran an open online course on ethics, and would now like to build on that work. I’ve submitted a funding proposal to support the next phase of the project, which is to offer the course in a variety of countries and educational contexts, and across a range of professional disciplines. We learned an enormous amount during the 2013 experience and we want to build on those lessons by doing something that really challenges how we think about physiotherapy education in an international context. I’m definitely going to work with Physiopedia again, since we had a really great experience during the first course and their input was invaluable. I’ll post more about that project once I’ve found out about the funding outcome and ethics approval.

Finally, and on a somewhat related note, we’re going to be developing a few courses within our department, which we will offer to our clinical supervisors and clinicians at the placements where our students work. They will most likely be a blend of online and physical components, and be relatively short in duration (ranging from a few hours to 2-4 weeks). Our supervisors have identified several areas where they would like additional input that they feel will help them to better support our students. For example, assessment and feedback are two areas that could be improved. So, we’ll be exploring different ways to support our clinicians and supervisors over the next few months.

In addition to these projects, I’m also going back to Brazil in November to attend The Network: Towards Unity for Health conference. The main reason for attending is to try and establish partnerships with colleagues from other institutions, who might like to be involved in the international ethics project that I mentioned earlier. There are many parallels and similarities between Brazil and South Africa, and I’d like to develop stronger links between my own institution and others over there because there’s a lot we can learn from each other.

So that’s it. My tentative plans for the rest of 2014.