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“I’m Attempting to Use My iPhone Less”

March 5, 2018


“I do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to have been like a boy playing o the sea-shore, and diverting myself now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me,” reflects physicist Sir Isaac Newton.

What are you distracted by?

For many it is the shiny pebble, the lustrous shell of our cell phones.

But it doesn’t have to be.

A few weeks ago on Valentine’s Day I suggested that we make the planet our sweetheart and that for lent, we follow the Pope’s hope that we confront our culture of indifference, and instead of giving up sugar or soda or some such,  we:

1. Cut back on single use and other plastic consumption (read Chris Jordan’s “Trash Talk” here)
2. Spend less time inside and more time outside in nature
3. Go on a technology diet
4. Reduce carbon footprint at home or work or both

None of these challenge are easy, but they are all beneficial to people and planet. It’s hard to cut back on screen time; our cell phones seem to dominate our exisitence.

And I’m amazed at how disruptive those notifications can be — and I have very few of them. For many if seems like we MUST answer texts immediately.

So I was happy to learn about this feature on the iPhone which might help people who want to be more present in the present. In this Medium post,  Kevin Rose describes how you can send a message to people who text you to let them know that you’re trying to cut back on screen time in a modification of the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” mode. Rose’s tutorial modify this feature to offer a custom message.


Is the problem you want to work on solving about screen time? Nature deficit disorder? Single use plastic or pollution in the ocean? The impact of the Thomas Fire on planet or people?

In chapter two of Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Paulo Freire proposes teachers bring “problem posing” into the classroom. Freire argues that students have real questions for which they want answers, real problems they want to solve, real ideas they want to explore about their world. He encourages teachers to move from a transmission style of teaching to a transformative one, one that provides students with opportunities to transform their world. To do so, he suggests a process of naming, reflecting, and acting on the real world problems we face today. In Stop Stealing Dreams, Seth Godin also encourages students to get out and work on real world problems.

This semester, my students will write a 8-10 page research paper detailing how they worked to solve a problem they saw in the world using skills they have or want to learn. In this problem/solution essay, they will name a problem and do research into it to describe it, through research find and reflect on solutions. They will then take action, and, in their paper, evaluate their action. Their papers will include both primary and secondary research, first hand experiences as well as library research using the Ventura College databases.

The first step is to develop and draft a research proposal which I will approve. In the proposal, they will name the problem, propose possible solution/s and discuss actions they can or could take based on what they know so far.

A process for a research project starts with research.

1) Brainstorm
possible problems to solve. Do some research into these possibilities to find a viable topic. Sources can include the library but also advocacy groups can be really helpful.

2) Develop a research question for your proposal.
To prepare, consider the following:
What do you propose to research? Why does this topic interest you?
What is a problem you want to learn more about?
What do you think you want to do about this problem?
What is your research question? What is your working thesis?

3) Write a proposal in a typed 1-2 page paper of 3 or more paragraphs using single or double space:
–name, describe, outline the problem to show why it is a problem (not just a topic); be sure your problem is narrow enough for the scope of the paper and has a specific issue you will be addressing; include your research question and hyposthesis
–discuss why the problem is of interest including relevant personal experiences
–discuss possible advocacy groups to work with on this problem; what are they doing?
–discuss possible solutions, possible actions
–discuss possible primary sources
–discuss key secondary sources

Next students will begin research in earnest. During this phase, they will produce an annotated works consulted or annotated bibliography using the VC databases and librarians and including interview subjects and at least one local organization/advocacy group working on this.

Read more about this research paper process on Whisper Down The Write Alley.


Artwork above is a detail of a  silk appliqué thanks made by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, one of the only westerners trained in this rare Buddhist art that is part of the Tibetan cultural tradition. His Holiness the Dalai Lama gave his blessings to Leslie’s work and encouraged her to make images that speak to the spiritual aspirations of people across religions and cultures. Leslie’s story is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. Leslie’s Weekly Wake-ups like this one provide a thread of inspiration to set the week on the path to awakening.


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