Connections – Just Open the Box!

Just as Forrest sits to talk to someone he has never met before, connecting in digital spaces opens up new conversations and ideas. Connecting digitally through Twitter or other social media is like a box of chocolates! You never know who you’re going to meet! Every connection can be sweet or may lead to a toothache. Some connections look interesting from the outside but once you get into it you realize it’s not to your liking. When connecting, and opening a new box of chocolates, it’s good to pace yourself, find balance, use resolve, and enjoy the moment.


I enjoyed a recent connection holiday where I had time to reflect on the boxes that have opened in my digitally connected spaces. I turned it all off and connected in physical rather than digital spaces for a while. I resolved to engage in face to face conversations, explore new places and reflect on what it all means for my digital self. It’s good to take a holiday, but it’s always nice to come home.

As I distanced myself from tech gadgets, my awareness heightened to people who were digitally connected while on holiday. I mentally captured images of folks hunched over cell phones and tablets from the beach and boardwalk. I empathized with one fellow who dropped his cell phone into clear Caribbean waters while kayaking but secretly congratulated myself on my disconnected status (it could have been me)! My awareness of my ’embodied self’ and my surroundings were enhanced. Colours, tones and senses became vibrant and engaging.

Part of taking that holiday was the joy and rush of coming home and connecting again. Fitting comfortably back into my digitally enhanced and connected life took a few days. There was no fear on my part about having missed out on something. I know and understand my digital and global PLN continued while I was gone. I know there are infinite boxes of chocolates waiting. I just needed to pick one and jump in. It’s nice to open a new box of chocolates to share with digitally connected friends, while making new friends along the way.

When examining the connection box, the first thing to notice is the box. It may be fancy or plain. The box itself hides the individuals inside. When you open it up, the variety and beauty of the designs are revealed. No two connections (or chocolates) are the same! And it’s hard to decide where to start. The digitally connecting box has no solid sides – the perimeters are open!

boxOne connecting box that I opened this past year was Virtually Connecting. It’s providing endless and interesting opportunities to step outside my local small box and into internationally connected spaces. The variety of conversations has sweetened my teaching and learning. It’s helping me think about balance, consider mindfulness and values (Kate Bowles), digital wellbeing, examine open educational practices (@catherinecronin) and connect ideas with others. My own focus on critical digital literacy, teaching media literacy and connected teaching was enhanced by the people found in this particular box. The variety of connections in this particular box (and it’s a pretty big box that’s still growing) is incredible – well past my Dunbar number (thanks @Autumm and @cogdog).

The best part for me was bringing this big box of connections into my classroom! With my students, I was able to experience additional connections that would never have opened without the ‘sweet’ connections found in @VConnecting. As I modelled, risked and stepped ‘outside of my comfortable box, I gained immeasurably when connecting with Sylvia Martinez and facilitating Ontario teachers talking about professional digital identity.

As I prepare to connect further and initiate Virtually Connecting sessions from the Connect 2016 conference with Angela Maiers (Mattering is the Agenda) and Alec Couros (Understanding Digital Citizenship), I am reflecting on the deliciousness found in building your own box. Thanks to Maha Bali and Rebecca Hogue for building a better box! Along with all the virtual and on-site hosts, this box is filled with interesting flavours, nuances for the palette, unexpected delights, and international spices. (Thanks AK for the tweetable sound bite and Susan Adams for connecting the ideas.)

As Virtually Connecting celebrates it’s one year birthday, I’m bringing forward this box of chocolates to all who become virtually connecting friends. Glad my holiday ended in time to celebrate with virtual connections near and far!

Links and Resources

Adams, S. (2016, April 16). We are connecting at #OLCInnovate for our birthday. [blog post]

Bentham, H. (2015, June 25). Thriving in a connected age: Digital capability and digital wellbeing.

Bowles, K. (2016, March 13). Standing room only. [blog post]

Couros, A. (2015, Dec 17). Digital identity / Digital presence. Human MOOC

Cronin, C. (2016, April 7). Initial thoughts … exploring OEP in higher education. [blog post]

Crosslin, M. (2015, Dec 9). Being Mindful . Human MOOC

flickr photo by Marit & Toomas Hinnosaar shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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