Friday, June 26, 2015

Connections and Connectedness

"I have also been learning by experiencing the world. Through interacting with people from many different places I am beginning to understand about cultures different than mine as well as how they see themselves and me in their worldview." - Caleb Silverman

This is our fifth trip back to Secrets St. James. My wife and I use these yearly trips to disconnect from the daily grind while creating opportunities for face-to-face, high-quality connecting. Walks on the beach, quiet dinners, and sitting by the pool are the backdrops for sharing stories, reflecting on our previous year, and making plans for future adventures.


Natalie said, "These palm trees are new. They're so green and beautiful. Are those orange or mango trees?"

I pointed out new roofing and fresh paint, she noted the new patio furniture and the pineapples at the fresh fruit stand. It was then she noticed the white panels installed on the roofs of the main buildings, as well as, the tops of the gazebos and out buildings. 

"What are those things?", she asked.

"I am pretty sure they're wi-fi antennas.", I said.

We quickly pulled out our iPhones to check the wi-fi settings. High fives in celebration of our Jamaican home, now blanketed with high-speed wireless internet connectivity! Facetime, Pinterest, and Twitter could now be part of our poolside chats!


During the past few days, I finished reading the informative and interesting book, "What Connected Educators Do Differently" on my iPad, I've Facetimed with my parents, and I have written and published this post, all while resting beneath the wireless router strapped to a palm tree adjacent to our pool chairs. Shade and wi-fi coverage in one! I've tweeted with my PLN (personal learning network), shared posts to my Flipboard magazines, and posted pictures to my Flickr albums. 

My wife is reading about local foliage and recipes, sharing information to Pinterest, and posting pictures on her Facebook wall. We have connected educators, so learning and sharing are embedded in our daily routines. We are not alone, every person we see on the beach or at the pool today has either a cell phone or tablet with them. In fact, the resort checks-out iPads to patrons who would like to use one during their stay.

You may be wondering if our digital connections are lessening the quality of our vacation experiences. Our answer is not at all. In fact, our vacation experiences have been enhanced by a few key aspects of our digital connectedness.

First, we are able to stay in contact with several of our favorite friends here at Secrets St. James. This makes our face-to-face time more enriching and personal. We celebrate personal and family milestones, discuss politics and economics, and we discuss ways to stay connected and help each other in the coming months. In short, we learn from each other.

Second, we have the peace of mind from knowing that staying connected with loved ones back home is just a few taps away on our mobile devices. Severe weather and heavy rains back in Illinois have caused us to "check-in" more frequently than we normally would while on vacation. In addition, we are able to share pictures and video with folks who we wished could be here with us. We share our learning experiences transparently.

Third, when we encounter new plants, cultural interests, or just when our inquiry takes over, we have Google to help us find information and content. Our personal classrooms are constantly changing. Digital connections support our anywhere, any time desire to learn. We are not motivated by letter grades or financial gain, but by our curiosity, and our willingness to share what we are learning. Everyone's a teacher, and everyone's a learner in our personal, one-room, world-wide classroom.

With all of these positive connections surrounding us, it's becoming increasingly apparent that we need to make conscientious decisions about when we connect virtually versus our in-person connections. With technological change occurring so rapidly the norms have yet to be firmly established. Once again, it's connections and communication that will help us establish etiquette and expectations when it comes to appropriate practices for connecting.

"Educators who spend a significant amount of time connecting with others beyond the walls of their own workplace realize that they are models for the colleagues and the students with whom they interact. They realize that part of digital citizenship is knowing not only when and how to connect, but also when and how to unplug." - What Connected Educators Do Differently

Time for us to stroll the beach again. I'm leaving my iPad in our pool bag, for now. But, I leave you with these unanswered questions; "Why are digital connections essential to learning?" "When are the appropriate times to digitally disconnect?", and "How can the intrinsic joy of our informal learning become more frequently embedded in our formal learning environments?" Thanks for reading. As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated.

References & Related Reading


What Connected Educators Do Differently - Todd Whitaker, Jimmy Casas, and Jeff Zoul



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