Conversation in the Digital Age: Panel of Experts Will Discuss How We’re Changing

The topic of the evening is an exploration of conversation in the digital age, as two Hartford institutions come together to bring some perspective to how we communicate in the age of technology, and how we don’t. On Wednesday, May 4, The Connecticut Forum in partnership with the Mark Twain House & Museum will present DISCONNECT: Conversation in the Digital Age. The event is described as an (old-fashioned) conversation with three nationally-recognized digital experts to discuss “how social media and our ubiquitous devices have impacted the art of authentic conversation.”  They pose the question: if conversation is how we truly connect to others, what happens when face-to-face communication decreases?Forum, Twain

The panel will feature Dr. David Greenfield from the Center for Internet & Technology Addiction, Slow Tech Movement founder Janell Burley Hofmann, and tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar. Jamie Daniel, director of programming at The Connecticut Forum, will moderate the conversation.

Polgar says that opportunities for fluid conversations have diminished, to our detriment. “We have adapted technology faster than we can adjust our norms or our etiquette.  Do we ever have a prolonged conversation anymore?  There’s a difference between communication and conversation,” he suggests.

“We’re constantly packaging ourselves – exercising brand management in our conversations,” he observes.  “We’re so plugged in, we don’t do eye-to-eye communicating much anymore – there’s a need to increase facetime in our communication.”

Polgar is a frequent speaker and respected tech commentator/writer, and has been featured in The Boston Globe, Financial Times, BBC, SiriusXM, Sydney Morning Herald, VentureBeat, US News & World Report, TEDx, and Forbes, among other publications. He is also co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit, a global network of summits focused on safe, savvy, and ethical use of social media and technology. With a background as an attorney and educator, he examines tech use from an ethical, legal, and emotional perspective, providing a unique look into emerging trends and business speakers

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with the Twain House on this timely event,” said Connecticut Forum Executive Director Doris Sugarman. “We welcome opportunities like this to facilitate and encourage dialogue about compelling topics that impact our communities and our lives.”

Individuals planning on attending can send in a question in advance of May 4, via a link  that provides a form for questions to be directed at a specific panelist, or the entire panel.

Janell Burley Hofman is the author of the book, iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. She is also a speaker and consultant on topics like technology, media, health, relationships and personal growth. She will be signing copies of her book after the program.

Dr. David Greenfield is the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He is recognized as one of the world’s leading voices on Internet, computer, and digital media behavior, and a pioneer concerning compulsive and addictive use. He is the author of the Virtual Addiction, which rang an early warning bell with tech overuse when it came out in 1999.  He lectures to public and medical/psychiatric groups throughout the world, and has appeared numerous times on national media and publications.

“I am looking forward to hearing from this panel of experts on questions that we consider every day,” said Jamie Daniel, Director of Programming at The Connecticut Forum, who will be moderating the discussion.  “How is technology changing the way we make friends, fall in love, and parent our kids? How is our online discourse impacting the way we engage in politics? Connect with one another? Shape our communities? And how is social media changing our relationships - and our brains? This amazing panel will help us consider all of this, and more.”


The Connecticut Forum is a (c)(3) nonprofit organization serving Connecticut and beyond with live, unscripted conversations among renowned experts and celebrities, and community outreach programs including the Connecticut YOUTH Forum.  The Mark Twain House & Museum has restored the author's home, where the author and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. In addition to providing tours of the National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain's literary legacy and provide information about his life and times.

Tickets for DISCONNECT are $10. ($5 for Mark Twain House & Museum members and Connecticut Forum subscribers) The program on Wednesday, May 4 begins at 7 PM.  Photo: (l to r) David Greenfield, Jannell Hofmann, David Ryan Polgar.

New Partners, Speakers Add to Momentum for Digital Citizenship Summit in CT

Billed as “a national gathering of the leading thinkers in the digital citizenship community,” plans are rapidly developing for the Digital Citizenship Summit to be held in Connecticut at the University of Saint Joseph (USJ) in West Hartford in October. Organizers have announced four new national partners, the National Association for Media Literacy Education, Common Sense Education, Media Literacy Now and Cyberwise, and added additional speakers to an impressive roster of experts from around the country.  Signing on as partners for the Summit:digcitsummitlogo

  • The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) is a New Jersey-based national membership organization dedicated to advancing the field of media literacy education in the United States. NAMLE members “weave a diverse network of people and organizations committed to advancing media literacy education as a new vision of literacy for the 21st century.”
  • Cyberwise is described as “the go-to learning source for adults who want to help kids use technology safely and wisely.” The organization helps parents and educators understand online safety, privacy, digital citizenship.”
  • Common Sense Education, based in San Francisco, is dedicated to helping kids thrive in a world of media and technology, “empowering parents, teachers, and policymakers by providing unbiased information to help them harness the power of media and technology.”
  • Media Literacy Now provides policy and advocacy information, expertise, and resources to develop state laws to implement media literacy education in schools.

The aim of the Digital Citizenship Summit, to be held on October 3, is to create positive, practical solutions along with amplifying the overall message of improving tech usage. Topics for the all-day Summit include digital literacy, etiquette, wellness, security, and law. The term “digital citizenship” describes appropriate, responsible tech and Internet use. Similar to the rights and responsibilities involved in being a citizen, there are legal and ethical obligations with being a digital citizen, notes co-organizer David Ryan Polgar, a tech ethicist and digital lifestyle expert from West Hartford.

"The Digital Citizenship Summit is striking a nerve nationwide. There is a tremendous level of enthusiasm to collectively work towards better tech use standards,” Polgar explained.  “What the Summit is doing is bringing all of those voices together and amplifying the message. It has been gratifying to see the level of support so far, and we're proud that Connecticut is playing such an integral role in shaping the national conversation concerning digital citizenship."namle-web-logo2015

Registration for the day-long Summit has recently opened, and organizers are anticipating the limited capacity will sell out quickly.  Already, attendees and participants from Florida to California have signed on.  The organizing committee includes Polgar, Marlialice B.F.X. Curran, an Associate Professor at USJ, and JoAnn Freiberg, an educational consultant with the Connecticut Department of Education.

Speakers added recently include Janell Burley Hofman, an author, speaker and consultant on topics including technology, media, health, relationships and personal growth.  Janell is the author of the book, iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. She has also presented at TEDx San Diego with a talk titled “Parenting in the Screen Age.” Janell is an essayist and contributor to the Huffington Post, and a contributor to APR’s Marketplace Tech. CYBERWISE-logo-300x81

Also added to the speaker roster is Tanya Avrith, the Lead Pedagogical Consultant at Amplified IT. She is a Google Certified Teacher, Apple Distinguished Educator and holds a M.A. in Educational Technology.  She previously served as the Lead Educational Technology and Digital Citizenship Teacher at the Lester B. Pearson School Board in Montreal, Canada. While there she was instrumental in the vision and execution of the district wide Digital Citizenship Program ( leading to her being invited to Facebook to discuss Digital Citizenship Education.comon sense

Speakers at the October event also include Reuben Loewy, Founder and Director of Living Online Lab, a nonprofit organization dedicated to preparing students to be informed, critical and active participants in our digital society, and Denise Lisi DeRosa, Program Manager for the Family Online Safety Institute. She is dedicated to empowering families with the tools needed to embrace the current social and digital technologies in meaningful, creative and positive ways.1391787304Media-Literacy-Now-Logo

The University of Saint Joseph, which will host the Summit, has offered two digital citizenship courses since 2010, created and taught by Dr. Curran, an Associate Professor in the School of Education. Curran and Tracy Mercier, a consultant for Responsive Classroom and a graduate of the University of Saint Joseph, co-founded the first digital citizenship #digcit chat on Twitter.

Connecticut “Ideas Worth Spreading” Resonate in Massachusetts in TED Talks

TED came to Springfield, Massachusetts this month with a decidedly Connecticut flavor, as a quarter of the featured speakers offering “ideas worth spreading,” hailed from the “still revolutionary” state.

Of the 16 “TED talks” on the agenda during a day-long program sponsored by and held at the headquarters of Mass Mutual, four of the speakers were from Connecticut, and left the specially selected audience intrigued, impressed and inspired.

keishaWell known worldwide, TED is a nonprofit which began decades ago with a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become considerably broader, and “TED Talks” – widely available on the web – have become a global phenomenon, watched by tens of millions.

TED conferences “bring together the world's most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives.”  That’s precisely what occurred at TEDx in Springfield, where in addition to speakers touting the possibilities for that post-industrial urban center, a wide array of innovative subjects were featured under the theme “Driving innovation through diversity and inclusion.”

The Connecticut quartet at TEDx Springfield:

  • Keisha Ashe is co-founder and CEO of ManyMentors, a nonprofit science, technology, engineering and math STEM) mentoring organization that connects minority and female middle and high school students with encouraging and suppormaureen connolly phototing near-age mentors in the STEM fields.  “If they never know, they’ll never go,” is the guiding phrase of the initiative, reflecting the fact that many women and minority students are not encouraged to pursue the STEM fields, and are often unaware of the career potential or their own aptitude for the STEM careers.  Ashe is a Ph.D. candidate in Chemical Engineering at UConn.
  • Maureen Connolly is an event planning professional with extensive national and international experience across diverse markets, and a visionary and passionate leader skilled at creating high impact programs with measurable results.  She is the foremost advocate for utilizing public celebrations as a means of extending social capital by having the community, rather than the event, at the core of planning.  She has written on the enduring transformational potential of public celebrations, and offers that “now is the time to harness that collective energy and accumulated social capital as a catalyst for social change” that will develop collaborations with the potential to breathe new life into hard-pressed cities.david ryan polgar
  • David Ryan Polgar is a Connecticut-based writer/attorney/educator and highly regarded tech ethicist who speaks on the topics of information overload, digital diets, and creativity.  He is an award-winning columnist for Seasons magazine, and has been featured in national media. Polgar speaks and writes about the ethical, legal, sociological, and emotional issues surrounding our relationship to technology.  He has created a “Mental Food Plate” as an approach to achieving deeper levels of thinking, and explores the imperative for an industry to develop that will serve as a counterbalance to the burgeoning technologies that “we can’t stop consuming.”
  • Jon Thomas is the founder of Tap Cancer Out, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu nonprofit and host of the most philanthropic martial arts events in the world.  Jon Thomas and his wife Becky run the Stratford-based nonprofit “in the slivers of spare time between their jobs in advertising.”  The nonprofit was founded out of a desire to respond to the devastation of cancer through a sport that Thomas was deeply involved with.  The organization raises funds – all donated to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society - through hosting fundraising tournaments, direct donations, merchandise sales and sponsorships.tap cancer out

The TED website points out that “TED is best thought of as a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world.”  TEDx Springfield was organized by Jae Junkunc of Hartford, from Mass Mutual's Enterprise Risk Management Group, with support of a 15-member team that developed the program over six months.

TED includes the award-winning TED Talks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize. The TEDx program gives communities, organizations and individuals the opportunity to stimulate dialogue through TED-like experTEDx logoiences at the local level. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are planned and coordinated independently.

A TEDx session in Hartford in June included talks by David Fink of Partnership for Strong Communities, Steven Mitchell of East Coast Greenway, Donna Berman of Charter Oak Cultural Center, and Rich Hollant of CO:LAB, among sixteen local speakers.