In late 2012, I sat in an EdCamp Grand Rapids session hosted by Jeff Bush. He was interested in coordinating some sort of state-level conversation through social media for educators. It was early afternoon, on a Saturday; a time when most individuals are just nodding off for a nap. Jeff was a bit buzzed, so I thought it might bode well for the session. And it did.
We were in a pale green room with low-shag grey carpeting (the kind meant to minimize the amount of wear and hide stains). The lights were turned down low enough in the room to give those in the room a sense of calm before Jeff hit us with some big questions; “Why aren’t we better connected here in Michigan? What would we need to do to get more teachers and students involved with Twitter? Where do we start building positive places to share great learning?” I wasn’t entirely prepared for such a conversation (most of the morning sessions were all technology focused), and I didn’t even have a document open for taking notes. I jumped into the conversation without my usual pre-planned Google Doc at the ready, but within 40 minutes we had devised a plan for co-opting the #michED hashtag on Twitter for the purpose of sharing the good that’s happening in our state, registered a domain name, and start what would become a moment that is now permanently engraved on my personal top tenlist of “completely awesome endeavors that I shall always remember” (the list is a working title).
What was born out of that Edcamp session was the start of a movement. A few “lone nuts” trying to shout loud enough from our small corner of the web for others to hear through the noise of political rancor that has consumed the dialogue on Educational issues here in Michigan. Every Wednesday evening at 8 pm, we gravitate towards the #michED hashtag, and talk about digital footprints, new teacher retention, student choice in learning, and more. Brad Wilson came in shortly after the creation of the dedicated chat, and has produced one of the best new educational podcasts to come around in a long time, and I’m not just saying that; Wes Fryer recognized the #michED Podcast as part of a crop of podcasts bringing about a renaissance in educational podcasting. I’d like to say that our small group of dedicated #michED volunteers has changed the very definition of what an “#edchat” is, slowly turning it into a community dedicated to impacting the educational reality in our state, and leveraging social media to effect change politically, educationally, and socially. That’s not my place though; only time and others will determine if we’ve been successful in reaching those goals.
What I am certain of, is that the group of educators I asked to volunteer for a panel conversation at the MACUL 2014 conference are an amazing group of individuals. They sacrificed what most likely could have been a rewarding conference hour session for their own benefit, and instead dedicated it to helping others at the conference. And while I understand that Kit Hard and Ben Gilpin had prior commitments, I include them with Jeff Bush, Erin Mastin, Tara Maynard, Todd Bloch, Rebecca Wildman, and Brad Wilson in saying “thank you” for helping educators across Michigan share their stories, and amplify student voices. There are many others out there to thank, but I’ll leave it to the community to help me on this one.
I hope you enjoy the special #michED Podcast edition of that panel conversation as much as I enjoyed moderating it (it’s embedded below if you’d like to listen here). I criticized my moderating abilities a little afterwards, and with practice and refinement, I’m looking forward to leading more panel conversations. Until then I’m glad to see that MACUL 2014 gave birth to the #michED hashtag as a true movement, and look forward spreading #michED to other gatherings across the state in the coming months!