The Birth of a Coordinated Effort: a National State Chat Network

It’s happening. And I can only express gratitude that I’m along for the ride. Within the last month, thanks to the leadership of Joe Mazza, the state chats across the United States have begun talking in earnest.

“This network is going to make things happen.”

It began with a map of the state chats, then expanded to a Google+ community and a hashtag. It’s alright if you didn’t notice. On the Twitter-Richter-scale, it barely measured as a rumble. But make no mistake. This network is going to make things happen. The energy in the group is palpable. And this is a group of connected educators who want to drive change, and want to connect with others to help each other drive that change. State Chat Map Screenshot

It’s been less than a week since I joined the Google+ community, and within the last week I have witnessed state chat moderators coordinating their schedules and discussing the possibilities of coordinated chats. Jeremy Evans asked if guest moderators would like to join #ohedchat. Naomi Bates has begun collecting information from the other state chat moderators. And other state chat moderators have begun to join the state chats across the country. For example, I was flattered to see  Ryan Archer from #caedchat, among others, join the #miched chat this past week (Wednesdays, 8 p.m.).

Recently, I sent out a survey to the state chat moderators listed on the national map. In one of the questions I asked what the state chat moderators would like to see to help support each other. The top suggestions were coordinate topics, promote chats, combine chats, and help guest moderate the state chats. This list is impressive on its own. But what is even more impressive is that these efforts began immediately. No one asked these educators to do these things, they just knew instinctively to get it done, because this group of connected educators have already made it happen in their respective states.

“I don’t know where we’re going, but I know it’s someplace necessary and good.”

I can’t wait to learn from and watch this group grow. I am in awe of the things the other state chats have accomplished. What will a national state chat network look like in one year, two years, three years? It’s almost impossible to know. Because the state chat movement itself is so young. A handful of state chats began in 2012, many more in 2013, and still some in 2014. MichED

I remember the birth of #MichED on Saturday, November 3rd, 2012. Ben Rimes, Craig Steenstra, and I sat in a room at Grand Rapids EdCamp. We wondered what Michigan educators could do to connect with each other more. Soon after the meeting we were joined by Brad Wilson and Todd Bloch. The following Wednesday a state chat was born, and was followed by a website, a podcast, and a YouTube channel, with plans for a state-wide virtual conference. Since that time the #MichED team has expanded to include Rebecca Wildman, Kit Hard, Rachelle Wynkoop, Ben Giplin, Tara Maynard, Scott Panozzo, and Mike Kaechele. But even more important, #MichED has become a real, true community. The team above is incredible, but the true heroes of #MichED are the educators across Michigan who connect with each other everyday. A trip to our recent state tech conference showed the power of the #MichED community. Seemingly everywhere I turned I met people who were grateful for the #MichED community, who thought of that community as colleagues, friends, even family.

And what is hard to comprehend is that the #MichED state chat is just over a year and a half old. It has been absolutely amazing to watch a vibrant community take shape in such a short period of time. But what of the other state chats? They all have similar stories to tell. They have their own vibrant communities, and have developed these communities in a short period of time as well. I don’t know where we are going, but I know it’s someplace necessary and good.

“This is not just another education hashtag. This is education hashtags 2.0.”

The reality is that the Twitter state chat movement is growing so quickly because it fulfills a vital need. The need to connect Twitter with real world relationships. There are education hashtags that get more traffic, more retweets, or draw in large Twitter followers, but the state chat movement provides something even the largest education hashtag can’t – an ability to develop grassroots relationships at the state level. And I don’t intend this as a criticism of the large national hashtags. They are awesome incubators of ideas. The point is simply that what a national hashtag can offer is inherently different from what a network founded on statewide, grassroots networks can offer.Hashtags

What excites me about a national state chat network is the opportunity to develop these grassroots relationships, to build upon them. I firmly believe this is a game changer. This is not just another education hashtag. This is education hashtags 2.0.

So what are we going to do with this? Other survey responses included conversations on culture and issues, create a website, tweet ups, virtual meetings, classroom Skype, connect the users of our hashtags, and create challenges or goals for our state chats. These are all great goals, and I would personally be happy to participate in any of them.  But no matter what we do, I think the driving force behind our decisions should be founded on what makes a national state chat network different from the other education hashtags – that we are built on grassroots, statewide networks.

The conversation has begun. Now the excitement begins.

So where are we going to take this?

– Jeff (@BushJMS)



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