Spring Ahead

Spring in step

Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and warmth spread across Iowa. It was welcome relief from the frigid winter we have experienced this year. Yet, hundreds of educators spent the day inside immersed in collaborative, self-directed learning. History was made. Tweets were flying – and luckily we did not break Twitter! The largest #edcamp event in the country was a smashing success! If you are on Twitter, check out the tweets for #edcampiowa to catch a glimpse of the learning and collaboration that transpired. (If you are not on Twitter … STOP EVERYTHING, get an account, and get started!)

I have followed numerous #edcamps on Twitter, organized three in my area, and have attended 4 others. I never tire of the rejuvenation of the day. Today I left with an extra spring in my step!

What makes the #edcamp model so successful? What draws educators to give up a Saturday to attend a full day professional learning opportunity? Why do participants leave with a sense of rejuvenation? In my opinion the answers lie in what Dr. Jim Knight, author of many books on instructional coaching and instructional practices, refers to as Partnership Learning. Dr. Knight defines Partnership Learning in his Partnership Learning Field Guide as:

“The partnership mindset, as it is defined within Partnership Learning, can be understood by embodying six principles: equity, choice, voice, reflection, dialogue and praxis. These principles help us describe what we mean by partnership and provide a way for us to make decision that enable us to make Partnership Learning happen.”


EQUITY – Everyone is considered an equal at an #edcamp. Participants often range from classroom teachers to administrators and central office personnel, yet no one really knows each others “work life.” The day is very casual. Everyone blends together. There are no formal presentations. EdCamp participants learn TOGETHER. No one has all the answers.

CHOICE – Edcamp participants have several opportunities for CHOICE. They developed the sessions together at the beginning of the day. Each time spot during the day has several session CHOICES. Participants CHOOSE which session they want to attend and they have the LAW OF TWO FEET, meaning if a session isn’t meeting their needs they are free to move to a different session or develop another.

VOICE – The topics of the day are totally reliant on the participants. They have VOICE in development of the day’s agenda. Sessions are about discussion, thinking and problem-solving. Everyone’s VOICE is appreciated and heard.

REFLECTION – Edcamp participants are highly REFLECTIVE. Follow the hashtag of any #edcamp and you will find highly REFLECTIVE tweets. Participants have a lot of A-HA moments. When a new idea is shared they want to know more. They carry the learning past the actual day to new continued contacts. Group notes are usually taken in a format like a Google Doc so participants can go back to the notes at any time.

DIALOGUE – The entire day is one big DIALOGUE on a variety of topics. Jim Collins, author of Good to Great, reminds us that great organizations engage in dialogue and debate, not coercion. Effective DIALOGUES are not monologues. Again, each voice is heard. At an Edcamp, everyone adds depth to the learning.

PRAXIS – Praxis describes the act of applying new ideas to our own lives. Participants walk out with new things to explore – whether it be a technology integration tool or approach or concept to investigate. Participant learning is solely dependent on the individual. Participants get out what they put into the day. Because participants engaged in the 5 principles described above, they are more likely to apply the new learning back in their school setting. They feel empowered and rejuvenated!

We must remember, Dr. Jim Knight, did not describe these six principles in the context of an #edcamp. The Partnership Learning Field Guide and principles were “developed as a guide for practitioners and change agents, administrators, teachers and others interested in seeing their schools become places that empower and inspire children to be independent, successful learners.” Additional information can be found in Dr. Knight’s books, Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction and Unmistakable Impact: A Partnership Approach for Dramatically Improving Instruction.

It is not uncommon for participants to express they wished the professional learning opportunities at their own schools were more like an #edcamp. As person who invests a lot of my time assisting schools with their professional learning this shows the need to continue to help schools embrace PARTNERSHIP LEARNING. Professional learning should be embedded. It should happen daily. It should be the culture of the school and everyone should take part in this ongoing journey. It should change and refine instructional practices and most importantly, increase student learning.

Another PARTNER we can NOT forget in this PARTNER LEARNING approach is that of our STUDENTS!

I will continue to reflect on my learning from today and make connections as to how I will apply this new learning. For now, I have a spring in my step …. and as the evening draws to an end I can’t forget to set my clocks forward and SPRING AHEAD!!! (Hence the true reason behind this blog title! I knew that after 3 hours on the road, 6 hours at an #edcamp and an evening of blogging I might forget about the clock setting ritual.)

How are the PARTNER LEARNING principles evident in your school? If they are not present, what is your role in creating the CHANGE!

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

― Mahatma Gandhi

Note: I am hitting “publish” as a need to call it a day. I will reread tomorrow to edit. 🙂


  • Ellen Popenhagen (@EPopenhagen) 10 Mar


    Your contextualizing of the day through Dr. Jim Knight’s PARTNERSHIP LEARNING rekindles the flame that burned all day Saturday. My only regret is that I cannot be in five places at once. The use of Twitter and Google help alleviate the anxiety of what I may be missing at another site, but it does not diminish the engagement and relationships that are built on-site. It was my first #edcamp and will most definitely not be my last.

    • Kathy Perret 10 Mar

      Glad you enjoyed your first #edcamp. It was different to have 5 going on at the same time. I actually found that I didn’t use Twitter that much during this #edcamp so I wouldn’t become distracted with what was being learned at other sites. It was nothing I planned, but thinking back, I think it helped me to stay focused.


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