Sunday, March 8, 2009

Expeditionary Learning

I was able to attend the Expeditionary Learning (EL) national conference in Baltimore last Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  It was an amazing learning experience for me.  EL has been around since 1992 and got its start from an idea to transfer some of the learning principles of Outward Bound into classrooms and schools.  It now has a few hundred schools in the national, both regular public and charter.  I have had a personal interest in EL for many years now, but that interest never really went beyond reading books, articles, and looking at their website.  Attending the conference has increased that interest about ten fold.  I tend to be pretty cynical about conferences in general.  They seem like a lot of money, there is a cattle call mentality to them, and I am generally suspicious of people who become, for lack of better words, professional presenters.  This conference was completely different. 

They utilized as many of their design principles as they could in a conference setting and as a result I was more engaged and learned far more than a typical conference.  We were all assigned to a "crew" as in "there are no passengers, we are all crew" which comes from Outward Bound.  We engaged daily with our crew members.  Every session was led by current practitioners, teachers and principals, and I don't think I saw one powerpoint the whole time I was there.  Each session had an agenda and posted learning targets and utilized active learning strategies.  All in all, an amazing experience and for this normally shy guy, I interacted with way more people than I ever would have because of those strategies.  I am going to share more EL thoughts as time goes by but just had to write briefly about this experience joining an adult learning "crew".