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The 2018 Adult Education & Literacy Conference

by Tony Ryals

In less than a month, the first Virginia Adult Education & Literacy (AE&L) Conference will take place at Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center in Colonial Williamsburg. VALRC, with support from the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE), has been hard at work to make sure this conference is impactful, informative, and unique. This conference is the first of its kind in the state of Virginia, combining individual adult education conferences, symposia, and meetings into one: one purpose, one focus, one voice to advance adult education in Virginia. The AE&L Conference provides a great opportunity to engage with colleagues, network, and learn together while showcasing emerging trends and practices in the field of adult education.

This year’s theme is: Innovate, Motivate, Integrate. Innovate was chosen as a way to encourage rethinking the status quo in adult education. As technology progresses and the ways individuals learn constantly shift, innovative thinking and practices are needed to best impact adult learners. Motivate was chosen as a way to keep all those in the field of adult education encouraged and excited about their work. Not only are our conference workshop sessions motivating, but there will also be opportunities to network and socialize with colleagues from around the state. The AE&L conference provides numerous opportunities to integrate, providing an opportunity for all practitioners within (and some outside) adult education to come together to share, learn, and make a collective effort to better support adult learners.

All of the keynote speakers and workshop sessions have been selected to embody this year’s theme. Dr. Heidi Silver-Pacuilla will open the conference with the state of adult education in Virginia. In Wednesday’s keynote, Ira Sockowitz, CEO of Learning Games Studios, will speak about how his work is changing the landscape of learning in adult education. Dr. David Coogan, Virginia Commonwealth University professor and author of Writing Your Way Out: Memoirs from Jail, will be the keynote speaker on Thursday. Dr. Coogan will be joined by two of his co-authors, Terence and Ronald, in telling an amazing story of how writing and learning changes lives. Dr. Kris Westover will end the conference with the inspiring story of how earning her GED® credential eventually led to her becoming the current President of Mountain Empire Community College. The AE&L conference will also offer more than 55 workshop sessions that address areas such as personal growth, the impact of poverty on adult learners, and helpful instructional practices to strengthen your region, organization, or classroom. Each 75-minute session has been tailored to meet the needs of the field and encourage creative ways of thinking about the work that is done in adult education.

In an effort to make the AE&L Conference a more engaging experience for all attendees, we have created dedicated opportunities for networking and gathering with other participants in your field: Think Tank Meet Ups. On Day One of the conference, you will have the opportunity to participate in your first Think Tank Meet Up. Think Tank groups focusing on different interests (corrections, ESOL, workforce, etc.) will have space and time to gather together and look over the conference agenda. You may choose to “divide and conquer” workshop sessions, seeking out familiar and less familiar topics. After each day of workshops, you can meet up in your Think Tank to share what was taught, shown, and learned.

We are excited to make this conference memorable and enjoyable for all who attend. We know that even with all of our planning, it is all of you who make the conference exciting and memorable, so please encourage all those who can to attend. We look forward to seeing you all in Colonial Williamsburg from July 17th-20th! For more information, visit our conference website or email us at: aelconference@vcu.edu.

Tony Ryals is Workforce Support Specialist at the Virginia Adult Learning Resource Center and has served as chief conference coordinator for the AE&L Conference.