Student teaching front and centre as WestCAST comes to Calgary
February 17, 2012 - The planning has been going on for more than a year; and while the organization of the event starts out quietly and builds in momentum, there’s nothing like the last few days that lead to the launch of a major conference. And now as WestCAST, the Western Canadian Association of Student Teaching, holds its 2012 conference from February 22-24, a record number of attendees will converge on the University of Calgary—and the organizers are ready.
“Sure, it’s held every year, but because the conference rotates among the western Canadian universities with teacher prep programs, hosting only comes around to us once in a decade,” says 2012 conference chair Cynthia Prasow. “This year, we’re really excited to see so many people and so many research posters and presentations. I think we’ve actually set a record on all fronts.”
In fact, the Calgary conference is the largest to date. 460 people representing 22 colleges and universities and eight other educational organizations are registered to attend more one hundred sessions being presented by students and faculty. They’ll also have the opportunity to hear keynote lectures by the University of Michigan’s Deborah Ball, whose lecture, “Great Teachers are Not Born—They’re Taught”, will kick off the conference, as well as the Faculty of Education’s own Darren Lund, who will address “Having the Courage to Engage in Social Justice.” 22 research posters will also be showcased during the two day conference.
“Our theme for this year’s conference is ‘Engaging New Ideas in Education’, and we believe the sessions reflect that theme perfectly,” explains Prasow. “Education really is evolving dramatically, and we’re challenging everyone to think—or rethink as the case may be—what the implications of the changes in education mean to their careers as teachers.”
Beyond the substance of the conference, students will be provided wonderful networking opportunities. "WestCAST is a tremendous opportunity for our education students,” says Rob Lewis, one of the student organizers of the conference. “With so many sessions to choose from, students have the opportunity to learn about current topics and research relevant to their future careers from students and faculty across western Canada.”
“Additionally, this conference provides an excellent opportunity for U of C students to connect and network with their peers. This is a great way for us to hear about the issues and challenges faced by students and teachers alike in a variety of cities and provinces."
Conference organizers are asking students to take to social media to share their experiences as well. “The use of technology is exactly the sort of issue we talk about when we discuss engaging new ideas in 21st century education,” says Faculty of Education Associate Professor Jennifer Lock. Attendees are encouraged to Tweet during sessions, using the hash tag #WestCAST2012, and to snap photos the Faculty can post to showcase the work being undertaken.
But the conference isn’t all work. Social events include a welcome reception and an evening downtown, and there will be time to explore the campus, the city, and the surrounding area. For those who stay on through the weekend, there are opportunities to shop or take in some winter sports as well.
“As WestCAST 2012 begins, we’re happy to say there’s really something for everyone” says Prasow. “Our team of students, faculty, and community members has worked on this event for the better part of a year, and we’re excited and honoured to welcome so many people for what we know will be a productive and enriching experience.”
Visit www.westcast.ca for complete conference details.