Bec West has been a teacher for 16 years, and like most of her peers, is an advocate for inclusive learning, and passionate about building strong learning communities.
Unlike most of her peers Bec also has about 8,000 people from around the world who subscribe to her YouTube videos where she shares her teaching insights and experiences. While just over half of the subscribers to her Talkin’ Chalk series are Australian, around 1,000 Americans are signed up along with teachers from, quite literally, all over the world.
Bec is the assistant principal at Bonnyrigg Public School in Sydney’s South West and started her video adventures with a series called Clever Pickles which she developed as a flipped learning series for students. Inspired by high school maths teacher Eddie Woo, who films his lessons, dubs them Wootube and loads content onto YouTube (he currently has over half a million subscribers) Bec focussed on younger children, making videos about games-based strategies to engage students as well as their parents and families.
When her colleagues suggested a similar approach might work for teachers, and provide a platform for sharing teaching tips, it made sense to Bec.
While teachers are offered many professional learning opportunities, finding the time and budget can be hard, especially if replacement teachers are needed in the classroom when the usual teacher or group of teachers is off on a course, says Bec.
Her video series instead provides the sort of informal learning opportunities that can be equally useful – particularly practical “how to” videos that provide genuine help to classroom teachers as they deploy new technology to support and enhance learning.
For Bec technology, and all that it makes possible, has transformed education. “I love having an interactive whiteboard for whole-class activities and group activities. For independent work the students I work with in stage 3 all have devices which is great for researching, recording and demonstrating what they have learned.”
Meanwhile access to mobile, lightweight devices are the key to engaging younger students, she says.
She shares her experience about how to use technology in the classroom in the videos, as well as tried and tested lesson tips to help maximise learning impact.
Her husband came up with the name Talkin’ Chalk and the rest, as they say, is history.
What are you hoping to achieve with Talkin’ Chalk?
My ultimate goal is just to help teachers be the best they can be, which in turn supports our students being the best learners they can be. I want to ensure educators everywhere feel they have an open and honest opportunity to gauge information that is realistic, easy to understand and straightforward to implement.
Is it modelled on anything else in Australia or around the world?
I have seen many YouTube channels from America (the coined term is “teacher-tuber”). But many of these are more vlogging about daily routines or resources. I didn’t want my channel to be about me – I wanted it to be about teaching practices, tips and sharing resources with my teaching colleagues. Ideally I want people to be able to take something away that benefits them in their particular setting and role.
How do you find the time?
I have set myself a schedule for when I film and I try to make it so there is minimal editing needed. I usually film on a Saturday afternoon while my kids have a nap or chill time and then upload to YouTube. Sometimes longer videos do eat into my own chill time but I enjoy doing it so it’s not something I find tedious at all.
You’ve managed to create 100 videos – how do you come up with all the ideas?
Many of my ideas are based on what is relevant to me at the time but I get lots of requests via comments or direct messages on social media. I currently have a list of over 30 ideas and more keep coming in. It’s great to have suggestions from people as it means I’m helping support teachers needs and that the content I create is purposeful.
What technology do you use to create the videos?
It depends on the video I’m making. Most of the time I use the Surface Pro but sometimes I need to film one-handed so I also use my mobile phone. I edit using Windows Movie Maker and then add the end titles using the YouTube editor.
What next – do you plan to keep this going – are there more topic areas to address?
For as long as I have the time and the energy, I will keep making videos. If it helps teachers then it’s worth what I put into it. I enjoy making the videos, it’s a good way for me to reflect on my own knowledge and experiences and it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to engage and collaborate with my colleagues near and far.
Watch Talkin’ Chalk on YouTube
Follow Bec West on Twitter