Wednesday 2 March 2016

the Laptop show is a gift to all the children I have ever taught, now all grown up

This post post was first made at my new Univeristy of Warwick Blog at: (link to post is the laptop show).

It reads:

This blog replaces my former and much lesser Warwick Blog 2009 to 2011 (michaeldownes).

I posted eighteen times, then moved to where I've made 972 posts since April 2010. That blog started off about KenilworthWarwickshire, then moved on to approach the changes from analogue to digital media, often featuring the UK Police.

Today, I logged back into Warwick Grads and created this new blog as I've something to say about my travels with Education and a new project I'm working on. It's this aim, on the off chance current students in Teacher Training or Education will wander past and have a read.

Since graduating in 1998, and teaching in Primary schools for seventeen years in Coventry and Warwickshire, I then outgrew the classroom. I moved online to my local Kenilworth blog and from July 2011 to

That was the newly formed Google+ Platform. By using Hangout Video Calls (with up to ten people), I met some fascinating people from all over the world. I took part in five of the six London 2012 Hangouts Live at Youtube and chatted to Gold Medallists, a Spice Girl and streamed the British Ambassador to Lebanon.  
I've written posts, taken photos and produced videos. As a reference point, my content has passed 22 million views. What's fascinating for me, Google's not only a search engine (used by ~90% of the UK), but also a provider of over 100 free online tools. For example, I'm a Local Guide, where my contributions have of over 1,160 photos at Google Maps have seen over 5 million views (see: maps contributions).

I wrote, I taught and dabbled at being a Citizen Journalist supplying stories to the BBC. I was noticed by Google and was invited to become a Google Trusted Tester for Hangouts Prerelease software (from April 2012). On making sense of new media, I supported the UK Police and some Global Law Enforcement in the use of Social Media. Something I still do to this day (in March 2016). 

Five years ago, I had no desire to make videos or be on YouTube - but these days that's the where the explosion is happening. YouTube video watch time has increased by 60% y/y and mobile is now half that of desktop views (ref:YouTube Stats).  

I'm a modest YouTube Creator. That means I've made 651 videos, views over 283,000. And with my highest watched video being How to clean audio with Audacity 45,000 views watched in in 187 countries. YouTube also pays me a very small income based on Adsense. My main audience is 32% USA and 13% UK. Google have made it clear they wish to focus on the next billion users while solving problems (And that means in areas like India, Vietnam and Indonesia etc). 

I could do a whole lot better, and armed with a ton of analytics data given to me by YouTube (like knowing my average view view duration is 80 seconds), I could create something rather special and be a benefit to all those people who wish to learn.

In 2016, I'm developing the Laptop show, best described as a gift to all the children I have ever taught, now all grown up .. 

Let me explain how that statement works by way of a timeline. I graduated in Summer 1998, started teaching in Sept 1998 - the very same month Google was founded. My class of thirty six children were ages seven to eight. In 2016, they will all be about 25-26 years old. And guess what - my highest demographic at youtube is 18-34 yr olds.

So, the very same students in 1998 are the same students in 2016 - and I can reach them all by making some videos on YouTube. Of course in reality, they are not the exact same students (from Solihull,West Midlands, UK), but the same in spirit spread all over the globe.

The first time I started teaching albeit informally was the Summer of 1992 in North Carolina at Camp teaching Black and White Photography. Those children aged 6 to 16 are now aged 30-35. And those age seven in 2010 would be 13 in 2016.

It occurred to me a few years ago, how people think I am very web and tech savvy - and find it all very easy to do. I realised, from 1998 as Google and the web developed so did I, and I did that by teaching each part of it to the Primary aged children. Remember, YouTube only got started in Feb 2005 - seven years after I qualified as a teaching (I have a handy Tech Timeline pdf I made, starts from the Printing Press in 1814 through to Google Alphabet in 2015). 

If I'd been a teacher of 30 children per year for 17 years, that would be 510 children (from 1998 to 2015). If I'd had contact with a whole school maybe for a weekly assembly, that would be 4,250 children (based on a 250 on roll). In seventeen years my messages and my lessons may have reached a few hundred to a few thousand students.

Compare that online and we are talking hundreds of thousands to a few million, even a billion students who can receive a lesson, often in realtime. As an example look at the Khan Academy YouTube Channel with 2.4 millions subscribers and 766 million views. Although I share a similar real life timeline to Salman Khan, that's about all I share apart from the all so important notion of a One World Schoolhouse and the flipped classroom.

What's now possible, and is staggeringly easier than it's ever been, to become a YouTube Partner where your video will be scalable to a worldwide audience and all for free. Even with my singular How to clean Audio example video, that's 45,000 views which is ten times the views than seventeen years of teaching.

Of course, I've vastly simplified this example, but enough to provoke thought and catapult to the next step of this post. It could easily be argued that one student may receive five lessons a day from a teacher, at 190 days a year equivalent to 950 lessons, times that by 17 years, that equals 16,000 lessons - but still just one student a year, or seventeen students in total.

When I was a full time primary school teacher, and later a supply teacher, I visited over 80 schools and saw in each one how the day and classroom was organised. One thing that was difficult for me to accept was repeat theory. In other words, how a teacher will repeat a lesson over and over again - I was of the opinion, if recorded then that one lesson could be watched as many times as needed. This was exactly how Khan Academy was started, maths lessons for Salman's cousin - she preferred the recorded version than real life, they could pause and repeat (TED, 2011). I believe Larry Page did the same at Stanford, in that he never went to a lecture as they were all available on video.

As a separate alarming topic, go read about the incredible stats on how many children are not in school worldwide:UNICEF and Whitehouse - let girls learn.

I've mentioned before how I've been testing for Google and fascinated by how video is made, I've also made a set of posts looking at Audience Retention. I've also made a video series on How to use Blogger - but it was not that great, videos were too long and I was on webcam for everyone. No better way to learn from your past and look to the future.

So there I was in a video call with a friend (Larry Fournillier, chef from Trinidad) talking about redesigning the 16:9 video area using OBS, when I think I said outloudYou just have a blank canvass here on your laptop - it's as if you can make a laptop show. That was on at the end of Jan 2016.

For any new project, it has to feel right or possess a modicum of passion. I need a strong and determined mindset to spend up to sixteen hours a day in my home studio working on something. I went through many taglines and ideas like how Education is powerful and will change the world or How the beautiful about learning is how it cannot be taken away from you before setting on how I'm a real world teacher in a new world classroom.

If you want more on the real world idea, go look at Robson, Real World Research (page 12/box 1.1) which talks aboutsolving problems rather than just gaining knowledge or being in the field rather than the laboratory. What's for sure, how the real world is complex, poorly controlled and a messy situation.

It wasn't until I watched the movie Tumbledown, where the writer/producer spent eight years on the story (from idea to screening) did I get my final idea. Desi Van Til summed it by saying, It's like a love letter to my old hometown (video)And in my case, a gift to all the children I have ever taught.

In the next post I will go into detail on what every element of the Laptop show is about and how it will work. It's also my belief we stare at these screens all day long doing the same tasks day in day out, yet in reality have no real awareness of the potential of the machine. A little like living in a beautiful town, yet driving the same roads and eating in the same cafes, yet not bothering to look at the place with fresh eyes.


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