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March 04, 2016

Elements of the Laptop show

Writing about web page

In the previous blog post, I talked about the Laptop show as a concept. In this post, I'll be looking at the elements and how anyone can make a video series exactly the same as the Laptop show or on a topic of their choice.

Please define laptop as something that sits on your lap, or you can easily carry about with you.

For this purpose, I wish to avoid brands and discussions on operating systems. On a post last month, I wrote: the Laptop show is an education system through a series of youtube videos, not endless nonsense about hardware 13 Feb 16). If you really must know, the machine I use is here.

Let me put it like this.. Back in the day, I had a class of seven year olds in the computer lab in a school in Warwick. They were supposed to be using a computer to write a story. After writing a title and a few lines, someone mentioned fonts. And that was it - the next forty minutes were wasted on clip art and design. No creative writing took place from that moment on.

I apply the same rule here, call something a laptop show and we'll have 99% of our energy zapped by USBs, HDMIs, Hard Drives, RAM and Processors. I ask you this - do you wish to sell paint and brushes or be an artist?

Or how Roald Dahl spent very little time choosing his Dixon Ticonderoga 1388 pencil, instead he used it to write 19 Novels, 13 Collections and a dozen Scripts ..

I read a book about video journalism by Kurt Lancaster, he also had a few videos on youtube. In one of them he made it quite clear how when he teaches his course at the Northern Arizona University where he spends a few weeks on cameras, edit software and the remainder of the year on the creative process.

As any teacher knows, you're available in the classroom to help students learn. As such, you get interrupted a thousand times a day and hold a dozen conversations in your head at any one time - I know I did teaching seven to eleven years old.

It was not until six or seven months after stepping out of a classroom that I really, like really found peace and concentration. That I could sit at a desk for a few hours and be calm.

So there you are staring at a screen - the chances are it's a 16:9 widescreen these days whether landscape on a laptop or the same 16:9 but portrait on a mobile or tablet.

16:9 is the first element of the Laptop show - if you're still staring at that screen and it's black. Don't turn it on just yet - think about whether you can actually predict why you are going to power it up. I think this is the essence of why anyone can make a Laptop show as each and every one of us are unique and we all used our machines in a very intimate and specialised way. And that's why my Laptop show will be very different than yours. And why most importantly we can learn from each other.

When I press the power button, I'm met with a 15.6 inch screen that's 16 parts wide and 9 parts high (see the history of 16:9 wiki, where Since 2009 it has become the most common aspect ratio for televisions and computer monitors).

On that screen: I read from it, write to it, create stuff like videos, make collages with screen shots, watch TV Shows or Movies and all for about sixteen hours a day. I bet you do too.

As I've already said, I wish to create a set of videos and as Youtube uses the 16:9 ratio too - that's my format. I've always liked playing around with geometry, so I thought.. 16 x 9 = 144. What does that mean?

As I have over 650 videos at YouTube and have made a video series before - I have a fair idea of what I feel comfortable with. So what if each square on that 144 board was one short video?

What if 144 was converted to seconds and what if each one of those 144 videos was 2 minutes and 24 seconds long? I could make 144 videos x 144 seconds = 20,736 seconds = 345.6 minutes = 5.76 hours. I like it.

It's worth throwing in here, how from my youtube analytics how my personal Audience Retention, Average Duration per video is 80 seconds. And how my most popular video is 2 mins 12 sec in length with a Audience Retention of 63%.

It's vital than any youtube creator understands this. I have many posts and here's the Index Page. In other words, make punchy short videos that help people learn while youtube will supply you with enough data as feedback for you to instantly recraft each video.

As a classroom teacher I did not have that. I would teach andlook at the class - I had no clue who was paying attention. Of course many students these days are tracked by quite advanced intelligent learning environments.

Getting back to the 144 idea, I started to imagine a pseudo Periodic Table overlaid as set of elements, all part of a design process. I also coloured and numbered some squares, with no real order or purpose. However, in the back of my mind, I knew I would make videos on Sony Vegas or OBS etc.. and they would be a mini series in themselves.

I'm not going to claim this is easy, but if you can see ahead a few videos at a time, then it will help. My method will be about How I use my laptop and How I do what I do and Why I do it that way. Of course that will open up discussion and already I've had people be honest with me. In they are brave enough to admit they have no clue at all how to use it, albeit check email, visit a few websites and watch videos, oh and check facebook or twitter.

Using the Google Creative Labs idea, I printed some off and stuck them on the wall, as a constant reminder and to prototype. I have a six video playlist on that: Four ideas to bring an idea to life

To end the section on 144 - look a little deeper and it's a fantastic number. It's 12 x12 and has 15 factors. Be yourself and use what works. If you know you will never, like in a million years make 144 videos, then don't. Use 16 x 9 and make maybe 16 or 9 videos - or 16 + 9 = 25 videos.

I feel confident to make 144 videos in Series One, following the pattern 'Title, the Laptop show 1/144' meaning video 1 of 144.

You can see from my overall public design how the 16:9 incorporates a faint square grid - that not only looks clean and crisp, but reminds me of the squared maths paper we always had in a drawer in the classroom. What I need is a constant reminder that any one video fits into a much larger mosaic of learning where everything is interweaved and connected.

est. 1984 - There are a few parts to why this matters. I class myself as a real world teacher. Tracking it back in my memory, it was in 1984 when it started. I was studying Photography at school. I helped people and had a natural instinct to teach (of course not realising it at the time). But, I do remember being called Profas a nickname.

It's not until many years later, this stuff begins to make sense. There I was alone in the Black and White Darkroom, under the red lights and listening to the radio. Steve Wright had his morning show and I remember it like yesterday. It was the morning of 2 April 1984, when Marvin Gaye died.

From my own timeline, 1984 was ten years before I started my Degree at Warwick (in 1994). And now in 2016, it's another twenty two years on. The Laptop show is not about tech at all, it's about the passage of time, learning and reflecting on the life we have lived. Where any screen we see and use should mirror real life merge with our thoughts and desire to be understood and to create.

And no more so than the word laptop itself. According to a few dictionaries. Word Origin and History for laptop: also lap-top, as a type of portable computer, 1984, from lap (n.) + top (1),on model of desktop (ref). There's an image of the Dulmont Magnum too.

Everyone knows the 80-20 rule, same is true of est. 1984 .. I just flip the 9 to a 6 and we have a 16% - 84%. This is a perfect balance for me - spend 84% of the time talking about education and ideas. In fairnes, I think 16% is still too large, but it will have to do.

In a video of 144 seconds, that means 23 secs -- 121 secs or as a crude graphic .. |<_>|<_______________>|

If this project is going to be a success for me and success for the learner spread across the planet then there needs to be a high level of motive to drive me. It's about purity and doing things that are in your nature. This is what carries a heavy mass rolling toward a satisfactory conclusion.

When you have got this far, it will not hurt to placemark some tangible areas. This maybe a dedicated blog, sauch as: Notice how I believe it more valuable to keep the native URL identifying blogspot and therefore blogger, than I do hiding it. This shows the world what I use and will help then to do the same. I don't really believe there's any value anymore in domain URLs and neither do google - they [google] want a site to be found by the user knowing what words to use in search, not the fact that a user knows the website name of it.

A hashtag maybe nice, I use #theLaptopshow .. I cannot believe I seem to be the only person using this tag.

Twitter can have it's uses, I opened @theLaptopshow.. I do not need twitter at all - but if I did then I do not want to come back in a few months and find the name already taken. My YouTube Analytics tell me views discovered from Twitter and very small (<10%).

Having a decent email can be useful, having a gmail in my opinion is even better. So I've opened A Gmail and therefore a Google account is like the solid trunk of the Google Tree. There are literally a 100 benefits with that one Gmail address (I will cover that topic in a video).

A word about YouTube Channels - I'v decided not to create a new channel just for the laptop show. This is because I have a channel under my name as already established. I do have a few other channels, but none that I would class as frequently used, so I just stick to the one.

Summing Up - the Laptop show is a series of educational videos about using a laptop. Season One will be 144 videos, each about two to three minutes in length. They will be uploaded to YouTube and backed up by this blog, my media blog and a few dedicated areas (like blogspot, google+, twitter etc). Each video will be 'title, the Laptop show x/144' (where x = video number 1-144).

I encourage you to do the same, if not better than me, either as another Latop show or a topic of your choice. It could be the Archery show or the Cooking show or the Mobile show - really up to you. The world is a big place and a billion is a big number for us all to get views and help people learn.

A word about Inaara - If I had an ideal person to teach, it would be Inaara from Tanzania (blog post ref). I've taken part in many Google tests - one was on twitter where we [testers] got flagged for questions about google services. inaara tweeted, I replied and helped and we were not known to teach other, yet connected five thousand miles apart in realtime.

My ideal audience would be someone who has desire, not ability to learn. Someone who has an open mind and curiousity to find an answer to their questions.

In the next post, I'll tell you all I know about one video called: How to clean audio with Audacity: Noise Removal, Normalise and Compressor - it's had 45,000 views and has been watched in 187 countries. I took me two minutes to make it and I did it as a test. It's a pretty awfully bad produced video that does not even fit the screen properly, but it solves a simple problem that people face day in day out - to correct badly recorded audio.

March 02, 2016

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

Writing about web page

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 Kenilworth, Warwickshire, 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 asa 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 outloud, You 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 about solving 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.

slide illustrates concepts for a new educational project


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