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21st Century Learning


So what happens when you put 1200+ Moodle Users in 88 courses and 560+ WordPress blogs all on the same shared hosting server? You exceed your CPU usage.

We have been getting this warning for a couple of months now, but as we continue to add more blogs and users in Moodle, it’s happening more frequently. Yesterday I was trying to help a 5th grade class learn how to add pictures to their blog posts, while another class was blogging in a computer lab, and a class of 7th graders where blogging about their YouTube videos. Not one class accomplished their goal for the lesson. I have talked to admin about purchasing a dedicated server just to host our educational services. They agree we need to do something fast before we lose the great momentum that we have right now around technology, so I’m looking for help. Can anyone recommend a good dedicated server company that runs Linux and supports php and MYSQL, has great support, and doesn’t cost an arm and a leg?

We don’t want to host the server ourselves for a number of reasons. One, none of our technicians are familiar with Linux and all the open-source add-ons. Two, it’s hard to beat the prices that some of these companies are offering with full technique support. Third, we are in China.

Even though the admin is behind the move and the cost associated with it, there is a very compelling argument that can be made on why these learning sites should be top priority. Student learning is (or should be) at the center of what we do, of where we spend our money, and where we focus or time and energy. These programs we are using go directly to the heart of student learning, extending the classroom beyond the four walls. Most of the discussions on Moodle happens after school hours. The blogs are accessed throughout the day, and looking at some of the times when posts were created also well into the night. We talk about wanting our students to be self-motivated learners and yesterday I ran into an 8th grader who has a blog. I asked him what service he used and he said he set it up on our school’s blog site. I found that odd, because to my knowledge there are no 8th grade classes using blogs. So I asked to see it and sure enough there it was. He said he set it up over the Chinese New Year holiday because he was bored and he’d heard others talking about the site.

We have students creating their own blogs, posting to them on their own, and reflecting on their school day because their bored at home? Doesn’t anyone else think that’s cool? We are dedicated (pun intended) to student learning here at our school and that’s exactly why we need to move to a dedicated server as soon as possible. Otherwise, we are standing in the way of student progress, reflection, discussion, communication, and learning.

[tags]moodle, wordpress, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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On my posting the other day about our school setting up a YouTube account Jeff Dungan left the following comment:

…any tips you can give me to take to my administration/board since they are not receptive to the idea of allowing this to be unblocked/used at our school? Anything that you can offer in terms of support for our argument why we should be able to access it aside from the obvious would be fantastic.

Getting through the Adminwall is a lot harder then through a firewall, but not impossible. How do you get Admin to buy in, to recognize the opportunity these tools hold for learning. I’m not sure, but here’s the approach that has worked for me time and time again.

1. Work your #*& off
2. Praise loudly and reprimand quietly
3. Fill their e-mail box with examples educational or funny of things you find on YouTube

I knew I had them when our V.P. invited me into his office one day as I was walking by to show me a video he found tear jerking funny. His buddy had sent him the link and he was crying laughing at the video. At that moment I knew I had them hooked.

There really is no secret here. Everyday I tell teachers who I’m helping that my job is to work myself out of a job and that’s exactly how I feel. I can not wait for the day that education does not need a technology specialist in the building because technology just is. Until then I have a job, but I strive to help teachers learn new skills, fix their own computers and think outside the box (said that 10 times today) when it comes to teaching.

I’ve had some teachers say to me that I work to hard and their is no way they would ever stay up to 1am making sure a podcast was posted, or up until 2am upgrading the Moodle site. That I think is the difference. The administration knows how hard I work for them and our students, and the passion I have for technology and the amazing things it can do comes through in every conversation I have. Some people call it tooting their own horn, I call it letting people know how much I believe these tools can will are changing education. Yes I’m insane, I love this stuff and I work way to hard to do it, but i wouldn’t have it any other way.

Every time a teacher does something with technology I send e-mails like they won a gold metal. Admin gets e-mails, teaching partners get e-mails, and other teachers who I think might benefit from the e-mail. I alway include my thoughts, my kudos, and how this truly impacts learning in the e-mail. The more you can play it up the more others want to be in the e-mail, want their name mentioned and see how hard you are willing to work to help them ‘get it’.

From the start of this year every time someone put a video on YouTube that was educational and got pasted around the blogosphere I made sure it made it into the admin’s e-mail box talking about the impact of this social-network. First semester I uploaded the student made digital stories to my personal account (without admin permission) and waited for there to be something to share. The first was the history of IBM video where someone who works at IBM commented on the student’s video. Then the history of Firefox video which has been viewed over 3,000 times. Again I sold it to the admin, I shared with them the K12 group set up on YouTube and encouraged them to browse some of the great videos there.

So this semester when the timing was right I walked into their office and said “I’m going to set up a YouTube account for our school.” To which they replied “OK”.

I will say that I do have some amazing administrators. Andy Torris my current principal and I have had many conversations around these tools and how they can be used in school. We’ve worked together now for 5 years so we’ve built that trust that if I say something will work, I get more OKs then ‘whys’ and ‘what about…’. It’s a trust issue. Once you have their trust then you can have the tools. I’m lucky, I know, from my principal clear up to my Superintendent. They (I think) trust me and know that at the root of who I am, I am an educator and have the best intentions of our students in mind. I’m not perfect by any means, and have ran into my fair share of Adminwalls, but that doesn’t stop me from pushing. Seriously, there are times I send e-mails wondering if I’m going to be sent a pink slip. We’ve got to keep pushing, keep expanding educators horizons and not settle for where we are…the world is changing too fast for that.

[tags]youtube, 21st Century Learning, adminwall[/tags]

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If you really want to see students squirm in their seats…give them choices.

Yesterday I was approached by two teachers who wanted help coming up with ways to incorporate technology into some upcoming lessons. Both of them wanted to “do something different”. Which is a good sign, and shows that our Tech Fest has sparked some interest.

After listening to both teachers explain their projects and what they were looking for I simply said:

“Let the students choose!”

To often I think we try to put things neatly into containers. A lesson (as we were taught in educator school) must have a clearly defined beginning, middle and end, when really all a lesson needs is a clear focus. As Brian Crosby would say Learning is Messy and you gotta allow students to get messy with it if you want to see something new and different.

Both teachers are planning big projects where they want students to produce something at the end of the unit. Both wanted to know what I would suggest students produce. A PowerPoint? A movie? A digital story? Both wanted to know what was out there that they were missing.

Why not allow the students to choose, allow them to find for themselves the best avenue to represent their learning. Allow students to get messy with the project. Some might decide to create a moive, others might decide a PowerPoint is the best approach, and yet others might create a podcast that is a radio show. Allowing students to choose gives them power over the content and the method of conveying their learning. As the teacher becomes the guide, you create the rubric that demonstrates what you want students to learn based off of district standards, but allow the students to decide what that learning looks like to them.
I will tell you most students do not like this, they do not like having the choice to decide what to do. We have conditioned them to do what we tell them. I used this exact approach last semester and got more whining out of my students then on any project. “Just tell us what to do Mr. U!” was what they kept saying. We have truly educated the creative side right out of our students. They don’t want to have to think about it, they just want to fulfill the requirement that is being asked of them and move on.

We must reengage students in the learning process invite them back into the learning process and make them the center of learning, not the receivers of information. If we are going to teach students to ‘Learn how to Learn’ then we must at times push them to do so and get out of their way so they can.
One of my students in our teentek.com class came up to me yesterday and said:

“What do you do here MR. U? I mean you never teach us anything.”

Exactly! 😉

[tags]21st Century Learning, School2.0[/tags]

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Well, we’ve hit the half way point and I think for David the worst of it is over. Tomorrow we have a geek meet in the morning where all the technology teachers get to sit around and talk tech with David…sounds like a podcast opportunity to me. 🙂

We had some good conversation today and David was part of a meeting where the admin rolled out a plan to become a laptop school by 08-09. Our discussion today focused around how do we want to get there. The school is basically looking at two different options. I’ll post them here if anyone wants to give their 2cents worth (been hanging out with David to much) on them.

Option #1
Give every teacher a laptop next year. The admin have just returned from recruiting where they have hired two other positions like mine next year. That’s three full time technology trainers. In this model teachers would be given a laptop and almost every teacher would get an LCD projector. We do not have enough funds to make it a LCD projector and a laptop for everyone…but the worst would be a 1:3 projector to teacher ratio. This would give the teachers a full year of training on using computers in the classroom, of learning how having a personal laptop can and must change the way we teach.

Option #2

Roughly 40% of our teachers would get laptops with the rest of the money going towards what the admin is calling “21st Century Classrooms” (I think they should just be called classrooms…to me this should just be standard equipment). There would be 18 of these classrooms. That’s 3 at each division ES, MS, HS on both campuses. These classrooms would have the following:

A teacher laptop
A ceiling mounted LCD projector
A classroom set of laptops for students

So, here’s the debate. If you are moving to a 1:1 environment which approach is better? Giving every teacher, even those who aren’t ready for one, a laptop and take a year to train your whole staff before bringing students onboard, or create these classrooms to become model classrooms, to show what the admin is expecting of the teachers. Teachers would have to ‘apply’ to receive one of the 21st Century Classrooms knowing that if they get chosen, that they will have a certain amount of PD they must attend and that at the same time they will be held to a higher standard with a new evaluation system that will come with the program.

We took a quick poll during our meeting today and we were split 50-50 on the approach we thought would be most effective to bring about this change and prepare our staff for the 1:1 to follow.

So, I put this out there to you…what plan would you choose? Which one makes more sense to you? Is there something we’re missing?

[tags]sas, 1:1, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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I just left this comment on a message board with some pre-service teachers:

What is more important to be adaptable or knowledgeable? (think dinosaurs)

The word adaptable and adaptability have been floating around in my head for some time now and how they define what we are trying to do in the 21st century and why it is so hard for us to put our finger on what School 2.0 means. I then read this from David Warlick

But it’s why I want to think about the term School 2.0 in a different way.  Rather than referring to 2.0 as a version number, we might refer to it as a value of velocity.  School 0 and school 1.0 are schools that are not changing, that are not adapting.  School -1 and School -2 are schools that are going backwards, which, in my opinion, describes U.S. education over the past six years.  School 2.0 is a school that is dynamic, rich with content, equipped with  information tools, and deep with knowledge-building conversations.  School 2.0 adapts!

I agree, and it’s becoming more clear to me why School 2.0 is so hard to define. School 2.0 is about adapting to the changing times, about adapting to the skills/knowledge/resources that our students need to be successful once they leave us. The problem is schools want concreteness. We like our mission statements our vision statements we like knowing that there is something we are meant to accomplish. What if School 2.0 was defined by it’s adaptability?

School 1.0 was about knowledge and being knowledgeable in your field. You only needed to be adaptable when a company downsized or you were laid off. But in today’s flat world you need to continue to adapt, continue to learn, because if you don’t someone else, be it your neighbor or a person in Asia will.

School 2.0 understands that this is just the beginning and there is no end, that everything new leads to something else new. If you think we’ve reaching the end, then I encourage you to watch this video.

This brings me back to a post I did just over a year ago when I talked about schools being in a state of perpetual beta

Perpetual Schools: A theme for many educators is the idea that schools are ever evolving to meet the real-time demands of students. Rather than release scheduled theory updates. Educators like Google will add features as they become available and adapt dynamically to their students’ requirements, which are in turn de facto ‘testers.’

Is this a bad thing? The ability to adapt is what is defining School 2.0. Chris Lehmann’s SLA is a good example. They started off with Moodle and are now starting to adapt to Drupal. If content changes and the tools change I would guess so would the school. The foundation remains the same, but being able to adapt is what will keep School’s moving down the 2.0 road. Once you solidify your thinking and stop adapting then you quickly become extinct…or as David puts it School 0.

School 2.0 will be hard to define, as we are trying to hit a moving target and that target will look different depending on your school and community’s situation. School 2.0 is adaptable, it can come in many different shapes and sizes but at the end of the day it must be able to adapt, to change, and with that we teach our students to adapt, to continue to learn, to continue to seek out new ways of doing things, and asking if there is a better way….and it’s that thinking I believe that will lead to success in the 21st Century.

[tags]21st Century Learning, School 2.0, perpetual education[/tags]

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Yesterday I, along with about 10 other educators from my school, went to the first Apple seminar for international schools held here in Shanghai. Apple has sent a team here to “break into the international school market in Asia.” They are based in Beijing but travel around Asia promoting their products and what they can offer to schools who are looking to either go to a full 1:1 program or just looking to get more technology in their schools. I get teased a lot from fellow teachers who are Mac lovers for being the “Dell guy” because I do own a Dell computer. But I can run both platforms (although I’m a little rusty on OS X) and at the end of the day it’s just hardware!

What follows are brief notes that I took from the presentation:

Digital Tools for Digital Kids:
An Apple seminar for international schools

Apple’s Education Vision
A world where all students discover their own special genius

Basic Skills
Technology Fluency
21st Century Literacy
Sense of Self

Talked about wikipedia being a powerful tool even though we can’t access it here in China but not about the connectiveness of information.

The challenge is:

Change management
Change pedagogy

Standards for Authentic Instruction

Higher order thinking
Depth of knowledge
Connectedness to the world beyond the classroom
Substantive conversation
Social support for student achievement 

Case Study taken from Mabry Middle School

An iChat with Dr. Tyson from Mabry Middle School. (Thank you Dr. Tyson for staying up until 1am to chat with us here!)

What needs to be explained is how Dr. Tyson has set up his school. The difference between Mabry and the regular Middle School format as in technology support, administration expectations for staff, and administration support to try new things. Dr. Tyson said when he was hired he was seen as the “Geek Principal”. Question was asked after middle school what is the high school like where these students go? Is it just as computer friendly? The short answer…..no.

Showed movie on Stem Cell research from the Mabry Film Festival.

Students as creators of information.

Not a lot of notes for a 3 hour presentation. I made it about an hour and a half before I shut the lid on my laptop (yes a Dell) and started drifting into Jeff’s World.

I do not blame Apple’s Educational Speaker/Rep and actually he did a pretty good job of showing what iLife can do. We iChatted with Dr. Tyson, with a teacher at the Western Academy of Beijing (school is going 1:1 with Apples), and a technology director of the new Renaissance College in Hong Kong (also going 1:1 with Apples).

But at the end of the day it’s just hardware.

As I was listening to the presentation I keep thinking back to a day when a similar presentation might have taken place…only over the #2 Pencil. Think about that the next time you’re listening to a presentation.

I don’t care if you have 20 computers in a classroom or 20 pencils. They can not do or change education without the instructor understanding what can be done with the tool they have been given. We do not ask students to use a pencil to read with, because we know that’s not what a pencil does. Educators understand what a pencil can and can not do. We have used it, tested it, and found its limits. We understand that it works best on paper, can be used in art, and is a great tool if you are drafting something as it is easy to erase. It is not a great tool if you are looking to keep a document for an extended period of time as the graphite easily rubs off, fades, and smudges over time. We use a different tool for those types of documents…a pen.

The computer is the same. It is a new tool. You can give one to every child in your school, but if the instructor does not know what the tool can and can not do, how can you ensure that the tool will be used, used properly, and used to it’s fullest extent?

The computer is just hardware, I don’t care if it is branded Apple, Dell, HP, IBM, or Lenovo. It will not revolutionize education…that’s what educators are for.

Dr. Tyson has done amazing work at his school, but he has set up a system that allows teachers to experiment, play with, and utilize the use of these new tools. I’ve said it before Tim Lauer, Dr. Tyson, and Chris Lehmann, are administrators who are taking these new tools and changing the education system within their schools. There is a difference between changing a school and having one or two renegade teachers in a school using technology. These folks have changed the systems within their schools. From the way they communicate with their parents, community and students, to the way learning happens and engages students. These educational leaders are not waiting for the spread of technology to happen from the renegades to others, but instead are standing up in front of their staff and making it happen.

It’s just hardware, it will not change education, it will not make our students smarter, it will not make our lives easier unless we are willing to take a long deep look into our systems and change the way we do things. We are talking about a pedagogical shift in the way learning happens, in the way classrooms are set up, and the way we view our students in this new digital world.

It’s just hardware.

[tags]21st Century Learning, pedagogy[/tags]

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Friday was a half day at school. A little extended weekend for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Our High School took part in a couple different sessions. One of those sessions was by me giving a talk on “The Flat World”. I would have titled it “Your World” but the title doesn’t really matter.

I had 20 minutes with every 9-12th grader at our school I started by saying, “You are very fortunate. You get to grow up in an amazing time in history.”

I then played Karl Fisch’s Did You Know presentation with the follow slides added.

  • There are 57 Million Blogs
  • 100,000 new blogs created daily
  • 1.3 million blog articles created daily
  • That’s 54,000 articles being published every hour.
  • Who’s verifying this information?
  • Who’s telling the truth?
  • Last year more students in China took the SAT in English than did so in the United States.

The information comes from the latest report of the blogosphere from Technorati and from this update from Karl Fisch.

After the PowerPoint was over we had a discussion about what all this information means. One student shouted “Shift Happens” the rest of the students laughed and I said “Exactly!”

Another student spoke up and said “Everything we’re learning now doesn’t matter.”

To which I said, “I know all your teachers standing around here are going to hate me, but you are absolutely right.” I then talked to them about the skills they need to learn while in high school starting with learning how to learn. We then talked about their generation. I asked the students “What’s the name of your generation?” a student spoke up and said “Millennials.” I then talked about the book Millennials Rising, and how in 1997 abcnews.com ran a poll on their website where this generation got to choose what to be called. They were proud of it, laughed, and thought it was cool. I asked them how many of them had a myspace.com account. To which over half raised their hands. I asked how many of them had a cell phone and a mp3 player. Every single student raised their hand. I asked how many had their own computer. All but a handful raised their hand, but when I asked who had access to the Internet in their house? Again it was 100%.

I asked these questions for one reason and one reason only. I wanted the 20+ teachers that were standing around to see the response, to understand where these students are, and what they want/can do.

It was a great 20 minutes. The most fascinating part was the students just looked at me like “We get it Mr. U, we think this is awesome, this is our world, this is where we spend our time and where we want to be.”

The teachers (many coming up to me personally after the presentation) had the opposite look. “This is scary, where do we begin and what do we do?”

It was fascinating to see the disconnect between the teachers and the students. Students understanding the 21st Century and teachers scared of it.

I had the head of our IB department stop by my office later that day. The first thing he said was, “Wow, if that doesn’t show that we need to be teaching skills and not content nothing does.”

Maybe, just maybe I’ve sparked something…now I just need the opportunity to turn that spark into a flame. If I can get some time from the administration to talk with teachers, I can start taking this to the next level. My fear is that this will be a one time thing. That I will not have an opportunity to follow up with the staff and that all those WOWs by Monday will be forgotten and we’ll go back to learning page 56 in the textbook.

I have to tell you, I was pumped after the presentation. We talk about there being something bigger, something needing to change in education. For 20 minutes while looking directly into the eyes of every high schooler, I saw it. I’ve said it before, this past year in the blogosphere has changed me, that 20 minutes in front of the students took it to the next level. It was verification that what I’ve been trying to do, trying to change is right. I could see it in their eyes. The wanting to be in a school, a world, where they could be connected. The students get it….we don’t. That needs to change, or education as we know it, is not long for this generation. We’ll loose them, and once we do…I don’t think we’ll ever get them back. Not when you can learn more from Mr. Google than you can from Mr (teachers name).

[tags]21st Century Learning, Karl Fisch, Did You Know, High School, Connections, Millennials, myspace, google[/tags]

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I came home tonight looking forward to going through my aggregator and getting some other stuff online done. But I made the mistake of stopping by some of the online projects going on around the school. Needless to say my learning tonight came from a bunch of middle school students. I’ve spent the last two hours shaking my head. Why don’t more teachers see the power in these tools.

First a great project got started today called the International Environmental Symposium. It’s a Moodle course that we are hosting that involves some 153 7th grade students from Brazil, California, Saudi Arabia, and China. I’ve been working with the teachers the past couple of weeks getting the class ready to go and student accounts created. Tonight students had their first two assignments, and I’ve been sucked in. First up was a simple introduction forum but read some of these:

My mom is Swedish but my dad is Indian. My nationality is Swedish and I have lived there for 12 years. I came to Riyadh last year.

My name is [Student Name] and I come from the United States. However, I currently attend the Shanghai American School in Shanghai. I am twelve years old, in seventh grade, and was born in California, near Los Angeles, but my family moved to Shanghai when I was four. Because of this, I identify with a blend of American and Chinese cultures.

Hey Everyone! I’m [Student Name]. I was born in North Carolina, USA, and movd around a lot in america to pennsylvania, virginia, and iowa. After finishing 4th grade, i moved here to Shanghai, China, and i have lived here for around 2 and a half years. I am 12 years old. My dad grew up in india, but went to college in america . My mom grew up in minnesota, USA, so i’m half american and half indian. China is my first foregin country that i have lived in.

These are the third culture kids that we teach internationally. All 153 tell a similar story, How easy will it be for these students to adjust to this new world. They are already flexible. Most of them have lived in may different places.

I then headed over to check in on Courtney’s Blog. Some of you might remember Courtney, she was at all four of my LAN parties for the K12online conference. She has started a blog with her students called Science Geeks. We’re still working out the bugs, but it’s looking great so far. She is having them read and report on science articles they are finding on the Internet. So far I’ve learned about Space Umbrellas and a new basketball made of plastic. If you get a minute stop on by and leave a comment, or just learn some cool and unusual facts about science.

These are two great projects that have just gotten underway. It will be fun to watch them grow and to learn from the new information. The power of sharing and collaborating, all made possible because of the tools we now have available on the Internet. Don’t try and tell me that the Internet doesn’t change everything…I’ve got proof it does!

[tags]SAS, 21st Century Learning, Moodle, Blogs[/tags]

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I own Clarence Fisher another one. While surfing my PLN this morning I came across Clarence’s Verifying Information Online posting where he links to a document he used with his students to help them learn how to verify information. It’s perfect timing for me as I’m starting a lesson on searching this week with my 6th grade students. One thing I wanted to make sure I did was give credit where credit is do. So I simply added this at the bottom of the page:

Using with permission from Clarence Fisher. Downloaded Nov. 8, 2006 from: http://remoteaccess.typepad.com/remote_access/2006/11/verifying_infor.html

I remember a time when teachers use to cut off the bottom of a page that showed where we (yes, I’m guilty as charged) copied, or took the information from. Now I make sure that I add this information to everything I do. (Guess I’m growing up)

Searching for signs of clams...What really has me thinking, is as I write this my students are completing the assignment. At our school students take this technology class for a semester, were we can teach these skills. But if you are in a school that does not have technology as a core class, who teachers these skills?

(This picture is of people searching for clams. An activity that I truly miss taking part in when I lived in Aberdeen, WA)

[tags]21st Century Learning, Searching, Researching[/tags]

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I’ve forward this on to my math teachers. This is awesome!

“Stand up if you have a cell phone with you today,” I announced last
Wednesday in my algebra class. The excitement was visible. “Sit down if
your phone does not have a camera,” I continued. Their disappointment
was manifested in groans of various pitches and duration. I quickly
paired them up – over half the class had phones with cameras – and sent
them on their way. Their mission: to find as many examples of circles
and take pictures of each one. They had ten minutes to complete the
job, and they were not to disturb other classes.

Blogger is again blocked in China so I can’t leave a comment on The Fischbowl, but this is a great example of using a tool that kids love for learning. This same lesson could be done 100 different ways, but that this teacher saw an opportunity to use a tool that students A) Already have B) Love to use C) Would make them want to learn. Is exactly the reason why we need to use these tools. It’s not because they’re “cool” or new or different. It’s because it engages today’s student. It gives them buy in, something that they can say “cool” about and something they can internalize and make theirs.

Great work Barbara!

[tags]Math, 21st Century Learning[/tags]

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