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An interesting incident in a recent online tutorial

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Last Saturday, I was teaching an online class and one student who had been very engaged was speaking.  She came to an end and I started to respond and she had nor turned her microphone off.  A few seconds later, I heard quite loud talk in the background and gradually it got so loud I was finding it hard to get my message across.  I then said "X, please turn your microphone off" as politely as I could (and I really understand how easy it is to forget to turn the microphone on or off). 

One of her peers initially seemed to write in a blunt way - "X, turn your microphone off" but then softened this with "We can hear your family, darling".  Perhaps she had realised that she was verging on rudeness but then mitigated this by an affectively sensitive explanation. 

I suspect that tone is very important in these kinds of tutorials and it is easy to emphasise speed through very direct interactions but this additional comment was perhaps important in maintaining a good atmosphere - of course, I do not know exactly what the responses are and whether the later comment was helpful or even needed.  It is, however, clear that this was only a comment that could have been made by peers and probably only woman to woman (possibly, but unlikely, woman to man?)

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Coronavirus and language

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An earlier posting (https://learn1.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/view.php?user=12245&taglimit=500&tag=coronavirus) has referred to the effect of Corona on language.  There is now a new article on the effect of the virus on the German language ttps://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/23/from-coronaangst-to-hamsteritis-the-new-german-words-inspired-by-covid?CMP=Share_AndroidApp_Other

It shows some words are directly taken from one language to another - eg Covidiot and some make use of rhyme to be memorable eg CoronaFußgruß (corona foot greeting)

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Voice messages on WeChat

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 4 Mar 2021, 13:57

I notice that several ex students and colleagues contact me on WeChat by voice message rather than written messages and I wonder why this is.  Do they think it is easier to speak than compose a message?  It seems less convenient to me as the receiver as they cannot be processed as quickly.

This is a contrast to many of my OU tutorials where many students seem keener to use text chat than the microphone.

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Online teaching in China - personal experience

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 23 Feb 2021, 23:26

I have been doing some online teaching for a university in China.  There have been some challenges, perhaps largely due to too little notice about preparing and difficulties in communication.

Something that surprised me was that the original intention was that I would teach oral skills to a class sitting in a classroom with one shared microphone.  So, I was sitting in my room in Bristol seeing students and they could see me through a screen.  I would say something and responses involved students passing the microphone around the classroom.  This was clearly a very ineffective way of teaching.

Eventually, I managed to persuade the College to change the model so that students were working outside the classroom on individual computers or using the phone.  However, we were using Dingtalk and I was told that breakout rooms were not possible.  So, although the communication was improved, I was not able to monitor group work or even have any idea if it was actually taking place.

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Translation in times of crisis

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 23 Dec 2020, 12:36

I have just seen a tweet about a poor translation of advice into Polish https://twitter.com/TOrynski/status/1341540344832385024?s=20

The description of how poor it is makes use of back translation, a topic covered in L161.  A famous, but perhaps jokey, example is the back translation of "the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak" from Russian to "the vodka is good but the meat is bad".

It is surprising that the authorities could not find a good translator for the advice, especially considering how large the Polish community is in the UK.

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Stereotypes of OU lecturers again

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My wife sent me the following sentence from an email she received:

"My dad was on Open University BBC late night TV when I was a kid as the classic bearded wool jumper wearing maths type lecturer!"

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Stereotypes of OU lecturers.

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Some time ago I posted a Private Eye cartoon that featured a stereotype of OU lecturers.  I have discovered that there is at least one more cartoon that makes use of this view.

Thanks to Mike McNulty for sharing this.

Badly dressed OU tutors at a funeral

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Online teaching and mindsets

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I have recently been teaching a course on academic literacy to students studying for a doctorate at the Open University.  This is the first time for me although I taught EAP (mainly writing skills) to a group of Doctoral students at the University of Bristol for many years. 

The current course has existed for many years and I am taking over from previous tutors and, to some extent, building on what they have done rather than building a completely new course.  However, this is the first time it has been taught online.  There are certain constraints such as not being able to see each other and gauge desires and needs through expressions.  However, there are also some advantages like more people being able to access the course because they can do it from home (people were joining from other countries like Ghana and Cyprus as well as the length of the UK (several students in Scotland as well as some in the south of England).

We are using Adobe Connect, which is sometimes temperamental.  Today, I wanted students to analyse texts.  I first showed them in plenary and wanted participants to discuss them in a breakout room but they were not there when I expected them to be and would not load when I tried to download them.  This disconcerted me and I was about to exit and come back in (the equivalent of turning the computer on and off) but one student made the excellent suggestion that they take screen shots and then discuss from their screen shots.

This struck me as an example of the second mindset or the "new ethos stuff" that Lankshear and Knobel discuss.  I see the value of technology in helping learning but sometimes do not think creatively enough about this new way of thinking that technology enables.

Knobel, Michele and Colin Lankshear. 2007. “The New Literacies Sampler.” New York: Peter Lang, pp.2-17.  Available at https://newlearningonline.com/literacies/chapter-2/knobel-and-lankshear-on-the-new-literacies  [Accessed 04/11/20]


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Football and language again

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I have recently been watching the documentary "All or Nothing" about Tottenham last year.

There are a variety of languages used representing the multinational nature of the team.  I was interested to see Jose Mourinho talking one to one with the England international, Eric Dier in Portuguese.  Dier's Portuguese seemed fluent (but I am not expert on this) but I wonder whether there was a power dynamic at work here as it is obviously Mourinho's first language.

I was also struck by how often swear words were used as part of the culture.  Do the players and managers think this provokes more passion?  Interestingly, Amazon did not bleep out the "f word" but did bleep out the "c word".

There is also an interesting section where Mourinho learns the names of the players.  Again, there are aspects of hierarchies.  Harry Kane is called "Harry" so Harry Winks has to be called "Winksy".  He also asks the player Kyle Walker Peters if he is "Walker" or "Peters" and he replies "Walker Peters".  It seems surprising that Mourinho who has worked in Britain for a long time is not really aware of double barelled surnames.

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Multilingualism and football

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 14 Sep 2020, 17:52

I am preferring to watch football on the television without artificial crowd noise when I can.  This means that it is often possible to hear the managers and players.  I was watching Arsenal and Fulham and heard a few shouts in French as well as English.

The rather old fashioned pundit Martin Keown was disapproving and said that English should be the only language used.  This seems to be an assumption but as the manager of Arsenal, Mikel Arteta is multilingual, it seems reasonable that he should make use of his linguistic capabilities to speak in the language that is the most appropriate for the circumstance.  If he is able to speak French to the French players, it may give them a very slight advantage in terms of the time it takes to process the message as it is in their first language even if their English is good.  It might also help them affectively in feeling that their first language is valued.

The use of French might also be of value in confusing non French speaking opponents.  I remember listening to an interview with the ex Coventry player Dave Bennett where he said that he and Cyrille Regis often used patois, partly to confuse opposition players.  It might also have helped to bond Regis and Bennnett through commonalities in their backgrounds..

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MOOC on Antisemitism

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I have started a Future Learn MOOC on antisemitism.  So far, it seems much stronger than the rather vague MOOCs I had done recently on language and cultures.  I wonder whether my more favourable impression is the result of knowing less about the issues than on the previous ones but there does seem a more academic tone and engagement.

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Language and Covid

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There have been several articles on popular websites referring to language creativity and Covid.  The following is interesting in many ways:

https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200522-why-weve-created-new-language-for-coronavirus

Key points I take from this are:

- there is creativity in recombining for new contexts (e.g. "quarantine and chill" repurposing "netflix and chill" although the latter seems to have a sexual implication that the former might not have)

- there seems to be a tendency to form abbreviations like WFH

- the metaphors used like "a war" are consequential and perhaps both reflect how people are thinking about the pandemic and how they may react to it.  There is perhaps a key role for politicians to think carefully about how these are used.  It was, for example, pernicious for so many allies of Johnson to say he would survive Covid because he was a fighter.  How does this make relatives of people who did not survive feel?

- the links between cultures and the forms used are clear - e.g. there seems to be a trend for Australian English to shorten words.  Presumably there are many more specific examples of creativity in smaller cultures.

I also read the following article about the way that new terms are being created in Welsh:

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jul/23/coronavirus-coronafeirws-dictionary-welsh-speakers-wales

It seems telling that the writer refers to a term being "rather lengthy" in Welsh when the English is hardly shorter. 

Perhaps the most important point is that in the last paragraph where the Welsh language commissioner warns that Welsh speaking patients could be at risk if they are not able to use their own language.

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A creative notice on a shop

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 4 Aug 2020, 21:58

I saw the following poster yesterday and it links to some of the themes of some English language courses at the Open University.  The use of « the thing » rather than Covid is perhaps euphemistic but is perhaps also an inter textual link to the film of the same name.

The picture from the film Betty Blue is also a link to the product of the shop - it rents videos and also arranges for small scale screenings of films.  The reference to Betty Blue might also relate to the use of a French phrase at the end.

A poster on a video shop

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MOOC on Language and Culture

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 21 Jul 2020, 14:52

I have had a relatively quiet time at the moment in terms of tutoring duties so I decided to take a MOOC on Language and culture 

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-studies-language-culture/6/todo/72483

As someone with a Masters in a related area and also being the tutor on L161, I was not expecting to be particularly challenged in terms of the content but I thought there might be some new perspectives.

Despite realistic expectations, I was rather disappointed by the course.  Many of the tasks were rather vague.  Course participants often posted interesting examples and ideas but there was no interaction with the course writer who might have been able to clarify exactly what she was expecting from the discussion.  I think this is quite a serious weakness.

There was a final test that did not seem to be well thought out. It had multiple choice questions and I am convinced that some of the answers that were not accepted could be argued for but there is no chance of dialogue on those.

Some of the content seemed very out of date.  For example, there was a document on the Welsh language that seemed to make some dubious assertions and the references were all quite old.

One of the learners also made the good point that sign language should have been considered.  This is an issue I have become particularly aware of in the past year as one of my students has been working with deaf students and there is a great deal of variation in language practices and cultures.

Perhaps the content of L161 has spoiled me but I was disappointed by the MOOC.  Anyone wanting to study this area would be better off studying with the OU.
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Online one to one tutoring for school children

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On the BBC news last night, I saw a brief extract of what was supposed to be online tutoring.  It all looked quite slick in terms of the quality of the picture and the tutor seemed empathetic but it seemed to be an example of the constraints of using a tool that provides a webcam of the tutor rather than a Whiteboard as in Adobe Connect.  The tutor held up a piece of paper that had a sentence on and asked the school pupil what mistakes there were (some words that should have been in capitals were in lower case).  She had to check the learner could see and it probably was not very clear.  With Adobe Connect, this can be put on the whiteboard, which would be clearer.  She then asked the learner how to correct it.  Again Adobe Connect might look less slick but would have the affordance of allowing the learner to be able to correct it themselves by using the "draw" tool.

It seems worrying that money is being spent on online tutoring tools that seem superficially "modern" but a less spectacular looking platform like Adobe Connect (or OU Live and Elluminate - previous OU tools) would be better in terms of pedagogy and allowing learners to do more themselves.

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MOOC on intercultural studies

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I have been studying a MOOC on intercultural studies for the past week

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/intercultural-studies-concept-culture/6/steps/736782

There are some differences from previous MOOCs I have studied.  It is shorter (two weeks) but more intense (5 hours per week).  There seems to be no presence from moderators/facilitators and some of the discussion questions seem slightly vague and it would be useful to get more feedback on what is expected.

The content is mainly quite familiar to me from previous studies but there are some useful examples which might be useful for future teaching, especially on L161.
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Online learning and inclusion

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Sunday, 17 May 2020, 13:54

The current situation means that online learning is being discussed more than previously.  This article https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/may/04/i-cant-get-motivated-the-students-struggling-with-online-learning is one of many that refers to the issues.

One issue that is mentioned is that some disadvantaged students may not have good computer equipment and/or a good internet connection that they need in order to study effectively.  This is presumably a useful reminder that the newest technologies might not be the most appropriate ones.

There is also the slightly surprising comment that "(s)ocial mobility experts are warning that the shift to online learning could severely hold back some students, including those from poorer backgrounds, care leavers, students with caring responsibilities and those with disabilities."  It seems that in many cases online study may be the realistic alternative for students who are from poorer backgrounds as they can combine study with work.  Those with caring responsibilities may have (and need) more flexibility about when they care and when they study.  In terms of disability, online learning seems the best option for many disabilities (eg severe social anxiety or physical disabilities that restrict movement).

Weller's mention of the importance of icebreakers for online learning seems important and the Open University's induction courses, early face to face tutorials (in normal times) and Forum activities seem important.

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Intensity and online tutorials

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Last Saturday, I had two online tutorials and was again struck by how intense they seem to be compared to face to face teaching.  There were several instances that struck me in this regard.

In the first tutorial, there were originally three students.  One suddenly disappeared and I was left wondering why that was.  She has not written since to explain so I am left slightly mystified.  Did she have technical problems?  If so, why not write to explain?  Did she think she was not getting what she wanted? 

Then during the rest of the tutorial, there were two students.  I know one quite well as he is in my tutor group and we have met face to face.  This means I feel comfortable pitching content to his level and interests.  We can refer back to previous conversations, his TGF contributions and assignments.  The other student was unknown to me which means I was having to react to any clues I could obtain about whether what I was doing was too quick/slow, complex/simple and my judgements were not helped by the way she was keener to use the textbox facility than speak.  She was also influenced by the way her family was in the room and sometimes this would presumably have affected her concentration.  My student was very sensitive to the dynamics and was keen to not dominate and eventually, it seemed like there was useful discussion and learning taking place.

The group for the afternoon tutorial was larger and this in some ways led to even greater diversity.  Three students only used text box chat and one of these hardly even used that and so I have no idea whether she obtained anything useful from the tutorial as I have no clue about her starting level and level of understanding of what we did.  However, the three who did use the microphones were engaged. I had not met any of the students before but one was in my tutor group so I did know something about her.  It seemed like we were able to do work where the students discussed issues in quite an exploratory way.  There was use of speech and text boxes as well as the drawing tool in the whiteboard so there was a rich multimodal communication.

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Associate Lecturer Assembly taking place online

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There was due to be a face to face meeting of the Associate Lecturer Assembly on Saturday but this has now been moved online.  It seems a pity but probably a good decision in the circumstances.

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Corona virus and online teaching

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I am in contact with several ex students who are university teachers of English in China and they are currently replacing classes that would have been face to face with online classes.  Classes at schools also seem to be interrupted and online teaching is being used through an app called DingTalk - students of mine also refer to Tencent as another platform (Wang 2020).

It will be interesting to see what emerges in terms of a new experience of online learning.  Perhaps there will be new innovative practices or possibly students and teachers will feel that online learning is inferior (if it is used badly, this seems possible).  I wonder whether researchers will use this as a test case.

In informal chats through WeChat, my ex students refer to problems related to poor broadband speeds or other technical problems and, of course, this is a problem we face at the Open University.

Wang XY (2020) "The word from Wuhan" London Review of Books Volume 42, Number 5 Available at https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v42/n05/wang-xiuying/the-word-from-wuhan?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=4205&utm_content=ukrw_subs [Accessed March 4th 2020]

P.S. As I was writing, I got a notification that Italy is closing schools and universities https://www.theguardian.com/world/live/2020/mar/04/coronavirus-live-updates-who-global-recession-fears-update-latest-news

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Scots in a prison in Frankie Boyle on Scotland last night

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I was watching Frankie Boyle on Scotland last night and was fascinated by a sequence where there was a class on Scots in a prison.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000f9cr/frankie-boyles-tour-of-scotland-series-1-2-edinburgh-to-aberdeen (from about 14:30).

It was interesting to see how engaged the participants were in a variety/language/dialect (I make no judgement about its status) that reflected their lives.  These was an interested sequence where they write a report in Scots and it seems likely that they are more motivated by the subversion involved.

Another apsect that was interesting was the discussion of how much the dialect/language varied in terms of lexis according to different parts of the country.  There are clear links then to identities within the country.

I was also intrigued to see the apparent differences between this prison and those I had visited.  It seems more "high tech" and the rooms for teaching seem smarter but perhaps much of this is down to the editing.

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Screencasts

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I have been making more screencasts to help students understand tasks.  The latest is for L101 and can be found at https://vimeo.com/384246808


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Three Identical Strangers

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The film "Three Identical Strangers" was shown on the television a few days ago.  It has been in my thoughts ever since, mainly because it was a moving film in its own right but also partly as an example of dubious ethical behaviour in terms of research.

The film is a documentary about triplets who had been separated as babies and adopted by three families.  The families did not know that they were triplets.  One of the triplets found out about one of the others by going to College and encountering many people who thought they knew him because one of his brothers had been to the same College the year before.  They got in touch and this made the news and the third brother recognised that they looked like him and contacted his brothers so they found each other.

At first, all seemed to be "happily ever after".  The brothers seemed to get on well, appeared on television programmes and opened a restaurant.  However, there then became tensions between them as it was apparent that they might look very similar but were actually different in key wells.  They also met their birth mother and there were some hints of something worrying as one of them reported that like many young men they could handle a lot of alcohol but their mother could keep up with them in etrms of "holding her drink".

Then, the flm turned even darker as it became clear that they had been separated for the purposes of research.  They had each been placed with a well off, middle class and relatively poor family and were monitored to see the effects of this background.  The families who adopted them were not told that this was happening and so did not give consent.

The story gets even murkier ethically.  There were other twins who were being separated and monitored and it seems that they all had birth mothers with mental illness so this seemed to be another focus of the resarch.  The word "seemed" is used because the aims of the research were not clarified and even some of the staff working on the research project did not know what the research was aiming to find out.  One of the triplets committed suicide and it is not clear if there is a link between his life circumstances and him taking his own life.

The remaining brothers tried to find out about their records  but these were confidential.  After a long struggle they have got access to redacted records but it is still difficult for them to find all the details about what the data means.

There are a variety of ways in which this research was unethical.  These include:

- flouting the principle of doing no harm.  Children were exploited and there was perhaps an expectation that there might be a genetic link to poor mental health

- they were separated into social categories rather than being placed with families that were best for their interests.  At least one of the parents stated that they would have adopted all three of the brothers given the opportunity

- they did not give informed consent

- they did not have access to their records.

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"Crackpot" course

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We had an online meeting of L101 tutors last night and the Module Chair said that our course had received criticism in The Sun.  I looked up the article https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10371755/university-students-study-emojis/  It does not explicitly refer to our course although it refers to others.

It generally seems like a good endorsement of the course.  Any course that provokes such an ill informed article is probably doing something right.

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Scrutiny

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I try to avoid politics on this blog and in some ways, what I write in this posting is not party political.  It seems very strange that when the government is making such consequential decisions, it is so desperate to avoid scrutiny from MPs or the public.

Scrutiny from "critical friends" and perhaps even critiques from people who are not so friendly can help develop better ideas and avoid mistakes.  I have, for example, written materials and been given feedback on these.  This feedback has often pushed me to develop better work as well as simply pointing out mistakes, mistypings etc.  Similarly group discussions can ideally lead to exploratory talk where ideas and solutions are produced that are better than any one person can produce.

MPs are not being given time to read the Bill in detail and this is simply bad practice for effective decision making.    This coincides with a period when many students are writing their first assignments of the academic year (if they are on J presentations).  I and many other tutors are advising them to make sure that they read carefully and consider what they are reading from different angles and in a critical way.


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