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A is for Apps

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Wednesday, 28 May 2014, 16:21
  • A List Apart
  • Academic Writing
  • A room of my own
  • Accessibility
  • Activity Theory
  • Applied Learning
  • Amazon
  • Ackoff
  • Action Research
  • Assessment
  • Assignment
  • Assistive technology
  • Augmented Learning
  • Asynchronous
  • Auto-ethnography
  • Alt-C
  • Analytics
  • Apps
  • Terry Anderson

I continual scramble learning and e-learning as separating the too seems so foolish - we learn and use whatever tools we have to hand and society and our moment in history makes available to us. The age of the printed book is not over, it has simply found over forms of expression, both linear and interactive, with moving images and sound. 

This is to be an A to Z of E-learning though so 'Apps' must head my list as I have come to rely and love so many. Having various apps on your tablet or smart phone supports learning in all kinds of ways, whether you are organising your time, drawing a mind map, or simple drawing and manipulating images and charts. Then there are apps that offer insights and support learning 'in the field' ... and the many thousands of choices too.

I have lived either side of Rodmell for the last 14 years so Virginia Woolf's life, work and death are forever present, not least as I often walk our dog along the River Ouse between Rodmell and Piddinghoe where the writer drowned herself by filling the pockets of an overcoat with rocks. The point, relevant to all learning, is to have 'a room of your own' - though a space will do and I dare so we can all make head-space with a pair of headphones and then work on a smartphone or iPad. Having space, the time and geographical kind, matters in all learning. 

Accessibility in e-learning, like all things, needs to be in the design, like inclusivity as the MAODE module H810 spells out. E-learning's strongest card is the ability to use technology to assist and augment experiences for students who may have struggled with traditional modes and methods of learning. Now font and text sizes and contrasts can be adjusted, the page can be read to you and various inputting devices attached.

Activity Theory is one of those vital models that help explain the world and how we behave in groups or between institutions. 

Applied Learning, from an apprenticeship to an MBA, to any learning that is situated in and of the workplace means that the constructed part of the learning process is actively putting the learning into practice. 

Amazon comes ahead of Apps in my personal experience. Whilst I have a number of Apps I love to use, the support my learning, from iWriter on the iPad, to SimpleMinds and Studio, it is the ease by which I can track down books and eBooks that makes Amazon like the Bodleian Library I knew as an undergraduate. I feel I can get, beneath my gaze, just about any book, in days, if not in moments. I wish to chase up a reference I can find the book and have it on my Kindle in minutes. I find an out of print book that has not been digitised and it arrives in a day or two - often old stock from an university library. And then there are quite special texts that organisations such as the Library of Congress have digitised and print on demand and send over. These are just the books, then there are the forum like reviews where readers tussle over the strengths and weaknesses of a publication.

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H810 Activity 31.4 Benefits of mobile learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 14 Dec 2012, 05:49

Is learning support by text messaging mobile learning?

Must it be a smart-phone. I would have called taking an Apple Classic into the garden on an extension cable and using it in a cardboard box to shield it from the sun as mobility of some kind - indeed development of the use of laptops in the last 15 years has been mobile and in 1997 I shot a training video for the RAC on a roadside device called ‘hardbody’ that was a navigational tool to locate the breakdown, a database of parts, a diagnostic for fault finding and fixing and a way for customers to pay.

The prospects for and possibilities of mobile computing have been known for a long time.

Getting them into the hands of students has taken longer as prices have fallen and broadband made readily available.

Was a cassette on a Sony Walkman mobile learning, or more recently is something from iTunes U on an MP3 player mobile e-learning? Yes, surely if its function is educational or it is resource tailored for a specific module.

  1. Convenience and flexibility - the university in your pocket. Ditch the folders, files and print outs.
  2. Relevance - situated
  3. Learner control - mine (personalised Apps, choice of phone and case ...)
  4. Good use of 'dead time' - on the bus, train, passenger in car ... in bed, in front of TV, on the loo or in the bath.
  5. Fits many different learning styles - short burst or lengthier intense periods
  6. Improves social learning (i.e. Communicating with peers and experts)
  7. Encourages reflection - easy to take notes (audio as dictaphone or text)
  8. Easy evidence collection - photos and audio (screen grabs from online research), tag finds.
  9. Supported decision making
  10. Speedier remediation - instant
  11. Improved learner confidence
  12. Easily digestible learning - where 'chunked' though this should be a choice where content has been suitably prepared for web usability.
  13. Heightened engagement - feeds alerts that can be responded to in a timely fashion. Makes synchronous and quasi-synchronous forum feedback possible.
  14. Better planning for face-to-face - organiser, contactable 24/7 (almost)
  15. Great for induction - keeping in touch, easy to ask questions, familiar, universal and everyday.
  16. Elimination of technological barriers - basic, intuitive, commonplace.
  17. Designed once then delivered across multiple platforms - responsive design (using HTML 5)
  18. Easily trackable via wifi - and GPS
  19. Cost-effective build
  20. A means to recoup money
  21. Technology advances with Apps
  22. Technology advances with interface, voice command and other tools.
  23. Everything in one place, including TV, radio, podcasts, photogallery ...
  24. Assistive technology - add a micro-projector, wifi-keyboard, sync to other devices such as tablet, laptop and desktop, augmented learning ...
  25. Replacement technology - starting to replace money, already replacing cameras, MP3 players, address book, organiser, games console, remote control, torch, dictaphone ... pen and paper, art pad ...

(In part from Dr Chris Davies, Head of the e-learning research group, Oxford Prof. John Traxler, Prof. Of Mobile Learning (2011 )

http://www.epicbrasil.com/assets/files/Mobile_learning_NHS_Research_Report.pdf

(last accessed 10 Dec 2012)

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H810 : Activity 30.1 E-learning - key roles for implementation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 9 Dec 2012, 08:15

Review and discussion

Thinking back to Topics 25 (academic perspectives) to Topic 29 (management perspectives), what role or roles do you recognise from your experience?

  • What roles do you have in common?
  • To what extent do your roles and perspectives overlap?
  • Are any differences because your organisations are of different types or are they because people in the organisations have different priorities?

_________________________________________________________________________________________________

Over the last decade I have come full circle, from the belief that the future lay in self-directed gamified e-learning where everything is managed and monitored by the system - even if an avatar is thrown in to make it appear human. (There is current activity doing exactly this - creating avatars to play the role of tutor - perhaps to serve millions of new learners this will serve a purpose!)

The goal I feel should be recreation, where students want it, of the Oxbridge model of tutorial - at least at graduate and post-graduate levels - where the tutor plays a key role as intermediary. 'Where the students want it' implies choice - so in truth a smorgasbord at every step, not just the way a module is presented, but how material is tackled topic by topic. I've reviewed platforms that have the look and feel of a games arcade - resplendent with hyper-gamified activities at every stage - this for me does more than simply exclude the disabled student, it also presumes in error that all learners have or desire this mindset. They do not. Where we have choice I think we do incline to the verbal, auditory or kinaesthetic - I also believe that our moods and inclinations, and especially experience, tip us to one model over another. All this spells out 'C H O I C E' not constraints in the conduits of a gamified series of funnels and tunnels.

The OU may not get the attention of the e-learning awards panel, but they have a more important responsibility to hundreds of thousands of students, tens of thousands of ALs ... and a few thousand staff.

  • A champion - whomsoever this may be someone needs to make accessibility a cause
  • A leader - perhaps an innovator and entrepreneur, someone who can galvanise others into action, raise the funds, assemble a team and get the most out of them.
  • Disabled student representatives - not a token person in a wheelchair, but genuine engagement and involvement from various disabled group communities i.e. involving in particular a student or former student with experience of learning as a disabled person from the 'communities' that include hearing, sight, mobile and cognitive impairments.
  • Legal advice - much e-learning is now offered on a global platform. Laws differ, but it will reach the point where disabled students wise-up to their rights and how to press for them. This isn't about interpreting the law to reduce risk and get away with doing as little as possible, it is about ensuring that the 'bar' where it is currently placed, is reached.
  • Professional Managers - team players. Some educational practices have to change - the lone educator devising their own content for a prescribed curriculum greatly reduces both the greater use of readily available resources and their creation and management on accessible platforms. Even entrepreneurs and those with marketing and communications skills in order to compete in a global market for education provision.
  • E-learning design - experienced and qualified people who have a good understanding of how to construct e-learning, if necessary with people who have a theoretical and/or a technical background and awareness. Personally I would have a minimum of FOUR people representing the following skills: learning theory, e-learning technologies (programmer), visualisation (design in its broadest meaning in relation to functionality as well as look) and the subject matter expert - not necessarily to write original content, but certainly to curate resources where they are readily available and to tailor them to a specific audience's learning needs.
  • Research - it helps to have someone dedicated to knowing where we are with the technology and resources, in this instance with a specialism relating to assistive technology (software and hardware).

To be continued ...

Please add to this mix. If we could or had to create an e-learning platform from scratch who would you want on your team. Put this in your context - say creative writing, or civil engineering, language learning or health care. In the IDEAL e-learning world who would be in it and how would the mix work?

  • IT - there need to be people, a department even, that knows how to make IT sing and keeping it robust, up to date, compliant, reliable and secure.
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H810 Activity 27.4 : Alternative formats

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Friday, 4 Jan 2013, 19:49

Read this web page and consider to what extent the six challenges mentioned are addressed in your context:

Mis-Adventures in Alt Format (Stewart, 2007)
http://www.altformat.org/index.asp?id=119&pid=222&ipname=GB

Pick one challenge and write a paragraph in your tutor group wiki explaining how it is relevant to your context.  
____________

Developing a total picture of how Alt Format fits into the broader discussion of curricular reform and modernization will help insure that we do not continue to live on the margins of the educational mainstream. (Stewart, 2007)

'Universal Design for Learning'

Challenges in relation to Alternative Formats:

  1. How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?
  2. How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?
  3. How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?
  4. How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?
  5. How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?
  6. How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

In my context


1) How does the provision of Alt Format fit into other emerging models for data management and delivery?

With the digitization of everything a further step to ensure content is also accessible should be taken at the time of conversation or creation. I’m not aware in an agency where this ever occurs and when there is a client request the response is a simple one - word or PDF formats, or look to the browser of platform where the content will sti.

2) How do we build systemic capacity to meet the projected needs for Alt Format and Accessible Curricular Materials?

Is there a more appropriate agent to handle the conversion and delivery of electronic content on a given campus or system of campuses? I’d probably consider the Open University itself, or the Business School where I worked for a while. I know the disability officer, but his role was more to do with access and personnel and visitors to the building then meeting student needs - which I presume comes under Student Services.

3) How do we align the divergent Alt Format efforts occurring on an international bases so that they minimize redundancies and duplicative efforts?

Whilst efforts can and have to be made to improve access universally might the fine detail be left to address either group issues by working with representatitives of associations for, for example, the blind, dyslexia, cerebral palsy and other groups ? Learning from then improving such practices and tackling access for people from these groups for specific subjects and specific levels on a strategic basis knowing that complete coverage is the goal?

‘A plan for the development and incorporation of emerging technologies in a holistic and self-sustaining model is incumbent. These emerging systems must be based on flexibility and economies of scale if we are ever going to get in front of the issues of materials access.’ (Stewart, 2007)

4) How do we move beyond the current focus on Blind and Visual disabilities to a more holistic model of access for the gamut of print disabilities?

Doesn’t cover everyone who would benefit and would benefit other groups, such as non-native language populations, remedial groups and as an alternative for any user who may prefer or benefit from the text record.

5) How do we develop the level of technological literacy in students with print disabilities that will be necessary for them to benefit from the technological evolutions that are occurring in curricular access?

In many anecdotal reports, less than 10% of the incoming students to higher education have ever had any realistic exposure to the access technologies they will need to be successful in adult education and in the world of work. (Stewart, 2007)

Current studies suggest the opposite, that students with disabilities who gain so much from having a computer to access resources, that they are digitally literate. There are always people who for all kinds of reasons have had less exposure to or are less familiar with the technology -whether or not they also have a disability.

6) How do we involve all of the curricular decision makers in the process of providing fully accessible materials?

The original authors never have a say or make a contribution to the reversioning of content for use by disabled students.

This method of access often times results in the retrofit of existing materials, or the creation of alternative access methods that are not as efficient or well received in the general classroom environment. (Stewart, 2007)

For a truly effective model to be developed the original curriculum decisions should be made in a context of understanding the needs of all learners, and in particular those learners who do now have visual orientation to the teaching and learning process. (Stewart, 2007)

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Interview analysis revealed five personal factors that appeared to influence students’ decisions about technology use:

  1. a desire to keep things simple,
  2. a lack of DSA awareness,
  3. self-reliance,
  4. IT skills and digital literacy,
  5. a reluctance to make a fuss.

The three most talked about factors were desire to keep things simple, IT skills and digital literacy. Seal and Draffan (2010:455)

‘The are many ways of making and communicating meaning in the world today.’ Conole (2007:169)

The kind of problems students with disabilities now face are different - less whether content has been made available in a digital format, but how good the tools and services are to access this content.

  • accessibility of websites and course/learning management systems (CMS)
  • accessibility of digital audio and video
  • inflexible time limits built into online exams
  • PowerPoint/data projection during lectures
  • course materials in PDF
  • lack of needed adaptive technologies.

Students also mentioned technical difficulties using e-learning and connecting to websites and CMS, problems downloading and opening files, web pages that would not load, video clips taking too long to download, poor use of e-learning by professors and their own lack of knowledge  working with elearning.

For most groups of students, solving e-learning problems by using non e-learning solutions was also popular.

During the last decade there has been tremendous development and interest in e-learning on campus. While our research shows the many benefits of e-learning, such as the availability of online course notes, there are also problems. Chief among these are problems related to inaccessibility of websites and course management systems. (Fitchen et al 2009:253)

Digital Agility

Results suggest that an important personal resource that disabled students in the study drew on when using technologies to support their studies was their ‘digital agility’. Seal and Draffan (2010:449)

Use of assistive technologies

Many students with disabilities have, since 2007, developed strategies for the use of both specialist assistive technologies (e.g. IrisPro, quill mouse, Kurzweil, Inspiration or Dragon Dictate) as well as more generic technologies (e.g. mobile phone, DS40 digital recorder, Google) Seal and Draffan (2010:450)

Seal and Draffan (2010:451) therefore suggest that disabled students have the kind of ‘sophisticated awareness’ that Creanor et al. (2006) described when they talked about effective learners being prepared to adapt activities, environments and technologies to suit their own circumstances. This contradicts somewhat the arguments of Stewart who argues that disabled students are behind other students in terms of developing digital literacies.

The digital agility of the students, identified in the study, is significant in terms of encouraging practitioners not to view all disabled students as helpless victims of exclusion. Digital inclusion does not always have to be understood through the dual lenses of deficits and barriers. Seal and Draffan (2010:458)

REFERENCE

Conole, G and Oliver, M (eds)  2007. Contemporary perspectives in E-Learning Research. Themes, methods and impact on practice.

Fichten, C. S., Ferraro, V., Asuncion, J. V., Chwojka, C., Barile, M., Nguyen, M. N., & ... Wolforth, J. (2009). Disabilities and e-Learning Problems and Solutions: An Exploratory Study. Journal Of Educational Technology & Society, 12(4), 241-256.

Seale,J., Draffan,E.A. (2010) Digital agility and digital decision-making: conceptualising digital inclusion in the context of disabled learners in higer education, Studies in Higher Education, 35:4, 445-461

Stewart, R (2007) Mis-Adventures in Alt Format

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H810 Activity 16.1 Assistive Techology - giving it a go

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 19 Oct 2014, 10:58

Fig. 1. Close on the Braille Map - Lewes Station, East Sussex

Two months into 'H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students' I find my antennae are picking up signs and symbols, practices and expectations related to access.

A bus that is full unable to take on the wheelchair user. A blind person on the tube.

Fig.2 Sign as you exit Tower Hill underground. I like the fact that neither the words 'disability' or 'access' are used.

A notice outside Tower Hill tube station and Vvideo clips on products, services and experiences that give some insight into whether or not a piece of assistive technology works or not.

This week (or last) I've been getting behind so jump back and forth between the two we were asked to try some specific tasks as if we were blind. Being the stubborn type I have pressed on with this, alone. Taking my glasses off is a shocking start as I find my face close to the screen. Wearing a blind fold is the next step. Also, as I videod test drivers doing, putting goggles made of plastic coffee cups with the bottoms cut out over my eyes to recreate tunnel vision.

The evidence of the last couple of months, let alone witnessing the Paralympics, shoes how far more diverse the community of people with disabilities is, compare to the rest of the population. Loss of vision is on a scale, as is hearing and mobility.

I guess this is what I am meant to conclude.

I have tried to test accessibility from the point of view of someone who is visually impaired before. I try again using narrator.

Why does it fail?

1) Am I personally adapt at tackling new technology? If so, how so? One way or another I will take to something, visually impaired or not, if I find it intuitive. More importantly I have to have a time and task critical goal. And if that isn't adequate motivation, what is? Motivation will overcome many hurdles.

2) My context, especially past experience of the tools being used. Here's a test.

This sentence is written entirely as a piece of touch tyoung, You can see for your self when and where I start to get lost.

To do this, I found myself looking up at the ceiling.

Actually, EXACTLY as I have seen a proficient blind user of JAWS do.

Think of a blind pianist like Stevie Wonder.

Why look at the screen that offers no clues ... no support, rather sit back and let your fingers do the talking and the seeing. There is a reason why learning the piano as a boy the teacher covered the keyboard - at least I had the music to sight read. Equally there is a reason why learning to touch type on day three or four or something I found myself sitting at a blanked out keyboard. Decades on I delight in the fact that six or more keys on the keyboard have been wiped clean. I just centre my hands and get on with it. A similar challenge has been drawing while not taking my eyes off the object (or person) I am drawing.

These are skills of dexterity, with or without sight.

The appropriate test for assistive technology has to be with someone with the impairment being tested for ... and ideally, as you would do in any research, with a group that are representative of the adapt as well as new comers.

Whilst personas will do, when we have credibly empathy with a potential user, when it comes to disabilities first hand experience is required - far better to engage them and understand it from their point of view than try to imagine what it is like. THIS is how the wrong decissions are taken. Instead of imagining what it might be like - get out and do first hand research with actual representative groups. This is far, far more revealing (as planners in advertising agencies will tell you).

 

 

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H810 Activity 15.1 Assistive Technology

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 19 Oct 2014, 10:55

20121022-102631.jpg

Fig.1 Assitive technologies to improve access to e-learning

There are a myriad of hardware and software tools that alongside other assistive technologies a disabled person may use to improve access to learning. As part of the MA in Open and Distance Educaiton (MAODE) module H810 Accessible Online Learning : Supporting Disabled Students we are reviewing the widest range of circumstances and tools - and MBA like applying these to our own contexts.

When I started this course I did wonder if it couldn't be covered in a weekend residential – boy am I mistaken.

So much so that I think it should be a 60 pointer over several more months.

If we can remember back to the Paralympics just think of the vast scale and variety of access issues these athletes had, then add cognitive impairments for which the Olympics are unable to cater - then think of any impairment as a position on a spectrum that includes us - our vision, our hearing, our mobility and cognitive skills are on here somewhere too. Indeed, there are tools that come out of assistive technology that have value to all of us, from automatic captioning, tagging and transcription of video, to screens over which we have greater control. Here area few I picked out:

HEAD POINTERS

20121022-100855.jpg

Head pointers need to suit the precise needs, wishes and expectations of the user and may be used in conjunction with other tools and software. A sophisticated package such as TrackerPro costs £1,288 and includes head, visor and shoulder kit, a tracking webcame and software. At this level it can be used to engage with computer games, as well as to use packages designed to suit the users other needs in relation to visual and audio impairment. These packages are supported by assessors.

KEYBOARDS

20121022-102029.jpg

Keyboards come in a plethora of shapes, sizes, textures and colours, with various overlays and supporting software for single hand or head pointer use too.

Integrated with screens, wheelchair, hardware and software a market leader for people with considerable mobile impairment, voice and sight impairment such as DynaVox Vmax will cost £9,000. There is considerable online support, with videos too. Setting up and support from an assessor is provided.

Beyond the tools provided with the operating system or browsers which will magnify images to a reasonable degree, there are software bundles such iZoom (PC) £321 and VisioVoice (MAC) £232 with a far greater level of sophistication and adjustment to suit users with sight impairments, dyslexia and mobility requirements. Working with a variety of inputting devices this allows the user to make many kinds of adjustments to the way information is displayed.

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H810 Activity 14.1 Using assistive technology - reflection on access to learning through acccess to work

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Sunday, 21 Oct 2012, 14:42


20121021-084048.jpg

Fig.1 From 'Access to work' a video from MicroLink

Any of us could or will stumble the first time we are faced with a new tool or piece of software - I'd like to see any of us tested using a tool such as Delicious or ScoopIt and see how we get on, or trying to use a Microwriter, programme the washing machine or even turn on someone else's Microwave.

All experiences become familiar in time if we give them a go or get some useful tips. The same implies whether or not you have a disability or combination of disabilities or not.

To make sense of the plethora of accessibility tools, software and built-in 'assists' - and the equally enormous combinations and varieties of people who may benefit from using them I am having to get into my minds eye four people, or 'personas' who have quite different needs and imagine them, in context, wanting to and trying to use tools that ought to improve access for them. Some intriguingly are likely to suit all users if they offer a short cut or a different way into the information - I prefer a transcript over lectures. I like to use narrator in the car or when busy with some other task like painting the shed - the book is read to me as I can't do what I am doing and look at the screen at the same time. I call this the 'Montesori Effect' - how meeting a learning challenge for one community of learners you gain insights and create tools that benefit everyone.

As for any of us, when it comes to learning, context is important whether we have the space, time, kit and inclination. There is a big difference between giving something a go and having to use it with a set goal in mind. Anyone remember the first time they had to create something using PowerPoint, or Word come to think of it? Or writing a blog - let alone embedding images, video or audio.

Some of this reminds me of my first computer - an Amstrad. All green text and no mouse. My father got himself a Microwriter and mastered it. Bizarre. Confined to a wheelchair (badly broken leg from skiing) for some months in my early teens I ought to have been able to keep up with school work - but somehow a box of books didn't do it for me.

When I get stuck I can now turn to a son, daughter or my wife who may or may not be able to help. We also pick up the phone to 'The Lewes Computer Guy' for technical fixes. Had I a disability how likely is it that I can turn to someone with the very same set of challenges that I face for tips and advice? On some context a blind person will and can turn to a supportive community, but this might not be so easy if you are, or feel like, the only person with Dyslexia or Cerebral Palsy at your schoolor university.

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