Archive for the 'Textbook' Category

Replace Your Textbook with QR codes

Many  teachers dislike their textbooks. The textbooks may include too much or not enough about a learning goal. The textbooks may not arrange materials in the most logical fashion. The textbook may not have enough authentic up-to-the-date materials.  The textbook may not provide  visuals as learning tools.  These books may not provide multiple approaches or differentiated  learning. The textbooks may not provide assessments that assess what the district, school, team, or individual teacher deem as being the most critical.  These heavy textbooks  may not be convenient for the students to have with them outside of class.  These print textbook’s presentation and practice of material may be boring!

School districts, schools, teams or individual teachers now have a choice. They can create their own specially designed  virtual textbook, chapter by chapter or learning concept by learning concept with one page QR  sheets.  An advantage to a QR code textbook is that  the teachers can quickly and easily  change any critical material.  They change  the information on their website page,  wiki page, etc. that is linked to the QR code and the QR code is updated automatically.  In addition, each QR code can contain multiple links to allow for differentiation or choice.

The educator can use a separate QR code for each critical aspect of the learning.  Students simply click on the first QR code to start their learning.

A possible format can be  a separate  QR code for
– the essential question, the media situation/project, the “hook” into the lesson
– the learning goal stated in student language such as  “I  can” statements.  The learning goal can start with low level activities such as basic vocabulary and then work up to concepts.
– various ways to learn the content (videos, podcasts, screencasts of a presentation, a website with written text, an app, etc.)
– various ways to practice the initial  content (an app, a website, etc.)
– various ways to assess  the learning of the content at the lower levels (quick 5-10 item  online quizzes; short performance tasks, etc.)
– various ways to give feedback to students with learning gaps through providing new strategies (links to differentiated strategies such as visual, auditory, physical response, etc.)
– a project with a  higher level thinking activity (PBL, interdisciplinary project, etc.) and its assessment (rubric, checklist, etc.)
– if needed, a formal summative assessment at the higher thinking level.

Creating QR code chapters may sound  like a formidable  task.   However, within one week I had my students, as an end-of-the-course activity,  find  three videos that they felt taught a specific  learning goal well,  find an online quiz that tested the concept, and find a picture that showed an application of the learning.  When students evaluate material, they decide what really helps them to learn.  The materials are “student- approved”.  You can incorporate online materials that you presently use.  If you can work with one other teacher, then you can share your resources.

Get unchained from your textbook so students can learn better.  When will you start on your QR learning textbook?  You might want  to try a QR learning sheet  for a part of a unit or for a unit to figure out what format works best for your students’ learning.

My three formative assessment books, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, and Improving Foreign Language Speaking Through Formative Assessment, are available at   http://is.gd/tbook

My modern language blogs are  now at  http://bit.ly/imprml

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

E-Texts: Innvovation or Status Quo

Many textbooks now have an e-text version.  Do these e-texts improve  student learning?

Some advantages:
– No heavy or bulky textbook to carry; portable
– Font size can be adjusted so students can more easily read or see information.
– Text can be searched
– Often has an online assessment; allows online quizzes  to be graded automatically online
– Often has an online homework management; allows  homework  activities to be graded automatically online
– Has organized the content into  chapters; chapters have various sections
– Text can be copied and pasted from the  e-text into a word processor
– Text can  usually be highlighted
– Usually includes multimedia (pictures, video, audio…)

Some disadvantages:
– Often is an exact  reproduction of the textbook. An E-text probably is   not linked,  therefore,  students cannot  click on words or images to get additional information.
-The e-text is still mainly print (word) based.
– Many images  may supplement  the text but they do not add new information;  images help explain the text instead of the image being the main source of information.
– Usually a student cannot write in the e-text such as writing  comments in the margin
– The user needs an e-reader, a computer or a mobile device to read the e-text.
– Additional exercises are  predominantly word based.
– Most e-text homework managers and on-line quizzes only tell the students if they are right or wrong. They do not provide new strategies for learning the material.
– Since homework and quizzes are done online, the teacher may never review what the students do not know. If the teachers do not review student progress, then the teachers cannot provide formative activities for student  improvement.
– Interactivity  may include activities such as  moving some words around or rearranging pictures but  the e-text interactivity  usually lacks high  interactivity such as simulations.
– Additional exercises are still  predominantly at a  low level of thinking.  They do not engage students in real-life use of the learning.
– Often multimedia is an add-on, rather than an integral part of the basic textbook.  Often multimedia comes after the main learning.
– An  e-text cannot be customized; teacher cannot rearrange parts such as  combining a part from chapter 1, a part from chapter 3, and a  a part from chapter 8 to create a new chapter.
– The digital textbook can be outdated very quickly if the  e-text does not contain links to current events.
– May not show the learners  the priority of the learning concepts within the chapter. What part of the chapter is the most critical? Is the most time and space spent on that critical learning or do minor  concepts get equal time and space?
-E-texts are boring since they are still traditional textbooks.

What are your reactions to using e-texts?

My modern language blogs are  now at  http://bit.ly/imprml

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Analyzing a Modern Language Textbook for Authentic Communication

Recently I analyzed a textbook for its communication value. Of the 25 activities in one chapter, there were 17 textbook only activities.  A textbook activity deals what is in the textbook such as questions about a picture.   For example, the book showed a tv schedule and asked students about the schedule.  There were  8 activities that encouraged students to talk about their lives .  Each of the 8 activities followed a strict formula in which students substituted in their answer for the given one.   What did your father eat yesterday? He  ate …….  What did  your mother eat?…  Only one activity was longer than 5 lines. The students do answer  questions but they do not react. None of the activities lead to a  free flowing conversation  in which students honestly reacted to each other. None of the personal activities lead to  a  full conversation.

Some questions to ask about your textbook:

1 How many of the exercises are personal ones in which students tell about their lives?

2 Can students tell many things about themselves or does this exercise really focus on practicing a  specific grammar /vocabulary point?  For example, I get up at six. I eat at 7, I lunch at 12.  People really  do not talk that way unless they are recounting their day and then they would add in more details.

3 How long of a conversation does the book encourage?  Do the students say a 8+ line conversation?

4 What part of the conversation is spontaneous and free flowing as opposed to strictly following the formula/questions?

5 Do the students’ statements and questions follow the logical fashion they would in a real conversation ? Or does it twist, in an unnatural way, to present a grammar point/ vocabulary term?

6  Would a target language speaker actually say this conversation?

Let’s help students to communicate not “grammarate”.

I have developed many  Spanish activities that allow students to begin to express themselves and to begin to move toward spontaneous speaking as in a natural conversation.

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Are Modern Language Students’ Real Questions Found in their Textbook?

I recently asked my  Spanish college students to make a list of questions that they w0uld want to ask of a person whom they are meeting for the first time. I was amazed at how uniform their answers were:

What is your name?
What is your phone number?
How old are you?
When is your birthday?
Where are you from?
What are you like? / Are you (athletic, …..)?
Where do you live? /How long have you lived here?
How are you?
What school/college do you go to? What is your major?
Where do you work? /What do you do?
What do you like to do?
How many brothers/sisters do you have?
What is your favorite (music, team, color, hobby, TV show)? / Do you like ( a particular music group, sport, TV show)?

My guess is that if we look at most modern language textbooks, we will not find these questions in the first few chapters.  We may not find these critical question grouped together.   For example, one textbook might not teach “to live” until the 4th chapter and the course only covers the first  5th chapters of the textbook.

I think that we can learn a great deal about what is important to our  modern language students by asking them what they would want to say about a common  topic found in the textbook.  Does the language textbook reflects things that are of importance to students?  Or does the textbook focus on its own  grammar and vocabulary without focusing on what students, their intended audience,  would normally want to say about a topic?  A communicative book focuses on  what real people would ask/answer about a topic in a normal conversation. A grammar focused textbooks presents a very limited amount of  questions but concentrates more on a specific grammar point that has been worked into the questions/conversation.

I have put together numerous speaking mats that present students with a wide range of vocabulary for a given topic so that they can say and ask things that are important to them.  Some speaking mats:
Spanish Activities / Sports Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Small Group
Spanish Clothing Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Partner Talk
Spanish Casa /House Spontaneous Speaking Mat – Partner Talk
I have many other activities where I supply the students with a wide range of possible answers such as
Spanish Friend /Family Member Detailed Description – Partner Talk

My Spanish spontaneous speaking activities (20+) includes Modified Speed Dating (Students ask  a question from a card-whole class), Structured Speaking (Students substitute in or select words to communicate in pairs),  Role Playing (Students talk as people in pictures or drawing from 2-4 people) and Speaking Mats (Can talk using a wide variety of nouns, verbs and adjectives to express their ideas- pairs or small group),  Spontaneous Speaking (based on visuals or topics in pairs),  and Grammar speaking games (pairs or small group). Available for a nominal fee at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My three formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

Learning Disease Epidemic: Textbook Dependency

Many students suffer from the academic disease of textbook dependency.  You can help cure your students of this affliction.

Symptoms:
Students
Are always looking in the textbook for answers
Never thinking for themselves
Cannot make connections between two concepts found in different chapters
When told to close the textbook and do an activity on their own,  they  show a wide range of emotions from a dazed look to high anxiety plus physical signs of mild to severe panic.

Sample cases:
1) A Modern Language  teacher asks his students to  find an Internet picture of a street scene in a country such as Ecuador  either on their Smartphone / tablet or print out the picture and bring to class.  When the teacher asks the students to talk about that street picture which is not in their textbook but based on the vocabulary in the chapter which they have reviewed many times, students show visible signs of agitation. Eyes are wide open as their mouths may be.  Visible nervousness. Inability to speak.  Students feel pressured. Pulse becomes higher.

2) When a Social Studies  teacher asks his/her  students to compare the Occupy movement to the American Revolution, students quickly look in the textbook’s  index and are shocked not to find Occupy listed. They  nervously flip through  the textbook pages.  Mild panic sets in. They cry out in emotional trauma, “It’s not in the book. What do we do?” Faces become red or pale, sweat may appear.

One cure:
Have the  students  do at least one activity beyond the textbook on a weekly or even better, on a daily  basis.  Scaffold their transition from the textbook to applying  the critical  information/concept.

The teacher can relate the learning goal to the real world.  He/She can  start small.

Example 1: In Modern Languages, before students talk about a street scene,  the teacher has them find either on their Smartphone/ tablet or print out a street scene picture and bring to class. The students identify the key street vocabulary from the book in the actual picture; they point to the object/person and say the word.  They review any words with which they had difficulty.  Then, without using their textbook or any review sheets, the students use the vocabulary in basic sentences to talk about the picture such as “There are many pedestrians in the street.  The cars stop at the stop light.”

Example 2: In Social Studies the teacher has students use their Smartphone/tablets or their home computers to find out what the Occupy movement is and what the movement’s goals are.  The teacher may start them off with some categories to explore such as purpose, method, etc.  The teacher has them create a similarity-contrast chart for Occupy and the American Revolution. Students use the chart as a basis for their critical thinking.

How do you move  your students from their dependency on the textbook to their  independent thinking?

I have many Spanish spontaneous speaking activities at Teacherspayteachers:  http://bit.ly/tpthtuttle

My formative assessment books:   http://is.gd/tbook

No Basic Differences in Textbooks in 50 Years: Go Virtual

I examined two textbooks that are fifty years apart, a Spanish textbook from 1960 and one from 2010

Both:
Teach the same grammar – present, present irregulars, preterite, preterite irregulars, imperfect, …..
Teach the same basic vocabulary- family, occupations, house, …. The 2010 textbook does have more modern words such as cell phone, computer…
Start each lesson with  written dialogue
Focus primarily on grammar- almost all the exercises are grammar focused
Have images – The 1960 has black and white illustrations and the 2010 has many colored photos.
Include cultural information
Have dictionaries

Some differences:
The  1960 textbook contains 200+ pages while the 2010 textbook has 500+ pages.
The 1960 has some testing/practice material while the 2010 textbook has  much online grammar practice.
The 1960 textbook has a story line of a family with a father who travels to Latin America.  The 2010 does not have a storyline.
The 1960 textbook teaches practical vocabulary essential to daily living and traveling while the 2010 teaches specialized vocabulary such as words to describe art in a museum.
The 1960 textbook follows the grammar translation methodology while the 2010 follows the grammar use methodology.

The 2010 textbook, once all the colored photos are removed, is essential the same as the 1960 textbook.
Do modern language teacher still want to focus primarily on grammar instead of communication?

For your subject area, how has the textbook, the staple of most classes, changed over the last 50 years?
Does it scaffold information to make it easier for students to learn?
Does it include strategies to help the students better learn the material?
Does it organize information in a way to help students see similarities and differences?
Does it build in self tests so students can measure their progress in a formative assessment manner? Does it provide formative feedback?
Has it gone to the “less is better” with more concentration on critical learning  or has it gone to “the bigger is better” way of thinking?

I’ve written several blogs about textbooks Smartphone (Mobil Learning Apps as Alternative Textbooks)  and Why a Physical Textbook?

Think of creating your own virtual textbook that truly matches the state goals and your district’s goals.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Why a physical textbook?

It seems so “yesterday” to use a physical  textbook such as in a Spanish classroom. Any instructor can easily find PowerPoints, Youtubes, etc. that teach and practice the   grammar and vocabulary in Spanish.  Any instructor  can easily find online sites that explain grammar and drill that grammar.  An instructor can find Internet sites that have vocabulary lists or can easily post such lists to a class  wiki.  Imagine if a department asked each instructor  to create one activity such as a spoken conversation or  a listening comprehension that takes the grammar and vocabulary to the level of communication. The instructors can find current pictures of the culture from Flickr and other sources.  Students can converse about the daily culture that relates to  the situations in the virtual textbook.  Students can communicate about the situations.

With a few handouts made in Google docs and the links to the grammar, vocabulary, communication activities, listening, reading,writing,  and culture, the instructors could run a whole course without a physical textbook.   All the resources can exist in the class wiki.  Students can have access to theses resources 24/7.   Since the resources come from various sources, there is more of widening  of the students’ learning. When instructors use  virtual textbooks, they can add more resources in areas where students demonstrate weaknesses (formative assessment).

In addition, students can contribute to the virtual textbook.  As they do activities such as writing five important questions about the situation, these questions  can be posted to the virtual textbook for other students to answer.   I believe that within a year, instructors could have a virtual textbook that outshines the limits of the physical textbook. I have used  a virtual text and feel that it best meets the needs of my students.   The virtual textbook can fit the specific goals of the instructors while meeting national goals. The virtual textbook can be easily modified as better resources become available.

The virtual textbooks will not cost any money! Also as students migrate to smartphones, their phones become a valuable learning tool in class.

My book, Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Also, my  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Textbooks – Not sufficient for students to be proficient.

I recently had the opportunity to examine three textbooks all written at the same time.  They all claimed to be standards based.

I was shocked by the differences.  Each had the same critical information but one textbook  just showed the essential information and then had an exercise, another explained how to do it but provided no exercises, and the third talked about it generally. Even though I teach the subject, I found many of the exercises confusing or not focusing on the standard.  None of the textbook had sufficient information to guide the student from knowing nothing about the topic to be able to use the information.   To accompany the information, one had up to many colorful pictures, a second had quotations, and the third had news articles.

How can a book claim to be standards-based if it does not guide the student from the very beginning stages through to the proficient stage?  A book has to explain the information so the student understands it,  see the specific forms, and uses these forms in meaningful ways. Hopefully, these books will provide  formative assessments that permit the student to assess how well he/she is doing and to learn a new strategy to overcome any gaps.  Let’s convince textbook publishers to move from  seeing the  “cuteness” of the subject to moving the student forward to success.

How well does your textbook guide the student to success?

My  book,  Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment, is available through Eye on Education.

Successful Student Writing Through Formative Assessment

My book,  Formative Assessment: Responding to Your Students, is available through Eye on Education.

Reponding to Your Students

Finals Do Not Reflect Standards

How well does your final match up with your standards and particularly those standards which you identified as being critical for the course?

A colleague shared with me  a  course final which focuses on a topic not mentioned in the course proficiencies (standards).   Since it was her first time in teaching the course, she had not studied the final.  When she did, she wondered where it came from.  She went back through the course proficiencies again and still could not find the topic.  Then she went to the textbook and searched it for the topic; it was not there. Someone had decided that the final had to be a certain topic which was neither in the standards nor the textbook.

How well does your final match up with the specified standards and the high level of thinking in those standards?  Does your final measure all the standards and all of their parts?  Does it measure some of the standards and even just some of those learning goals?

Quiz- Book’s answers or students’ in-depth thinking

I recently gave a quiz on a textbook chapter; they had done six exercises applying the ideas in the chapter. The ten item quiz had application and evaluation questions; I had taken the questions from the book’s test bank.

As each student came up with the quiz, I corrected it. Next I asked the students to reread the question and tell me their thinking for their answer. However, about 3/4 of the “wrong” answers were not “wrong” if you explored the students’ thinking. In one question, the book had the correct answer as the four steps in the negative message, a student reasoned that it was more important to think about your negative message first and then plan your four steps around it. I agreed with him. In another question, a student said that a certain positive word in one of the answers might go against the negative bad news so she selected another answer. Good thinking.

I was overwhelmed by how thoughtful they were in their thinking. They were “right”!

Do We Think in a Student Success or Failure Mode?

In the northeast, we have warmed up to 32 degrees. There are about four inches of snow on the ground from the last mini-storm. Today has been sunny. I watched two young boys shoot basketball in their backyard. No dribbling but they did play basketball for about half an hour. They have hopes for the summer regardless of the present cold and snow.

I wonder whether we have hopes for our students.

Do we think in terms of   students  success or failure mode?
Do we build success into our course so that students can be successful or do we build in quizzes and tests that show what they do not know?
Do we encourage rewrites and redos or do we have a one time make-or-break policy?
Do we show students examples of good work so that they can build up to that level or do we keep the level a surprise until the test or project?
Do we constantly give them feedback so that they can improve or do we withhold any information until the report card and then give nebulous “work harder” statements?
Do we focus on covering the curriculum/textbook or do we focus on what the students are actually learning?
Do we give them the textbook to work on or do we scaffold learning for them?

Learning goals curriculum or textbook illogic

I’ve been examining a writing/grammar textbook and I’ve noticed that there seems to be no logical learning flow in the writing patterns that students do.   When we show students that one type of writing is similar to another type, they can more easily make the transition.  For example, if students have done a narrative writing, they can easily transition to process writing.  Both types require a time line or sequence of events. Both types usually have the events in a chronological order.

How do you arrange your learning goals so that students transition from one type of learning to a similar type of learning?

Useful Textbook or Too Bloated and Non-Useful

A growing trend in textbooks is to add more visuals and  add cute stories. However, with all these additions, I think it is harder to find the real critical information in the text.  Some textbook go into such minute detail that the students have to be miners in a maze of dark caves. Students can read the textbook and miss the critical points.  One textbook takes over 60 pages to describe the pre-writing, composing and revising phrases of writing.  Unfortunately the book is not rich in student practice exercises that focus on the students using these major components of the writing process.

Some questions about your textbook and student learning/
Can the students easily find the critical standards-based information in the textbook?
Does the book provide crystal clear examples of students doing these learning goals? (Are these exemplars?)
Does the book provide step-by-step instructions for being successful in these learning goals?
(If the students did just what the book said, would they be able to be successful in this learning goal at the highest level of thinking?)
Does the textbook warn students  how to avoid possible mis-steps in the learning process?

Textbook/Class Powerpoints – Talking Points or Educationally Engaging

CD

I am teaching several courses and for two of them, I have a CD that includes the PowerPoints for the textbook chapters. One has a few bullets per screen on a simple background and no visuals. Supposedly there is a movie in each PowerPoint but they do not seem to work. The other textbook has some cutesy graphic, block transitions, and layered bullets (each bullet shows up after pressing Return). Both of these do not supply any real information; they serve as talking points. Students looking at them cannot learn by the words or the visuals.

Furthermore, the PowerPoints do not include any interactive aspects. There are no questions asked, no visuals to react to, no examples to assess the ideas, no links to websites that visually depict the information or provide more insight into the topic, no surveys, and no organizational visuals.

How do your PowerPoints help the students to achieve the class’ standards in an engaging manner?

Does Your Textbook Reflect the Real Curriculum

Business speech

I have been asked to teach a Public Speaking course for business majors at a college. As I examined the textbook, I quickly found out that it is a general public speaking book; it does not focus on speaking in a business environment. For example, the textbook does not deal with the elevator speech (the 30 second speech about your product or service), doing an business job interview, or responding to irate customers. In addition, the textbook’s PowerPoints are bulleted text with no visuals.

Does your textbook really cover the critical parts of your curriculum? Does it include real life examples of the standard? Do the technology materials that go along with the textbook really demonstrate the standards?

Textbook PowerPoint or Student Technologies

Textbook PowerPoints or Student Technologies

I heard about a young lady who has the graduate assistant job of creating PowerPoints for the chapters of a textbook that her prof is writing. Although I am sure that she is very good at creating PowerPoints that cover the main points in the chapter, I’m not sure that PowerPoints may be the best way to communicate the information in the textbook. Are there some YouTube videos that can demonstrate the concepts better? Would a class wiki about each chapter’s information allow the class to add other related information to the topic so that they build a class community of knowledge about the topic? Would a series of short podcasts allow the students to select which topic they needed more information about? Would a series of images from Flickr displayed on a whiteboard allow the class to interact more with the material?

These textbook PowerPoints are “teacher” created so information is being given to the students. Why not have the students generate their own information, debate issues within the topic, challenge each other’s views, and come to a greater understanding of the topic.

Is your class one with you as the teach deliver PowerPoints or one in which students create their own information through various technologies?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

Science Assessment and technology from a major textbook company

weather

I recently had the opportunity to look at an elementary Science teaching guide from a major publisher. I looked in detail at one unit “Observing Weather.”

I noticed that:
They referenced the National Science Education Standards (see page #) without including the actual standard in the lesson plan. The referenced the general standard but no specific part of it.

Students were assessed in a group about the science concept (baseline assessment). No individual scoring was done.
I did not see any mention of what the teacher was to do once he/she had the information from the baseline assessment.

For the final assessments, students were to go back and modify their original baseline assessment.

Reteaching was simply going over the same material.

The final assessment was primarily memorization although the students had done numerous higher level thinking activities. It did not look like the textbook assessed the science standards but it was hard to say since it did not identify the specific part of the standard that it was teaching in the unit.

In the unit overview resource section there was no mention of technology. After searching carefully within the unit there was a mention of CD section and a few websites. Although “Observing weather” has many possible technology-infused activities from watching the weather, seeing others’ experiments, seeing animations, etc., these were not mentioned.

The unit was a hands-on unit with the students do many mini-experiments but they did not use technology to see weather in action.

How do you use technology in your science units to help students succeed in the science standards?

© Harry Grover Tuttle, 2007

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  • English + Common Core + Mobile = Success in Learning Poster Session at ISTE 2014 June 25, 2014
    In my ISTE Sunday 8-10 am poster session, I demonstrate many diverse mobile activities to help students achieve the English Language Arts Common Core Anchor Statements through mobile devices. The mobile activities focus on free common tool apps that are available on both the Android and the iPad. The students use the apps as a seamless […]
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