#ALTC Blog

Developing an anti-racism toolkit for technology-enhanced learning: Seeking your feedback

#ALTC Blog - 18/01/22

Samantha Ahern, Faculty Learning Technology Lead (Bartlett), UCL

Alistair Cooper, Educational Technologist, School of Clinical Medicine, University of Cambridge

Coco Nijhoff, Senior Teaching Fellow (Library Services), Imperial College London

Following on from our presentation on the 15th of December at the ALT winter conference, we would like to invite ALT members and other colleagues to provide feedback on the Anti-racism in Learning Technology toolkit.

The toolkit provides a series of questions as prompts so that individuals, teams and institutions can explore ways to consider anti-racism in their practice. It is intended to be bespoke and adaptable for your context, providing considerations for anti-racism content. The toolkit is not meant to be prescriptive but serves as a guide to use in the best way for your context.

The toolkit is linked here: reflect.ucl.ac.uk/ar-lt-toolkit It contains an introduction and context, a blog area, two tools and supporting materials.

‘The tool’ section of the site links to a form containing a series of prompts one could use while working on a learning technology project or piece of work, by using the prompts to use and consider what actions could then be taken.

The idea behind the toolkit is to emphasise that there are no prescribed answers or approaches in developing anti-racist content – there is no ‘script’ to follow. We are instead providing a tool to prompt and guide reflection and action alongside engagement with existing resources and conversations. For each area of prompts, the ‘further resources’ section of the site offers suggestions to that end. The broad categories of prompts the toolkit provides are as follows:

  • Communities
  • The project team
  • Learning content
  • Tools and platforms
  • Post-project reflection

Please note that the form, as with the site, is a prototype, so you will not be able to save your answers at this stage.

‘The Tool’ section also contains some brief ‘anticipated scenarios’ for use; building up ‘case studies’ of its application is one area that we would like to explore in the future.

This section of the site also includes the link to a feedback form (‘Feedback: Content creator anti-racism prompt tool’), the area for you to feed back on your thoughts on the toolkit during the consultation period.

Finally, the ‘AR in LD and ID’ section is aimed at scenarios where one is facilitating learning or instructional design workshops that draw on frameworks that aren’t specifically anti-racist. This part of the toolkit offers guidance on where in those frameworks you might incorporate anti-racism, for a wide range of frameworks.

The consultation period will continue through Wednesday, the 16th of February.

Our proposed timeline for development:

The below was a rough outline of the activities we’d spoken about over the tool

  • Date for the end of feedback via the site form: 16 February
  • Incorporate the feedback post conference: March 2022
  • Run a pilot group and develop a permanent space for the tool – Summer 2022
  • Intend to launch the toolkit at the ALT winter conference 2022

You may also wish to see the original blog post for the ALT anti-racism in Learning Technology Community of Practice, which is now a Special Interest Group.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executive Officer Report January 2022

#ALTC Blog - 17/01/22

Dear Members

I hope you have had a good start to 2022 and we wish you all the best for the year ahead. Our Members continue to be at the forefront of shaping learning and teaching with technology and there are many priorities for us to address as we look at what’s ahead: 

A key priority for this year is to continue to share our Members’ vision for and expertise in what Learning Technology beyond crisis provision looks like and how this can be scaled up. 

Whilst we continue to see high recruitment for Learning Technology roles, senior leadership and policy makers often do not fully understand the important role Learning Technology professionals play in this endeavour and we need to continue our work to increase recognition of our profession and our expertise. 

Our 2022 programme of events, research and community activities will provide access to professional development for all practitioners, professional recognition and development for Learning Technology professionals and strategic development for leaders and institutions. 

Things to look out for
  • New resources for the Framework for Ethical Learning Technology were launched in December and the FELT self-assessment tools are now being piloted by Member organisations. Case studies and example policies will be published in the coming months.
  • 2022 Trends and analysis from across the sector is due to be published as the results from our Annual Survey come in, informing our understanding of how the digital landscape is changing and how institutions are responding. 
  • Our growing network of Members Groups and Special Interest Groups welcomes the newly established Anti-racism and Learning Technology Special Interest Group which will add a new strand of activities to what is a very active space for our Members. 
Better supporting Members

Much of what we do as a community relies on Member engagement. Over the past two years we have adjusted the way we collaborate to especially support Members who contribute their time and effort and peer reviewers, assessors, committee members and officers. We regularly review our processes in order to reflect the added pressure many of our Members continue to be under and to support their involvement in ALT, including extending deadlines for CMALT assessments, offering extended applications for scholarship places for our events and offering asynchronous participation in meetings and collaborative activities.  

Increasing our capacity 

All aspects of the work we do have significantly increased in the past two years, and taking into account our improved financial position the Board of Trustees has agreed for us to invest in increasing our overall staffing capacity for 2022. 

We announced late last year that Kerry Pinny has been appointed as ALT’s new Chief Operations Officer. Kerry will join our team at the end of this month and take responsibility for day to day operations working closely with me and the whole team.

We are also looking forward to welcoming back Fiona Jones from maternity leave and are investing in extra capacity in our team by retaining Christina Vines on a permanent basis. 

I am really proud of what our team has achieved over the past two years, and I am looking forward to seeing the long awaited increase in our capacity make a positive difference to Members and the wider community. 

In person events and meetings return in 2022

This year sees the return of in person events and meetings for some of our activities, and we are especially looking forward to our flagship Annual Conference returning to Manchester this September. Our first hybrid event of the year will be the Open Education Conference in late April in London. Of course the way we deliver our events and community activities will continue to evolve this year, and we look forward to reinventing what we do as opportunities open up. 

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Do you ever wonder what goes on in students Whatapp groups

#ALTC Blog - 14/01/22

 By Elisabetta Lando

“Everything has been stripped away from us – the social aspects of in-person learning, the discussions with mates outside the lecture halls, walking and talking after lectures.”( Jisc Student digital experience insights survey 2020/1)

This student comment, from the Jisc national Student digital experience survey, is typical of what students have been saying since the start of the pandemic. The need to build up online student communities within universities, is something that has been much explored across the sector over the last two years. However, student themselves have always created support networks with each other on social media platforms, such as Whatsapp and Facebook, and with the pandemic that has obviously continued:

‘As of February 2020, WhatsApp had two billion users around the world. When the COVID-19 lockdowns came into force in late March 2020, usage of WhatsApp around the world had grown by 40% ‘ Is WHATSAPP an unsung hero in the CoVID 19 education crisis? (accessed December 2021)

Yet working alongside some of the student digital advisers, I have been increasingly made aware of some issues. For example, WhatsApp is tied to mobile numbers so if students join they share personal data with groups of people they maybe haven’t even met. Indeed in a City online Student debate (April 2021) on ‘Cameras off or Cameras on’ students mentioned concerns about these informal ‘ Uni study groups’. They wondered if they could be in any way supported by the university. However, by their very nature these groups can in no way be ‘monitored’ :

‘A WhatsApp group can exist without anyone outside the group knowing of its existence, who its members are or what is being shared, while end-to-end encryption makes it immune to surveillance from third parties’ What’s wrong with Whatspp. Guardian 2021)

So that means that all sort of unknowable stuff is going on in these groups, mostly good for sure but some probably bad. Furthermore, some students, possibly because they are not part of a friendship group, are excluded.

An obvious alternative then is for universities, or colleges, to actively encourage students to use their own supported platforms to set up safe and inclusive students only groups. At City, for example, it could be something like Teams while other institutions have encouraged the use of  Discord. However, maybe it is not the actual platform that is the point here. Should the focus be really on how can students be supported to work together online safely and effectively? According to Jisc, students themselves are very eager for  their university courses to have some  built in community time. This is in itself  an opportunity to raise awareness and good practice around online group interaction(1):

‘Quizzes, polls and time set aside for socialising before a class’ (Listening to student voices. Jisc Student digital experience insights survey 2020/1)

Ultimately, students will probably always want to join groups that are ‘off -grid’ and not part of an institution. Therefore, supporting students to think about things like setting up a code of conduct, understanding what a group does (not the place to ask about assignment deadlines for example), developing good communicative skills and more should be part of their educational experience. So shining a light into what is happening in these social media spaces could be just one of the ways to build up meaningful and effective students communities that are so much needed.

Do share your ideas and experiences around this in the comment box below.

(1) Recordings of  session exploring some of the different tools available  at City, UoL for community building for students. As well as some great ideas here on Making the Best use of Break out rooms by Dr Stein Reimers (School of Arts and Social sciences)

References:

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/campus/collections/creating-online-learning-communities

https://www.jisc.ac.uk/reports/student-digital-experience-insights-survey-2020-21-uk-higher-education-findings

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

ALT CoOLSIG Confessions of a Learning Technologist

#ALTC Blog - 13/01/22

Happy New Year!

We hope you are keeping safe and well. We are looking forward to our first webinar of 2022, where we are being joined by two learning technologists working in UK higher education. ‘Confessions of a Learning Technologist’ is a chance to hear from two colleagues working in the educational technology field, to hear more about their perspectives on copyright. How does it impact on their day to day work? What are the types of queries they get from colleagues or have themselves about copyright matters?

Join us on Friday 21st January at 11am GMT in Blackboard Collaborate.

Left: Evan Dickerson, Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Right: Richard Beggs. (Photo: Nigel McDowell/Ulster University)

Richard Beggs works as a lecturer in HE Practice in the Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice (CHERP) at Ulster University. He teaches on First Steps to Teaching and their Masters of Education (HE). Active learning is core to Richard’s practice and he has embraced digital storytelling and learning technologies within his teaching. Richard is the chair of the ALT Active Learning SIG.

Richard will share his experiences working with staff and students to create digital stories and the common copyright issues that arise.

Evan Dickerson, SFHEA, is the learning technologist at Guildhall School of Music & Drama. He has previously been a learning technology service manager and materials developer at several other universities in London and the Home Counties. He was a higher education adviser at Jisc for 10 years. In his contribution, Evan will discuss attitudes to online copyright compliance encountered at the previous institutions he has been employed at, describe examples of practice and where these have been found.

This is an open webinar and will be recorded. We particularly welcome guests from the learning technology field who might want to join us to share their experiences or ask any burning copyright questions. No registration required, just join us next Friday at 11am.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Get set for UK Fair Dealing week running from February 21st 25th 2022

#ALTC Blog - 06/12/21

Introduction

The ALT Copyright and Online Learning Special Interest Group (CoOLSIG) are pleased to announce we will be coordinating a UK Fair Dealing week commencing 21st of February – 25th 2022. This follows on from last year’s inaugural Fair Use/ Fair Dealing week which ran across USA, Canada and other jurisdictions from the 22nd of February – 26th, led and devised by Kyle Courtney (Harvard University).

The purpose of the UK Fair Dealing week, is to not only celebrate and raise awareness of this important legal framework, but through discussion, events, and success stories, celebrate the opportunities it presents.
 

Launch Event and how to get involved

We are planning to kick start the week with a launch event during the evening of the 21st, so please watch this space for more details coming soon.
UK Fair Dealing can’t be fully explored in a singular event or resource, given the scope of the framework and the UK copyright exceptions its connected to and this is where you come in. If you would like to be involved in the week, then why not consider delivering your own Fair Dealing event at your own institution or writing a blog post? There are numerous ways individuals can choose to participate in Fair Dealing week, & for further examples, please view this page with more ideas.

Methods of how you can share and promote your resources or online events will be made available in due course.

N.B, when developing resources for the UK Fair Dealing week, please refer to the Fair Use brand guide.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

UK Copyright Education Training resources

#ALTC Blog - 26/11/21
Notes about this page

This page contains links to a wide range of copyright and web based resources for various FE and HE audiences to refer to. It is kept up to date by Greg Walters (ALT CoOLSIG Comms Officer), who you can email if you would like to add to the list or require an item(s) to be updated.

Please email Greg at: greg.walters@glasgow.ac.uk.

UK Universities Copyright Guidance

This page links to all the universities in the UK who offer copyright guidance pages for their staff and students. It is kept up to date by Jane Secker and Chris MorrisonCopyright guidance from UK universities and colleges

Manuals and textbooks
  • Cornish, G. (2019) Copyright: interpreting the law for libraries, archives and information services, Revised 6th edn, Facet Publishing.
  • Padfield, T. (2019) Copyright for Archivists and Records Managers, 6th edition. Facet Publishing.
  • Pedley, P. (2015) Practical Copyright for Library and Information Professionals. Facet Publishing.
  • Secker, J., Morrison, C. (2016) Copyright and E-learning: A guide for practitioners, Second Edition, Facet Publishing 
  • Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988
Documents and resources Courses Games Practical tools Videos and Podcasts Other resources
Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Engaging Children Online at The Study Buddy Club: A Novel Case Study

#ALTC Blog - 18/11/21

Jodie Pinnell, Alex Sabine, Dr Catherine Caroll- Meehan, University of Portsmouth

Introduction 

This case study outlines a project run by a UK university during the third Covid-19 lockdown (February-March 2021). Responding to the challenges faced by working parents homeschooling their children, university students in need of work experience, and the detrimental impacts of children missing school, the ‘Study Buddy Club’ showcases the effectiveness of cloud based programmes and video conferencing technology for a university-wide project (at short notice!). 

The Study Buddy Club aimed to provide respite for parents working at the university by engaging children between 8-12 years old in online activity sessions of 90 minutes (3 per day). With university staff and undergraduate students working together on the project, Google Classroom was utilised for collaborative working practice, and Zoom was the medium for delivery of the sessions. 

University staff supervised the project with Childhood Studies students in separate Zoom ‘Breakout Rooms’, delivering help with homework or extra-curricular activities. The rationale for the project was to help university staff juggling work commitments and homeschooling, with increasing evidence of mental health and wellbeing issues of parents trying to do both (Sutherland, 2010). 

With ‘business as usual’ expected in higher education institutions due to mounting media attention (Blackall & Mistlin, 2021), emphasis on value for money from degree programmes (Office for Students, 2020) and working remotely, a solution was called for. Added to this was the loss of opportunities for Childhood Studies students to meet work placement requirements to graduate with an appropriate qualification (DfE, 2021). This made the ‘Study Buddy Club’ one solution to multiple challenges; increasing the opportunity for children to interact, giving students experience as ‘Study Buddies’ and providing respite for parents. 

The Digital Approach

The project needed effective technology for multiple users to collaborate on resources, host clear templates for sessions and facilitate safe ways to interact with families online. Firstly, only digital tools provided by the university were at our disposal, with the main virtual learning environment not suitable for the project’s needs. The video conferencing functionality of ‘Zoom’ was already familiar for online teaching and was therefore chosen. With supplementary options for virtual learning platforms, google classroom was also chosen, although not one typically used by colleagues in the university. 

Google Classroom 

The functionality in Google Classroom meant the whole team were able to collaborate on documents to share activity ideas for children, post training resources, employment contract terms (as students were paid) and regular updates, providing a platform for 2-way communication. The static nature of standard VLE platforms lacked the functionality for co-production enabled by the Google cloud-based infrastructure (GSuite). The collaborative nature of resource sharing ran the risk of misuse or accidental edit/ removal of work, but this was not without back up (Google apps ‘version history’ functionality) and contributors were largely familiar with the method. 

Zoom

Zoom for the session delivery proved beneficial but was not without challenges. To keep users safe, general rules about sending and receiving ‘chat’ messages was limited to ‘Everyone Only’ and parents were required to be present with children whilst on the call. The children agreed to basic rules, being referred to the main Zoom room if disruptive. One challenge however was when configuring macro settings for safeguarding regulations. Despite amending settings, some children were able to privately chat to the Study Buddies, and it was found that all users needed to have the most recent version of the software to ensure macro settings were effective. There was also a risk of ‘Zoom bombing’ (Knorr, 2021), where external users can join uninvited to share inappropriate content. This meant that Zoom passcodes and waiting rooms were needed to prevent uninvited guests, and Zoom joining information differed for each session. These teething problems ultimately led to further amendments and Zoom proved to be a safe platform. Other challenges were access to reliable internet for all children and employees, and at times, varying quality of sound and video. 

Engaging Children Online

Engaging children online was an objective of the Study Buddy Club, being mindful of safety procedures and opportunities to socialise. It was clear that simply participating in online activities is not sufficient; educators must ‘increase engagement, retain attention, take feedback and assess’ (Dhawan, 2020, p.11). It was also identified that online engagement is heavily reliant on ‘visual representations and auditory means,’ and that without a classroom setting, concerns surround the absence of ‘children’s direct tactile and hands on experiences’ (Miulescu, 2020, p. 216). The Study Buddy project therefore encouraged children to engage with their home environments, read aloud and write on paper, and share work products with the group. 

The model of sessions was based on general pedagogic principles of engagement, such as ‘chunking,’ considering ‘attention spans’ (Fontana, 1995, p.153) and managing cognitive loads (EEF, 2021). It also used what we know about the importance of interaction in online engagement (Dhawan, 2020; Miulescu, 2020; Potts & Potts, 2017; Davis, 2015). For example, 90 minute sessions were split into 10 minute introduction and plenary chunks, 3 x 20-minute activity chunks with 5 minute ‘brain breaks’ to separate the activities. Examples of activities involved designing theme parks, working through school-set homework and planning events. Rapport and interaction between children was encouraged and feedback received reflected the positive impact of this for house-bound children. 

Discussion 

Project feedback was wholly positive, with parents enjoying the novelty of their children engaging in video calls as they worked from home. The challenges with the digital tools were not reflected in end user feedback, signalling effectiveness in engaging children online and prioritising relationships between children and the Study Buddies. 

Addressing three problems of providing work experience, assisting home-schooling parents and giving children the opportunity to socialise was the main driver for the project’s success, and using fit-for-purpose digital tools was vital. Google classroom exceeded expectations and met shortfalls of the university’s primary VLE. Zoom facilitated the ideal environment for safe, meaningful interactions, putting relationships first and maintaining children’s interest for sessions. 

May Study Buddies continue post-Covid, in a new accessible world that harnesses the good of virtual interactions. 

(992 words)

References

Blackall, M. Mistlin, A. (2021). ‘Broken and Defeated’: UK University Students on the Impact of Covid Rules Retrieved from: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/jan/11/broken-and-defeated-uk-university-students-on-the-impact-of-covid-rules 

Davis, T. (2015). Visual design for online learning. Jossey- Bass

Department for Education. (2021). ‘Check Early Years Qualifications’. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/early-years-qualifications-finder/

Dhawan, S. (2020). Online Learning: A Panacea in the Time of COVID-19 Crisis Journal of Educational Technology Systems 49 (1) 5–22 https://doi.org/10.1177/0047239520934018 

EEF: Education Endowment Foundation. (2021). Cognitive Science Approaches in the Classroom: A Review of the Evidence. Available from: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Publications/Cognitive_science_approaches_in_the_classroom_-_A_review_of_the_evidence.pdf

Fontana, D. (1995). Psychology for Teachers. Macmillan Press Ltd

Knorr, C. (2021). Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Zoom Retrieved from: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-zoom

Letzel, V., Pozas, M., Schneider, C. (2020). Energetic Students, Stressed Parents, and Nervous Teachers: A Comprehensive Exploration of Inclusive Homeschooling During the COVID-19 Crisis Open Education Studies. 2 (1), 159-170.https://doi.org/10.1515/edu-2020-0122

Miulescu, M. L. (2020). Digital Media: Friend or Foe? Preschool Teacher’s Experiences on Learning and Teaching Online. Journal of Pedagogy, 68 (2), 203 – 221 https://doi.org/10.26755/RevPed/2020.2/203 

Office for Students. (2020). English Higher Education 2020: The Office for Students Annual Review. Available from: https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk/annual-review-2020/

Potts, J. Potts, S. (2017). Is Your Gifted Child Ready for Online Learning? Gifted Child Today 40 (4) 226-231 https://doi.org/10.1177/1076217517722182 

Sutherland, J. (2010). Mothering, Guilt and Shame Sociology Compass 4 (5) 310–321 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00283.x

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

#altcWinter21 Programme Announcement

#ALTC Blog - 15/11/21

The draft programme for our 2021 Online Winter Conference Dec 15-16, has now been published! Register here to join us next month. 

The full two day programme will feature speakers from across sectors and bring together experts to discuss the most urgent questions facing institutions and individuals as they scale up the use of technology for learning, teaching and assessment. From creating a framework for the ethical use of Learning Technology to scaling up provision in an emergency and beyond, the conference will provide an opportunity to showcase excellence in EdTech practice and research.

Explore the Programme ALT Online Winter Conference 2021 Programme

Each day commences at 09:00 GMT with a welcome and orientation session, followed by a full programme running throughout the day. You can browse sessions to design your own programme, to create a day that suits your preferences. Our Member and Special Interest Groups are also holding meetups in the run up to and during the conference visit our events page for more information.  

Alongside the academic programme, the conference will offer a full social programme and networking opportunities including the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards ceremony to close the conference.

Register for the Online Winter Conference 2021. We are offering discounted rates for ALT Members, and free scholarship places.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Decolonising Learning Technology Part 2

#ALTC Blog - 11/11/21

John Traxler, Professor of Digital Learning in the Education Observatory, University of Wolverhampton.

Part one of this blog post can be found here.

For people using digital technology to access knowledge and information, Wikipedia is available in a huge number of languages, which is good, but the volume of English version content vastly overwhelms that of other languages, even the major European ones, and reputedly has more spaced devoted to Middle Earth than to Africa, which is not so good. Accessing learning itself, especially formal learning from universities, schools and colleges, often uses learning technologies, most obviously the VLE or LMS.  These are all underpinned by the educational theorising of Europeans or Americans, such as social constructivism or behaviourism, or by the business models of the globalised universities, for example Turnitin and e:Vision. Informal learning, from various public and global institutions, uses the MOOC, and this, however much current MOOC platforms might have drifted away from its original ideals, is based on Canadian connectivism.  Richard Millwood’s (no date) excellent graphic illustrates the absence of any names from outside the colonial powers in the theorising of education.

The technologies of search, for example those employed by Google and all the search functions in various web sites and applications that are powered by Google or similarly flawed search engines, and the technologies of artificial intelligence both perpetuate bias and stereotypes from a colonial era. Papers entitled ‘Maori are scum, stupid, lazy: maori according to Google’ (Elers 2014) and ‘Can artificial intelligence be decolonized?’ (Adams 2014) tell their own story, and the implications for learners and learning technology are clear.

This was part of a wider argument that digital technology is not a system of dumb conduits and containers that preserve and transmit knowledge, learning and language passively and impartially. Digital technology changes many aspects of language and of learning. To choose one examples, mobile devices have created whole new vocabularies and catalysed dialects known collectively as textspeak. 

Making languages ‘official’ and delivered by the education system’s learning technology is the way in which less powerful languages get ignored or suppressed by states, colonial and post-colonial, and their education systems. This has been the case in parts of the Anglophone white settler countries, America, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and Australia amongst others, and Great Britain itself in the case of Wales, and in Europe, with the languages of the Bretons, Catalans, Basques, Roma, Sami and numerous others. 

Another paper (Traxler 2018) introduced the idea of epistemicides into the analysis of the dynamics between fragile and non-mainstream cultures and global digital technology and in the current context, epistemicides are the end point of colonialization, the consequence of the failure to decolonise, the eradication of one entire culture, its language, its values, its history, its languages, its traditions and its social organisation, by another, more powerful.

I realised some subsequent papers (Traxler et al 2019, Traxler 2018) growing out of work in occupied Palestine and dealing with digital literacy were in effect attempts to ‘decolonise digital literacy’. The argument and the evidence were that in Palestine and presumably many other countries and cultures, notions of digital literacy whilst talking in general terms about the attitudes, knowledge, skills, access and affordances needed to survive, prosper and flourish in societies become increasingly digital were in fact importing and accepting practices, implementations and standards that were very specifically European or American in their  cultural, political, economic, infrastructural, educational, technological and social context. These contexts differed dramatically from those under occupation in Palestine. 

An earlier event, an Alpine Rendezvous workshop organised by Helen Beetham, currently based in the Education Observatory, and myself, amongst others, nearly ten years earlier, had explored the ongoing global crises, the ecological, economic, political crises, and asked whether learning technology was complicit in these crises, whether the learning technology community saw itself, saw technology, research and education as unconditionally benign, scientifically dispassionate and objective. 

Some of the questions addressed at the Rendezvous included,

  • Have we implicitly assumed that the western/European model of universities is necessarily the sole or best expression of a culture’s or a community’s higher learning and intellectual enquiry?
  • As western/European pedagogy, or rather the corporatised, globalised versions of it, now deploys powerful and universal digital technologies in the interests of profit-driven business models, should we look at empowering more local and culturally appropriate forms of understanding, knowing, learning and enquiring?
  • Is encapsulating the world’s higher learning in institutions increasingly modelled on one format and driven by the same narrow global drivers resilient and robust enough, diverse and flexible enough to enable different communities, cultures and individuals to flourish amongst the dislocation and disruption we portray as characterising the crises?
  • Our responses, for example personal learning environments or the digital literacies agenda, seem implicitly but unnecessarily framed within this western/European higher education discourse – can these be widened to empowered other communities and cultures entitled to the critical skills and participation necessary to flourish in a world of powerful digital technologies in the hands of alien governments, corporations and institutions? (Hall 2013)

Decolonisation was mentioned in this much wider context and I remember repeating of Jacob Zuma’s remark about “…. trying to “decolonise the African mind” when he criticised caring for dogs as pets as part of “white culture”…, “, (Mail & Guardian 2012). Subsequent events in South Africa, in particular #RhodesMustFail – and their echoes in Oxford and elsewhere – emphasised the continued nature of the problem.

One paper (Traxler & Lally 2015) portrayed digital technology as a ‘cargo cult’ or ‘trojan horse’ inserting Western (post-colonial) values into other cultures and quoted a former Permanent Secretary of the Kenyan Ministry of Information and Communication as saying, ‘Africa’s learning methods through imitation and the oral tradition of knowledge transmission are dying. Modernity is destroying the little that was transmitted’. Modernity, meaning Western modernity, the European Enlightenment. This is true of Africa but now the decolonisation movement embraces the same concerns within the English university system as it perpetuates that same cargo cult and Trojan horse. The need to ‘decolonise learning technology’ is part of that global struggle. 

Coming at this from a different angle, there is ongoing rhetoric promoting research informed teaching, and whilst others might need to decolonise this research that informs the teaching in order to decolonise the curriculum, the agenda for learning technologists must be to critique the research that underpins digital learning and learning technology. A simplistic starting point might be critically analysing the products of the research itself, the theories, concepts, the models and the paradigms, but a more sophisticated and critical approach might be examining how that research takes places, how it is funded, designed, developed, resourced, presented, staffed, published, reviewed, disseminated, adopted and consumed. It is clear that the whole process of research underpinning learning technology must also be decolonised

So, What Do We Do?

What emerges is the possibility of a simplistic but structured approach to decolonising learning working upwards and outwards from hardware, operating systems, system software,  applications especially browsers, web2.0, social media and open source, interfaces and interactions; dedicated educational technologies especially MOOCs, VLEs and the surrounding and supporting software systems such as plagiarism detection, learning analytics and automated assessment; procurement, deployment, training, support, management and maintenance; buildings and architecture; curriculum design; edtech policy and guidance; and cultural and societal expectations, and asking at each level, where is the colonialisation, how does it happen and what should we do? If the learning technology community do their bit, they can then step aside for the curriculum specialists and others.

There are risks of course, firstly that any of these levels, decolonisation will degenerate into targets, percentages and tick lists, secondly, that it will be seen as offering something extra or remedial or palliative to minority communities rather than offering something enriching to everyone, thirdly that efforts at decolonisation will be driven by members of the majority community and inevitably seen through the lens of their (mis)understanding and privileges

Pragmatically and operationally, any process of change must appeal to managers, shareholders, stakeholders and the rank-and-file of any organisation as well as its ideologues, activists, liberals and progressives. This sounds like a categorisation from the Diffusion of Innovations frameworks, a rephrasing of, for example, ‘innovators’ and ‘early adopters’, and of ‘late majority’ and ‘laggards’. Certainly, any organisational transformation needs a Theory of Change, and the Diffusion of Innovations provides at least a practical workable outline. It suggests working first with early adopters and innovators supporting and encouraging the development of examples and pilots, working with opinion-formers and gate-keepers before moving onto increased institutional programmes and only lastly resorting to regulation and enforcement , but most of all recognising that at every step, these are issues of ‘hearts and minds’.

This blog was published Jonh Traxler of the ALT West-midlands membership group. Part 2 will be published next week.

Learn more at their upcoming event ALTWM Webinar: Decolonising Learning Technology on 24 Nov 2021, 1:00 PM through  2:30 PM. Register here

References

Adams, R. (2021). Can artificial intelligence be decolonized?. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 46(1-2), 176-197.

Elers, S. (2014). Maori are scum, stupid, lazy: maori according to Google. Te Kaharoa, 7(1).

Hall, R. (2013) On the Secular Crisis and a Qualitative Idea of the University. Available online: http://www.richard-hall.org/tag/history/page/4/  (accessed on 13 October 2021).

Keele (2021) Keele’s Manifesto For Decolonising The Curriculum? Available online at  http://www.keele.ac.uk/equalitydiversity/equalityframeworksandactivities/equalityawardsandreports/equalityawards/raceequalitycharter/keeledecolonisingthecurriculumnetwork/ 

Mail & Guardian (2012) available at https://mg.co.za/article/2012-12-27-zumas-dog-comments-meant-to-decolonise-the-african-mind/  accessed 13 October 2021

Meier, A., Goto, K., & Wörmann, M. (2014, June). Thumbs Up to Gesture Controls? A Cross-Cultural Study on Spontaneous Gestures. In International Conference on Cross-Cultural Design (pp. 211-217). Springer, Cham

Millwood, R. (no date) available online at https://www.teachthought.com/learning/a-visual-summary-the-most-important-learning-theories/ and elsewhere, accessed 18 October 2021

News24 (2013) Available online https://www.news24.com/news24/Technology/News/Mxlish-the-12th-official-SA-language-20130328, accessed 13 October 2021

Traxler, J. & Lally, V. (2015) The Crisis and the Response: After the Dust Had Settled, Interactive Learning Environments 24(5), pp1016-1024

Traxler, J. (2017) Learning with Mobiles in Developing Countries –Technology, Language and Literacy, International Journal of Mobile & Blended Learning, 9(2): pp1-15

Traxler, J. (2018) Learning with Mobiles: the Global South, Research in Comparative and International Education, Vol. 13, Number 1, pp 152 – 175

Traxler, J. (2018), Digital Literacy: A Palestinian Refugee Perspective, Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 26, pp1 – 21 https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/1983 

Traxler, J., Khlaif, Z., Nevill, A., Affouneh, S., Salha, S., Zuhd, A., & Trayek, F. (2019). Living under occupation: Palestinian teachers’ experiences and their digital responses. Research in Learning Technology, 27. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.22World University News (2021) Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide, World University News, available online at https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20211006114502190

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Apply for Scholarship ALT s 2021 Online Winter Conference

#ALTC Blog - 08/11/21

We are pleased to be able to offer scholarship places to participate in the 2021 ALT Online Winter Conference

Returning from 15-16 December 2021, this year’s event will be a special celebratory edition incorporating the Learning Technologist of the Year Awards. 

Scholarship applications are welcome from all of the community, including speakers for the event. To apply, simply complete this google form.

  • Scholarship places are available to support individuals based anywhere in the world;
  • This scholarship option is specifically available to unfunded individuals, teaching and support staff and students, members of the public who are not otherwise supported by an organisation.
  • We particularly aim to fund individuals impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The funds available to cover registration costs are limited and will be decided on merit.
  • There is no appeal procedure once a decision has been made.
  • You may be required to provide evidence of your circumstances in order to qualify (e.g student number, line manager’s letter, etc).
  • Any inaccuracy in the description of your circumstances will lead to any awards being withdrawn.
  • If you are awarded a scholarship but are unable to attend you must inform us as soon as possible.

We are also offering discounted rates for ALT Members with registration starting at just £49.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Decolonising Learning Technology Part 1

#ALTC Blog - 04/11/21

John Traxler, Professor of Digital Learning in the Education Observatory, University of Wolverhampton.

Background

Recently I was invited to the panel at ALT-C discussing the Association’s new ethics framework and at some point, according to a flutter on Twitter, “@johntraxler suggested we need to decolonise education technology.”.

A great idea whose time may have come! Certainly, it would feed into moves to ‘decolonise the curriculum’ and moves to ‘decolonise research’ but what exactly might it actually mean? And given the moves to decolonise the curriculum, what should technologists do to decolonise learning technology before handing it on to curriculum professionals?

What is Decolonising?

A very recent newspaper article entitled ‘Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide’ (University World News 2021) provides an excellent and accessible overview, saying “The simplest definition of decolonisation of the African university is the process of undoing all legacies of colonialism.” Understandably, given the African readership, the article does not focus on the legacies of colonialism within English universities.

A manifesto from students at Keele University (2021) offers more, saying, “Decolonization involves identifying colonial systems, structures and relationships, and working to challenge those systems. It is not “integration” or simply the token inclusion of the intellectual achievements of non-white cultures. Rather, it involves a paradigm shift from a culture of exclusion and denial to the making of space for other political philosophies and knowledge systems. It’s a culture shift to think more widely about why common knowledge is what it is, and in so doing adjusting cultural perceptions and power relations in real and significant ways.”

This sounds both highly political and fairly abstract but events at the universities in Cape Town and Oxford, tagged as #RhodesMustFall, make it clear that feelings run high, as does the wider #BLM movement.

A forthcoming event (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/decolonising-learning-technology-tickets-184185242017) will help us in developing an understanding the implications of ‘decolonisation’ for us as learning technologists and as academics and researchers who use learning technology, a term that incidentally embraces online learning, educational technology, digital learning and a component of blended learning. Decolonising learning technology is about combatting the ways in which learning technology reproduces and represents the ideas and values of the dominant white anglophone majority.

Some Perspectives

My original remark, subsequently jumped on by John Couperthwaite of ALT and developed into an ALT webinar, was merely the spontaneous assumption that there was an important question that needed to be asked but not one to which I necessarily had the answer. I did however realise that the topic had been on my mind for quite a few years in different forms. I wrote a paper five years ago (Traxler 2017) that implicitly tackled one aspect of it, namely the technology itself.

I asserted that digital technology increased the disadvantage of peoples, communities and cultures that were different and distant from the norms, values, habits, styles, languages and cultures of the global and national mainstreams, specifically those distant and different from the dominant global Anglophone digital corporations. Digital technology in education was re-arming forms of colonialism or perhaps arming forms of neo-colonialism.

This happened in a multitude of ways.

Take simple messaging. My Arab colleagues chose to text in English rather than their mother tongue because the ASCII base for English texts was cheaper than the Unicode base for Arabic; my Chinese colleagues had until recently to use the simplified Latin font for Chinese (pinyin) rather than Chinese characters because the latter needed the introduction of the graphic interfaces and character prediction of smartphones. In both cases, the users were skewed away from their native preferences and towards American English.

Similar examples abound in speech recognition, such as Dragon, Alexa or Siri, where most languages, except English and other global ‘power languages’, and most dialects, except the standard, are still not supported. Furthermore, haptic interfaces favour European gestures and do not favour cultures with a different gestural vocabulary. Autocorrect is often another form of bias as is predictive text, skewing users towards a particular standard American lexicon – it will for example often capitalise james but not john. It is likely that digital language translation, such as Google Translate, has a similar impact on languages and dialects.

Icons and graphic interfaces, for example folders, folders, waste bins, clocks and egg-timers, are usually derived from a European or American cultural context and most applications and operating systems are American in origin and culture, with those for most African languages only gradually gaining popularity through Linux distributions. Perhaps the textual dominance of American English is being replaced by graphical dominance of American images and icons. The massive popularity of emoticons and emojis in mobile phones assumes there is some common global consensus about their meaning, the ‘thumbs up’ for example, but studies (Meier, Goto & Wörmann, 2014) suggest this cannot be assumed and might just be another way in which globalised forms have over-riden local ones.

This blog was published Jonh Traxler of the ALT West-midlands membership group. Part 2 will be published next week.

Learn more at their upcoming event ALTWM Webinar: Decolonising Learning Technology on 24 Nov 2021, 1:00 PM through  2:30 PM. Register here

References

Adams, R. (2021). Can artificial intelligence be decolonized?. Interdisciplinary Science Reviews, 46(1-2), 176-197.

Elers, S. (2014). Maori are scum, stupid, lazy: maori according to Google. Te Kaharoa, 7(1).

Hall, R. (2013) On the Secular Crisis and a Qualitative Idea of the University. Available online: http://www.richard-hall.org/tag/history/page/4/ (accessed on 13 October 2021).

Keele (2021) Keele’s Manifesto For Decolonising The Curriculum? Available online at http://www.keele.ac.uk/equalitydiversity/equalityframeworksandactivities/equalityawardsandreports/equalityawards/raceequalitycharter/keeledecolonisingthecurriculumnetwork/

Mail & Guardian (2012) available at https://mg.co.za/article/2012-12-27-zumas-dog-comments-meant-to-decolonise-the-african-mind/ accessed 13 October 2021

Meier, A., Goto, K., & Wörmann, M. (2014, June). Thumbs Up to Gesture Controls? A Cross-Cultural Study on Spontaneous Gestures. In International Conference on Cross-Cultural Design (pp. 211-217). Springer, Cham

Millwood, R. (no date) available online at https://www.teachthought.com/learning/a-visual-summary-the-most-important-learning-theories/ and elsewhere, accessed 18 October 2021

News24 (2013) Available online https://www.news24.com/news24/Technology/News/Mxlish-the-12th-official-SA-language-20130328, accessed 13 October 2021

Traxler, J. & Lally, V. (2015) The Crisis and the Response: After the Dust Had Settled, Interactive Learning Environments 24(5), pp1016-1024

Traxler, J. (2017) Learning with Mobiles in Developing Countries –Technology, Language and Literacy, International Journal of Mobile & Blended Learning, 9(2): pp1-15

Traxler, J. (2018) Learning with Mobiles: the Global South, Research in Comparative and International Education, Vol. 13, Number 1, pp 152 – 175

Traxler, J. (2018), Digital Literacy: A Palestinian Refugee Perspective, Research in Learning Technology, Vol. 26, pp1 – 21 https://journal.alt.ac.uk/index.php/rlt/article/view/1983

Traxler, J., Khlaif, Z., Nevill, A., Affouneh, S., Salha, S., Zuhd, A., & Trayek, F. (2019). Living under occupation: Palestinian teachers’ experiences and their digital responses. Research in Learning Technology, 27. https://doi.org/10.25304/rlt.v27.22

World University News (2021) Lecturers are key to ending colonial epistemicide, World University News, available online at https://www.universityworldnews.com/post.php?story=20211006114502190  

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Become a Sponsor of #altcWinter21

#ALTC Blog - 04/11/21

The Online Winter Conference will take place online 15-16 December 2020. Now in its 8th year, the ALT Online Winter Conference is back to showcase some of the best Learning Technology from ALT Members from across sectors, and bring together experts to discuss the most urgent questions facing institutions and individuals as they scale up the use of technology for learning, teaching and assessment.

We have prepared several sponsorship packages that may be of interest to your organisation.  As always we are happy to tailor what we can offer to meet your needs and can provide more information regarding the reach of our events upon request.

View our sponsorship opportunities starting at just £495.00 for member organisations

We have the following packages available;

  • Day 1 or Day 2 Sponsor
  • Scholarship Sponsor
  • Learning Technologist of the Year Awards Sponsor
  • Social Sponsor

If you have any questions regarding this year’s event or would like to discuss the options in further detail please don’t hesitate to get in touch, eventsmanager@alt.ac.uk or on 01865 819009.

Register for the Online Winter Conference 2021. We are offering discounted rates for ALT Members, and free scholarship places. 

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Online Winter Conference Call for Proposals Closing 01 November

#ALTC Blog - 26/10/21

Our longest established online conference, the annual ALT Winter Conference is returning 15-16 December 2021, for a special celebratory edition incorporating this year’s Learning Technologist of the Year Awards.

Help us showcase excellence in EdTech practice and research by submitting a proposal by 01 November 2021.

We ask that you submit your proposal under one of the following topics:

  • Learning Technology beyond emergency provision
  • Wellbeing and Learning Technology
  • Ethical Learning Technology

The deadline for submissions is 01 November 2021 at midnight. 

We are primarily seeking contributions for sessions from ALT Members. If you are not a member you can find out about our membership options or please contact enquiries@alt.ac.uk to discuss your submission.

We welcome submissions for Research or Reflective Practice sessions (30 min), Video posters (5 min, pre-recorded), and GASTA sessions (5 min fast paced presentation).

To submit your contribution, please complete this form by 01 November 2021.

We are offering discounted rates for ALT Members, and free scholarship places with registration starting at just £49.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

An Insight Into This Year s Winter Conference Artwork

#ALTC Blog - 25/10/21

The artwork for this year’s Online Winter Conference has been selected, following a student competition at London College of Communication.

For the second year running, the competition was part of an industry project brief for second year BA Illustration and Visual Media students.  The panel chose Vanya Dancheva as the runner-up this year competition and we are delighted to be using Vanya‘s work as the imagery for the ALT Winter Online Conference 2021.

Artists Bio Vanya Dancheva

Hi! I am Vanya. I am an illustrator and a third year student at University of the Arts London. I love drawing, image making and communicating visually. Storytelling is central to my illustrations with a touch of playfulness and optimism. I have a background in technologies and a degree in Computer Science. From my training and experience in computer science I have developed an analytical and critical thinking which I apply to my illustration projects too.  I come from a small town situated just at the foot of the Balkan mountains in Bulgaria where I grew up. I also love travelling and am fascinated by different cultures, which has led me to move to live in different countries, first to Switzerland and now to the UK (though loving to drink lots of tea probably had something to do with this too).

Idea behind the artwork


To create the main artwork for the conference I drew on the fact that it was going to be an online event and tried to imagine how everyone would be connecting from their homes. At this point most of us had already spent months primarily in front of the screen due to the global pandemic and might have got a little tired of it even (I know I was). So, I tried to present the idea with a lot of positivity and to show participants engaging with enthusiasm in conversations and discussion in the comfort of their own homes, maybe with a cup of tea. It was also essential to show the vibrant, diverse and caring community of ALT.


The second artwork that I developed was more conceptual and I allowed myself to get a little geeky with it too. It revolved around the history of technology since ALT was founded. I wanted it to represent not only the development of technology but also the growth in knowledge and community.


ALT’s longest established online conference is returning 15-16 December 2021, for a special celebratory edition incorporating this year’s Learning Technologist of the Year Awards.

We are offering discounted rates for ALT Members, and free scholarship places.  Registration is now open!

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Wikipedia and Me: A student s viewpoint exploring issues and making changes

#ALTC Blog - 18/10/21

Hi, my name is Sara Singh, and I am about to start my second year at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) on the computer security course. I have recently become a Wikipedian as I really wanted to find a space to write about my experiences and to share them with others.

In the summer of my first year, I was accepted into a project called Edipedia run by Dr Phil Denton, a professor at Liverpool John Moores. The project was about creating profiles for people that identified as BAME, PoC and LGBTQ+. These profiles cover academic disciplines within the Faculty of Science, Health, and Engineering and Technology. I personally, have independently transferred 31 existing profiles on Edipedia, and researched and created 32 new profiles, whilst adding a new section for Computer Security. From my point of view the aim of this project was to help people relate to these stories, to say, ‘I’m not the only one’ and ‘I too share a background with them.’ During this project I was looking at unearthing the background stories of these engineers, to look at their personal journeys and any adversities they might have faced in their personal and professional lives.

We were introduced to Wikipedia as part of the project by Dr Jim Turner. Creating an account was easy, the only thing needed is an active E-mail and a strong password, and the editing process even more so.

Screenshot: Setting up an account

In fact, I found an article by the African American computer scientist James W. Hunt that, in my opinion, needed improving, so I went through verifying the sources and added sections that lacked detail. It was interesting to see how the system was designed, as in addition to recording these changes, it also asked users to justify them, to diminish bias.

Screenshot: Editing

Screenshot: editing checks

Bias is everywhere – it is no surprise that it is in Wikipedia (Hill and Shaw, 2013). I know that it is impossible to represent all groups, and that there will always be some lack of representation. However, through my experience with Wikipedia I discovered that we could change this by increasing the amount of Wikipedia pages dedicated to minority groups, this will help widen the knowledge of the general public who do not use sources like Google Scholar but use Wikipedia as it is easier to access, and it is also easier to understand.

Throughout my journey as a scholar I was always warned not to use Wikipedia as it is thought to be not a reliable source since anyone can edit and add information. I too, thought that Wikipedia’s main weakness was that anyone could change any information it held, but after the project I realised that this is, in fact, Wikipedia’s main strength. Numerous people can share their knowledge and expand otherwise restricted information. Moreover, Wikipedia is a reliable source as you cannot provide invalid information. There is a process on Wikipedia where, before modifying the content, editors need to justify their reason for why the content should be edited and add a reference as evidence showcasing that the content the editor is modifying is valid. Also, that editor can select the tool “Watchlist “ to analyze the page and discover any changes made to the page, allowing them to validate the change.  I think that Wikipedia should be used as an educational resource as students could use it as a starting point. For example, it could be used to see if the content they what to research is something they are interested in and to encourage students to then use further engines, such as Google Scholar, to explore their interests in more depth.

My profile as an editor on Wikipedia

Reference.

Hill, B.M., Shaw, A., 2013. The Wikipedia Gender Gap Revisited: Characterizing Survey Response Bias with Propensity Score Estimation. PLOS ONE 8, e65782. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0065782

Author: Sarradeep Kaur Singh, S.K.Singh@2020.ljmu.ac.uk

If you enjoyed reading this article we invite you to join the Association for Learning Technology (ALT) as an individual member, and to encourage your own organisation to join ALT as an organisational or sponsoring member.

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT

Chief Executives Report October 2021

#ALTC Blog - 15/10/21

Maren Deepwell, Chief Executive Officer, Association for Learning Technology

The past month has seen our community achieve many milestones and I am delighted to share key points with you in this strategic update.

There is much coming up in our calendar as well, including: 

As we are all getting to grips with learning, teaching and assessment in these (hopefully) post-pandemic times, we have a wealth of resources and inspiration for members.

Get inspired by ideas from the Annual Conference

September saw 400 participants from 24 countries come together for our Annual Conference, and the event was a great success for our community. The resources from the conference are now openly available: 

One highlight of the conference was the special gala evening celebrating the launch of The Future of Learning, co-produced by ALT and ITN Productions. Featuring industry experts, ALT Members and one of our Learning Technologists of the Year, this showcase helps us share a vision of Learning Technology beyond crisis provision: 


Use the Framework for Ethical Learning Technology 

Also launched at this year’s conference is our Framework for Ethical Learning Technology (FELT) which is designed to support individuals, organisations and industry in the ethical use of learning technology across sectors. It forms part of our strategic aim to strengthen recognition and representation for Learning Technology professionals from all sectors.  

Building on ALT’s professional accreditation framework, CMALT, which was expanded to include ethical considerations for professional practice and research in 2019, a working group of 120 members has helped define this framework for professional practice alongside tools  and resources to help individuals, institutions and industry.

Keep informed and contribute

Work to further develop the framework is now underway. We invite you to:

  • Keep informed: Members will automatically receive a quarterly update about the new framework.
  • Contribute: We are actively looking for contributions in order to develop a robust baseline of policies and practice. 

     
Learn from the AmplifyFE Sector Audit Report

Led by  us and funded by Ufi, AmplifyFE launched in October 2020 and already connects over 500 professionals in Further Education and Vocational Education, providing a strong networking community for them to share, collaborate and learn. 

The annual sector audit is a key part of the work we do to support the sector. The first sector audit published in July 2020 was widely welcomed and actively used across the sector. 

In this year’s update, we have focused on: Communities that have stopped or started their activities, important changes to the sector landscape and tracking where the conversation is moving on social media.

Explore: 

Did you miss…?

A quick summary of highlights from across our community: 

Categories: #ALTC Blog, ALT
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