english4blogging

Nives' endeavours as an English Teacher


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THE DEVIL’S ADVOCATE “TO BLOG OR NOT TO BLOG”

Let me be the devil’s advocate on being ‘Contrary to Blogging’ – although I have just shortly begun to blog when until only 12 months ago the whole idea of ‘blogging’ did actually seem absurd. So allow me to show you the reasons why I was so ‘au contraire’ to this medium of communication. Then you, like me, can reach your own conclusions on the ‘to blog or not to blog’ issue.
Why am I going to tackle this subject now after becoming a novice blogger…well I aptly thought in lieu of the upcoming Fall Blog Festival on WizIQ http://www.wiziq.com/course/53478-fall-blog-festival someone should offer the other side of the coin if only to prove the right or wrong reasons to start blogging. And perhaps just somehow make blogging at all seem worthwhile at best. After all in a healthy debate one would assume to be able to foster both sides of the argument well enough to convince the jury of listeners. Many years ago one of my Law Studies Professors said that if you could argue both sides of the case equally well then you would know your opposition’s moves with all the right armaments to carry on the battle till the end and may even come out on top. Not all may agree but this is really just another way of understanding ‘empathy’ – if you can empathize with your enemy then it’s so much easier to empathize with those you do not hate. Empathy is something Teacher’s do need to have in their tool boxes to deal with their colleagues, administration, parents and mostly with their beloved ‘students’ – or at least that’s how I see it.
Firstly allow me to describe the motives why some time ago the whole idea of blogging would have sounded absurd. Following is a list of the reasons why you wouldn’t want to start a blog:
1. Privacy issues – with all the problems of identity scams etc. why on earth would you want to air, publicly for that matter, your personal information for others to perhaps ‘steal’ or endanger you in some way.
2. Black on white (print in any form) will still be around even when you’re not and will it be a fine legacy of your thoughts or the bane of your family’s heritage – a point worth considering.
3. Opening up one’s feelings and thoughts just for others to trample upon with vile criticism (even if sometimes criticism in any form could be perceived constructive) doesn’t seem viable in my books.
4. Creating a public profile to better equip your curriculum of personal endeavors could backfire on you with your next possible employer. Any reason or even a snide remark of the wrong political taste and the company doors are suddenly slamming you out on your tail.
5. Aiming for those 15 minutes of fame that many feel belong to them, do you really want others to see you in all your facets and lose your anonymity which could have been your safe haven till now.
6. Inviting others into your world of knowledge is like opening the gates to the garden of Eden/Pandora’s box and forever giving away your ‘ideas’ for others to copy and even develop further. It’s just natural to think your life’s hard work can be easily plagiarized once it’s openly visible to the whole wide world – even if you only have a meager 100 followers reading your blog posts – and that can be a lot just imagine their network of communication.
7. Baring yourself to buffoonery on the part of ‘smart alec’ students who may try their damnedest to take their Teacher’s down a peg or two just for fun. (Of course this would depend on what type of Teacher you are too – the one who controls the class or the one who is controlled by the class which has nothing to do with the Teacher’s height by the way).
7.1. NB: your colleagues can also use this ‘tool’ to either mark you for destruction or ridicule your methods of communication, which is another point to ponder before embarking on writing a blog.
8. A blog is none other than a type of diary, just like some of us may have had in the pre-technological era, the school friends diary, the travel diary, the work diary, etc., you may reiterate that some did eventually turn into famous literary works like “The Diary of Anne Frank” for example. So are you prepared to have your ‘diary’ opened on a public playing field, if not, then blogging is not for you.
There is one thing I’d like to say at this point ‘thank you to all the recipe bloggers’ ever since I discovered a taste for cooking I’ve delved into the labyrinths of the internet by reading and following many a recipe blogger picking up on a technique here and there, learning about food and wine in general. Not to mention eating better too!
The best thing about the internet is that it is like your own portable library (if you use it properly) of information always at hand either on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Thank you IT gods I couldn’t imagine living without a good connection or latest hand held device, where would I be – even my mother well into her 70’s uses a smartphone and tablet to send me VoIP messages or links to Google photo’s, my Dad is the ever Skype fan always (almost daily) using it to keep up with family across the globe. How would we connect without this modern technology, the old days are so far behind now there’s no turning back plus I wouldn’t want to either.
Back to the topic at hand, to Blog or not to Blog? that is the question! Obviously having just recently embarked on the road ‘to Blogging’ undoubtedly I will continue slugging on, slowly mulling over my words and thoughts so as not to invite unhealthy critical acclaim to my name. The Teacher as I have come to experience first-hand is somewhat the be all of the education system itself, running on their own merits and sometimes falling down incredibly hard but nonetheless remain mostly constant battlers for the main purpose of churning out bright young populations of students willing to continue on the path to learning skills for life.
Not an easy battle preparing young teens for learning in a moment of economic downturn, when entire families under the strain of the times often turn to the Teacher for help in the ‘moral education’ of their child. The job of the Teacher is to provide the right environment for learning, this does not mean preparing a room or choosing a book as some might think. But it really means getting into their student’s minds (in a sort of fashion) and helping them find their way around the learning jungle with the right tools to absorb, analyse, relate and eventually put to good use.

2014-09-02 21 59 52There is another interesting point to note that Blogs are also being used by Teachers to get their students to use blogging as a means of learning (like writing, reading critiques, communicating, team work, etc.) in a blended learning format as well by other Teachers to flip their classes. So the ever popular form of ‘to blog’ is encompassing a myriad of activities.

Hence will you too learn to blog and join in the blogging hemisphere unleashing your thoughts into an unharnessed wilderness of readers and followers sometimes commenting, oftentimes not. One other thing to bear in mind is the location of the blog and how to market your blog on the internet – these are issues that are also akin with professionals or companies selling their wares, a long long way from the bartering days I dare say!
Remember your blog writing is also normally enhanced by the social media sites too!
If I have not convinced you ‘to blog or not to blog’ yet, then do join a healthy and cheerful lot in the FALL BLOG FESTIVAL on WizIQ it’s free and packed full of experienced bloggers sharing their trials and tribulations of such a wonderful way to communicate…here’s the link: http://www.wiziq.com/course/53478-fall-blog-festival See you live in the Chat box!

2014-09-02 22 06 04

 

 


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wiziq_3

WizIQ is a teaching platform used by many teachers to teach just as many subjects!  It is a virtual classroom with a LIVE video stream and the possibility of interacting LIVE with up to 6 students on video stream or almost an unlimited number of students. I started using WizIQ last September 2013 and have found this method of teaching as up to date and futuristic as can be, not only for me but also for my students. All classes are normally recorded and the recording is available for the student to download, watch as many times as they wish and keep for further reference. All didactic material is uploaded into the virtual classroom and is also available for the student to download and keep – doing away with ‘textbooks’ and printed paper. The student can access the course at anytime during the day or week being available 24/7 and also participate actively by commenting in the ‘course feed’ or by uploading assignments or taking a test (set by the Teacher). In other words everything that you could possibly do in a physical classroom can be done even better in an online live classroom, the Teacher can play a video, podcast, presentation, or many other multi-media sharing it live in the virtual environment.

I teach various courses on WizIQ all to do with English Language Learning, most of my courses are Tailored to the individual needs of the student/s. Just as you would expect in a Face to Face lesson you will have a Live stream online lesson with me, where not only will you be able to see me but I will also see you and you will be able to interact on the White Board just as you would in a physical classroom. All you need is an internet connection, Webcam and Microphone, pc / mac / computer, in order to be able to interact in a real time classroom in live stream. Then all you need is the ‘willpower’ to learn and broaden your perspectives, just as I do by actively keeping abreast with what’s happening in the world of online Teaching via the many specialized courses,  MOOC’s and MOOT’s on WizIQ.

What are you waiting for go now to www.wiziq.com and check out what’s going on in the online learning world!

 

 


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MM4: Creating Synergy in Online Classrooms via Emerging Technologies

 Presented by: Dr. Cheryl Lentz

Date: Tuesday, June 03 2014      Where: WizIQ online learning  www.wiziq.com

Class link: http://www.wiziq.com/online-class/1862817-mm4-creating-synergy-in-online-classrooms-via-emerging-technologies

WOW This lady is packed full of energy and an unbelievably fast talker (as in speed) I would say she averages about 180 words per minute, meaning she would be a great instant/live press Reporter. But I don’t think Dr Lentz is in need of a career change because as a college Professor with an online profile she is extremely popular and won’t be out of a job soon.

She gave me the boost to finally get this Blog underway, after I finished my other set work for the evening I sat in front of my computer and went straight to the wordpress website and voilà put pen to paper so to speak.

A summary of this class, firstly a few ideas to think about:

  1. How important it is for the Educator (Teacher) to be up to date with Technology in the classroom?
  2. Should Teachers be showing their faces on ‘social media’ ?
  3. Is connecting with students as important as just Teaching them?

 

These are the first three questions that come to mind when I think back to Dr Lentz’s talk, so firstly I am a strong believer that Technology is as important in the classroom as it is in online teaching. Why? Firstly because I have yet to walk into a classroom and find students who are still in the 2nd generation mobile technology as is often the case with most Teachers. So if our students are way ahead technologically then we should be using that anchor to latch on to rather than keep on insisting with old methods of Teaching. The modern era has given us technological homes –  programmable home appliances, Cable pay TV, ADSL, WiFi or Broadband internet, Satellite dishes on rooftops, laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart TVs, etc. The classroom also with their interactive whiteboards – unfortunately this is only for some classrooms as most schools lack the proper funding not to mention slow connections. The availability of social media means our Teenagers and Young Adults in the education system are constantly connected to each other and to the world at large. So let’s tap into that ‘worldly connection’ get the students to use the best access they have to use it to better their education and to show the Teacher their endeavors. I bet some of you out there still remember ‘show and tell’ at primary school, wasn’t it the best day of the week, even if you didn’t have anything to show&tell but just listening to others was an amazing ‘connecting’ moment. Don’t deny it!  Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Scoopit, Pinterest, Instagram, Linkedin, etc. are just the same – it’s a way of ‘showing and telling’ what we know or have just found out or seen or experienced. In other words it’s simply ‘communicating’ and no matter what subject you teach or are studying getting the message across is what it’s all about!

Teachers who lag behind and don’t jump onto the moving bus WILL get left behind and their students will not follow them in class as they should. The aim of the Teacher is to ‘engage learning’ a process that is not as easy as it seems but simple in its approach. To know more on this subject stayed tuned for further installments in my blog posts.

On the other hand I have had a hard time wondering whether the Teacher should have their ‘face’ on social media too, there are advantages and disadvantages to this as Dr Lentz also brought up in the talk. Although she mentioned the importance of setting up a blog using it also for the ‘flipped classroom’ material she also did state the importance of keeping the social media profile ‘professional’. This is the most important point for a teacher or a point of reference for the modern student, and although I advocate the importance of social media to be used as a means of communication I also strongly believe that the role of the Teacher is to remain the ‘Teacher’ and not become the ‘student’. Let me clarify. The role of the Teacher needs to remain constant, as does the student’s role. The constancy equals the safety of knowledge being transmitted by both and the ability to assess and measure and use that knowledge. To this extent I’m wary of a Teacher who portrays an image of an overgrown youngster on social media, but more inclined to assume the task of using social media to connect and transmit educational material or knowledge.

In the flipped model the Teacher as Dr Lentz showed can prepare audio-visual video tutorials and the students can watch and re-watch the tutorial and do the set tasks then go back into the F2F classroom and put that ‘learned’ new skill into practical use. It is the perfect opportunity to bring the learning curve to the same point for all students in one simple online tutorial rather than spend repeating that material in class where some students with ‘attention blinks’ will miss the boat.

How important then is it for Teachers to really connect with their students? In my opinion this is the quintessential principal of Teaching! If I cannot connect and by this I mean literally ‘get into their head’ and understand what makes them tick, then I can rest assured that they will not understand me or what I’m trying to teach them. At the same time this does not mean me coming to school with pink hair and converse runners with matching bag, chewing gum and disheveled hair just to be considered an equal – I am not their equal or their desk mate – I want to be their point of reference, their mentor, their ultimate goal. OOps that may sound egotistical but I don’t mean it that way, I just want to make it clear that although I can stop to watch a rap video with my high school kids seriously enjoying it will not mean that I will jump on all fours to mimic it. But I want to use that moment of connection to get them telling me about it, and really listening and then maybe using that ‘connection’ to make a distinguishing point – like ‘let’s then talk about Young people and their behavior’ etc… get my meaning!

That’s what Dr Lentz talked about when a Teacher uses the means of connection via modern technology to communicate the learning material and turn the classroom into an online community. Teachers creating a learning blog – a place for students to connect with the study method via an ‘online’ visual of their Teacher. Dr Cheryl puts this idea into a nutshell comment “You can take a horse to water but you can’t make them drink. Our role as a Teacher is to make our students thirsty” – a brilliant point!

A brief look at Dr Lentz’ talk in this presentation: on the way….

 


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MM4: Opening Ceremony

My reflection on the opening ceremony

1. MM4: Opening Ceremony and Introduction to Moodle MOOC 4

          Presented by:Dr. Nellie Deutsch

Date: Sunday, June 01,  2014

Course details: http://www.wiziq.com/course/48101-moodle-mooc-4

2. The opening ceremony,  presented by the organizer of the course Dr. Nellie Deutsch, was not only an opening to a month long event of learning but a real introduction into getting into ‘moodling’. Dr Nellie led the way with a visual presentation of the program for the event and showed how to follow the tasks on the moodle platform. The MM4 (moodle mooc 4) was open to those with no experience in using the Moodle or WizIq platforms as well as those experienced on both or one of the platforms.

3. WizIq is a brilliant layout for learning and teaching especially in a group format, while the class is being carried out live by the presenter, the learners can interact in the chat box. On this first day I was lucky to see some old faces and many new, I quickly caught up with Melissa and Tom, also Safaa, got an Italian greeting from a new to me connection David.  Most importantly though is the full on connection also with Dr. Nellie who does take the time to ‘connect’ live by greeting everyone verbally during the beginning of the presentation and as others join in during the presentation. This whole ‘connection’ makes the process so much more human and fathomable!

4. The many questions in this first encounter were mostly centred on ‘how’ to use the moodle platform and what was the difference between ‘beginner’ and ‘non beginner’. These were important questions as most of us had to either join in the course using our moodle login from a previous session or sign up as a first time user of the moodle.

5. The content in this lesson was important as it paved the outline of the expectations of the whole course and as Teacher-Learners our commitment to understanding the system in order to ‘get around’ without getting lost.

6. The main thought running around my head was the negative sensation I had with my first encounter in the moodle via a previous moodle mooc and which I was constantly losing my way around the moodle. This time I was promising myself to persevere and ‘learn’ as the moodle platform is also an integral part of the learning strategy for the Italian regional study program for whom I often teach.

7. The engaging lesson by Dr. Nellie Deutsch, together with the ongoing chitter chatter in the chat box made me feel part of a growing learning community with world-wide connections meeting together in one place. A sort of ‘brewing stew’ of learning and connecting online. It created a sense of strength and personal satisfaction to be lucky to be here participating in an invigorating live event.

8.  The challenge was getting started with the ‘real’ tasks in the moodle set up by Dr. Nellie Deutsch and facilitated by Tom Hodgers. Two people whom worked very hard and spent many hours putting up such a workable learning program. My personal challenge was to avoid my eternal attention blinks, caused unfortunately by a brain running forward while my eyes are foggy on what’s happening in front of me. May sound confusing….imagine me!

9. The main step to avoid getting lost or confused in the moodle for me was to stop and think, read and re-read, then if all else failed reach out and ask for h-e-l-p! This was done easily enough via the ‘support lounges’ throughout the tasks in the moodle, thank goodness!

10. My objective is to become a Moodle Manager and be able to use the Moodle platform as naturally and easily as I would a textbook for teaching. Why? Because Teaching is what I do, I teach English as a Language, English Literature and English Drama – and I am looking forward to doing away with textbooks for good! I believe in ‘Blended classrooms’ and use online learning management systems (OLMS) with any text book I use, but I also believe that the blended and flipped classroom is also a step in the right direction.

11. Two questions came to mind in this particular presentation: How do we go about creating our own Moodle environment?  How reliable is the Moodle tracking system? – Both of these questions came to mind quickly in that when I use other means of ‘tracking’ my students’ progress online I am able to see what the programmer of that system has made available. Sometimes as a Teacher I would like to see many other details that are not always included, so if I could create the ‘tracking’ path I require then it would also need to be reliable.

 

Slide Speech presentation    

http://slidespeech.com/s/cdAHJm2Jen/

 


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Getting to Know my Students

The topic is fundamental to developing a course guideline and material for learning. The basis of knowing one’s students is created from gathering information, I do it in 2 ways: 1) using Online Practice Tests to get a knowledge level of the English language; 2) using standard ‘Needs Analysis Forms’ or creating my own.
Here is my interpretation of why it’s important to know your students, I prepared this for the Task in Week 3 of the Moodle Mooc 4 organized by Dr Nellie Deutsch via WizIQ and Moodle platforms.
Who are my Students?
I teach at diverse schools, since I’m not resident teacher at any of those, also my roles change from school to school. I am an English as a subject teacher (English grammar, Literature, Culture) and English as a Language for Cambridge Exam preparation (FCE, CAE, Proficiency). I also teach in special European projects for the advancement of English as a Foreign Language. Plus I also teach Business English in local Industries and Live Online Teaching (one2one) via WizIQ.
In one high school I’m the only English teacher so I teach all classes, but this school is ‘special’ it’s made up of high school drop outs. So we teachers take these students whom have lost hope in the school system and give them an opportunity to get back into track. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail, but lately we have been succeeding more than we expected. Surprisingly this has been due to our Principal bringing technology into the classrooms, our Principal is around 80 years of age speaks 8 languages and is a Professor of Latin and Chemistry. Although he is personally not as ‘avant-garde’ as he’d like to be he has consented the teaching staff to implement the best technological tools possible. We have found a rewarding response from our students, but it has not been easy, and we are still making changes to the classroom layout (I’m trying to find a layout for class & teacher desks that will be so different it will keep the students wondering).
These students come from all types of backgrounds and ethnicity like Romanian, Albanian, etc., they have dropped out of the normal high schools for varying reasons. Some simply because of their ‘look’ or lack of seeming interested. This is one of the problems of the big numbers in classrooms, how can a Teacher gauge the learning curve of their students, if all they have to go on are class tests. How do we understand those students that are not doing well in the class test not because they haven’t studied but ‘maybe’ because ‘we Teachers’ have not explained it so that they can understand.
Cultural diversity is important to understand, for example let’s look at an Italian student Vs a Romanian student in the same classroom – (I wish I had a video here to show what I mean but that would be illegal so here is an example):


Situation: It is 11.30 am on a cold Winter’s morning, Students have been studying since 8.15am changing classes every 50mins with a 15 break at 10.15am. They are sitting in class facing the Teacher at the blackboard or whiteboard.
Lesson: History.
Teacher is constantly looking at his/her notes and writing on the board while talking.
Two students sitting side by side: (fictitious names used in this example)
The Italian student Mario has been taking notes in the class Textbook and is writing comments in his exercise book. The Romanian student Marius has been looking at the Text book (not writing because the book has to be intact for his brother/sister next year) and listening to the Teacher while trying to decipher how Romanian history fits in with Italian history, only rarely writing something in his notes.
Not to mention both students have a different view of their home : Mario will go home to have a hot lunch prepared and served by Mum/Grandma, but Marius has to go home and cook for the younger brother/sister because both parents work long shifts to earn enough money to send some back home.


Just this minor situation is enough to tell me that something needs to change, how? As a teacher I need to find a way for the Romanian student to make sense of the subject and create a basis for studying in all his subjects. Giving the student the ‘means’ and ‘tools’ to fit in and not feel left out or lagging behind. I must also remember in this case, that the Italian language is not that particular student’s first language or culture, so his approach to absorbing information is completely different to a native Italian sitting next to him. Hence why punish the student for not passing the class test, rather than understanding why that student will never pass the test without creating confidence in learning.
What do I do to help overcome these ‘little bumps’ along the way? I create minor ‘projects’ in class for the students to participate as a small group, like creating a sitcom or writing a letter/story, etc. This helps to create a ‘bridge’ and a learning environment where the onus is not on one student to perform but as a group working together towards one objective. Doing a few of these ‘projects’ loosens up the boundaries and makes the eventual class Test easier to deal with as the students have ‘acted out’ the topic sometimes without even realizing it! Ok this may not always work, but it has with my 4th and 5th year high school students and I get increased class participation. Also important to note that these students have probably never met each other before, having come from different schools in neighbouring towns.
The answer to the question ‘how do I find information from my students’ is done in two ways, one via the student enrolment form and one when they come to a first class with me I give them a student analysis sheet that I ask them to complete (different types for different levels of English courses). Then when I have collected them I put them aside as I can’t possibly memorize them all in 5 minutes. So I spend the rest of the first class going over the program for the course (in detail), provide for question & answer time and most importantly tell them about me! I don’t want to be seen as their friend but rather as their ‘information co-ordinator’. The bell rings! By the next class I have a clear cut idea of who is in front of me and what they expect from the course, and then I (try to) keep tabs on everyone with my eyes always on the ball.
From that moment onwards I watch their progress keenly, I tailor each lesson to help the lagging students keep up and the bright ones from falling off to sleep. How you may ask? Well I think about what the program requires for the student/s, where are they at, pushing them gently forward, blending class time with online study, looking for class material that will entice all students in the class, keep topics away from delicate cultural issues. And more…that’s why we’re teachers, we do all that and more.


 

 

 

 

 


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MM4: Formative Feedback Strategies and Digital Marking

Talk Presented by: Andreas Molander : in WizIQ on 5 June, 2014

What an interesting presentation, so what did I learn from this presentation:

  1. There is help with correcting English (or other languages as are available on word documents) using a specific tool created by Prof. Molander
  2. Attendees of the MM4 have an opportunity to download and install the software for a free trial period. BUT must be downloaded before 8 June.  All on the proviso of participating in surveys to help the owners of the software understand the usability stats etc.
  3. The annual price for the software is approximately $99 p.a. or $199 for 3 years. Need to check this on website.
  4. The tool used with Microsoft Word becomes a Tool bar on the page and can also be modified by the Teacher. The tool can also be turned off when not needed for paper correction, this is handy.
  5. The Tool bar can also be used by Students whom can, if willing, also re-adapt it to help their own understanding of common English language errors.
  6. Important name of the Tool: LANGCORR   website: http://www.langcorr.com
  7. Video link to watch : 
  8. still thinking

A little bit about this tool, the most important and useful element of this tool is that it cuts down on time spent correcting, and I am one of those teachers which not only crosses out the mistake but I am constantly writing the correct way in the side columns or on the bottom of the paper. This is so time consuming too. So sometimes the student does not always ‘learn’ how to avoid the mistake next time, meaning there is a high probability that particular error will pop up again on another paper.

The LANGCORR tool actually helps the Teacher to help the Student correct their own paper, the tool highlights the error and makes a comment on the side bar of the word document, so the student can work out what mistake they made. Then the Teacher can also work through the paper by cutting down the ‘help’ comments and leaving only the error highlighted with the type of error so the Student will have to actually work it out. In this way we actually are helping the student to overcome their problems with certain repetitive errors.

My opinion: GREAT we have a helping hand in correcting ‘writing papers’ that will check and highlight common errors adding notes to the document allowing the Students to follow and understand their mistakes — aiming at diminishing repetitive grammatical errors. I can’t wait to use it, only problem … we have a 2 month break before any papers start appearing on my desk again! Guess I’ll have to wait for the next year students bright and fresh in September.


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Reflections on the Moodle MOOC 4 in WizIQ

The Moodle Mooc 4 organized by Dr Nellie Deutsch via WizIQ : what is the course about? Firstly it’s about getting Educators together to learn how to collaborate and most important for newbies like me ‘how’ to use the Moodle for Teachers.

Today is the 3rd of June and already there have been 4 presentations. I will try to outline each one as the days unfold, leaving behind a journal so to speak, of each particular presentation and its effect on me and my future teaching development. Hoping not to bore those that hover over my ramblings here and there.

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