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Open Access: General information

Info for Session 4: Open Access

Cloud created by:

Martin Weller
2 March 2010

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Topics for discussion include:

  • Overcoming the digital divide
  • Opening up the research process
  • New opportunities for communities

Extra content

Notes from Alison Robinson - HEAT project

Very modelled on the TESSA project. Got off the ground via funding from Ferguson Trust. Also want to introduce Ethiopia. Lesley-Anne Long and Basiro Davey also talented photographers. Very small team at present but will be increasing presently.
Striking things is the high incidence of child and maternal mortality - frightening. Shortage of health workers - which is where HEAT comes in - trying to build health worker capacity by distance learning. Very unlikely that health Millennium Development goals will be met.
Single most common request according to Lord Crisp from Africa is assistance with educating and training staff to address health problems.
High incidence of maternal mortality - very stark. Neonatal and child mortality also very high.
HEAT aims to address the shortage of health workers. Support quality materials, build local capacity. Want to be able to scale. Easy to put initiatives in place, difficult to scale.
HEAT delivers big impact for relatively small investment - reaching community-based health workers first, but applicable more widely. Improving population health. Learning resources adaptable and transferable - curriculum has to be deliverable in whatever medium is most appropriate - print, online, disk.
Pilot country is Ethiopia. Because Prime Minister and Cabinet have OU MBAs! And post-secondary education and health sector is in English.
Health in Ethiopia - population mostly in rural communities. Life expectancy low, maternal mortality rate extremely high - but less than average for Africa. Significant that only 6% of births attended by 'skilled birth attendant' - very low.
Ethiopia very much a country of contrasts. Many people have a picture that's completely informed by Live Aid pictures during the dreadful famine of the mid-80s. It's a beautiful country. It is dirt poor, and has difficulties, but it is beautiful, the people are really warm and welcoming. The Chinese are in Addis and it looks like a building site - spectacular amount of construction. Traffic is something to behold. But equally, less than an hour's drive away it's horse and cart. Even though Addis is the capital, choked with traffic, still has a really rural feel.
One reason chose Ethiopia is because it's a model in terms of what it's trying to achieve. Currently, primary health care for 87% - only 143 hospitals for 81m people. Each Health Centre has to serve 25-35,000 people. Health Posts serve about 12,500 people each, staffed by Health Extension Workers - in 2004, identify two young women from each village to train as community-based health workers. Have trained and deployed nearly 32,000. One reason maternal mortality rate is not as bad as you'd imagine - these women are making a difference.
Health Centre has no running water but serves 35,000 people.
Health Extension Workers get a small salary, aim for 2 per 5,000 people. Initial training was at residential college, face to face. Evaluation shows was a tremendous achievement to mobilise basic health workforce in a short time. But way it happened, some was patchy, some gaps around maternal and child health. Ministries of Health and Education recognise need to upgrade training of these workers for two reasons - one, to overcome patchiness in initial training, secondly because they're keen to have a career path, if can't be provided then retention problems will be heightened. Some areas of curriculum not covered in initial training, needed now.
Huge debate about how to do this - face to face vs distance learning. OU is well respected by the Government, but generally in Africa the case for distance learning still to be made. Distance learning for theoretical part is very clear case - if go back to college, villagers lose health service. The same curriculum, with practical skills-based training, will only take 18-24 months rather than >10 years. All the workers study exactly same material, so quality and standards uniform. As long as the Government can appoint sufficient tutors, no limit on student numbers.
The HEAT model has at its heart - an online knowledge bank of training materials, text, multimedia. All available as Open Educational Resources for anyone in the world to use and adapt. Plus self-assessment questions.
Have meetings and workshops with stakeholders very widely - regional, national and international.
Materials development starts with a curriculum design workshop, where OU experts work with Ethiopian health experts. Process begins. Working on four modules - antenatal care, labour and delivery care, postnatal care, integrated management of newborn and childhood illnesses.
Level 4 curriculum will have 16 modules, but also assessed practical skills training at Health Centres and Hospitals. Each module assessed by a TMA, Min of Education sets final exam. Graduate at level 4, equivalent of Diploma.
Issues - low status of distance learning, people don't think it has much to offer. It's a real rollercoaster - speed that the Min of Health escalates their requirements is breathtaking. Started with one module as a pilot, 200 students in two regions. Few months later are doing 16 modules! More than 1000 students, pilot version in 16 regions. The timescale keeps being accelerated. Some authors have issues writing in a second language. Also trouble for some authors with being released from other work.
Modules will be available freely. Also working with other countries about adapting them. Also additional modules to be commissioned.

Doug Clow
13:27 on 23 June 2010

Notes from Steve Swithenby - The OU's Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

COLMSCT chosen precisely to have an acronym only Steve can pronounce.

The Open CETL is made up of four different CETLS - COLMSCT, PILS, PBPL, PI. Don't cover the entire range of teaching and learning. Almost unique in success - a lot of money, £2m pa for 5 years 2005-2010, to end of July. Major investment, need to establish what the CETLs are about. The central rationale was to effect improvement in mainstream practice. We're not paid to investigate the cutting edge of technology (necessarily) - but to take in to practice good ideas that will improve learning and teaching. Technology and other vantage points. Difference in participation and membership. OU CETLs are Faculty-led activities, come from the world of the teacher, not educational development - a different emphasis.
Original vision was about a community of teachers - community word chosen carefully. Very much in the space between strategy and bottom-up creativity, bringing them together. Generalised ownership of our future. See themselves as a subversive influence.
Tag cloud is interesting set of feedback from CETL conference - fun, provoking, exciting - as well as other words.
Trying to bring together a number of themes. One influence has been subversive in that they've brought new trajectories to the discourse - Wenger, Engestrom brought in to discussion by PBPL, but OpenCETL had conversation with them about CoP for a long time. Were not part of how teachers discussed what they did. Introduced them in to colloquia, remained themes, this discourse shifted. Led to notions of communities of learning, how those coexist with personalised learning. And iCMA, launched in to University, now used widely as a term.
Have affected the trajectory of many discourses. Behind the scenes, developed new frameworks and ways of thinking. People often say the OU is an institution that works on systems, on an industrial scale. We have had a major hand in developing new frameworks - e.g. ARCS model of student support. Can be used widely.
One example of an iCMA - interactive computer-marked assignment, they get personalised feedback on the basis of their responses. Now 50,000 students a month using these sorts of assignments.
Hosted ReLIVE conference, at how Second Life can be used in education. Also introduced the robotic telescope - real life astronomical observation. Interactive screen experiments - real experiments played back under student control, can modify the parameters and get real data.
Have taken those learning innovations and seen how those could work - e.g. how ALs can work in Second Life environment. What is the nature of the relationship, how it changes.
Also worked on offender learning, influencing policy on how it can be sustained in prisons where there's an emphasis on e-learning. Governors don't like e-learning, it poses challenges, so as our courses have more of it, we have more problems working with offenders. Is a major problem.
Much work on effective access - how does conferencing really work for students? Very low tech these days, how does Elluminate really work?
ERA - Enabling Remote Access - about doing Field trips for people with mobility problems or can't afford to travel.
And distance learning for e.g. African situations with challenges around infrastructure.
Where the CETLs are - different areas - student, teacher, university, peers - for the development of practice in teacher development. A teacher may have a wonderful idea, fascinating technology, stimulating, exciting - but the real points where you have leverage is the area of overlap between these areas. So trying to find that point of overlap where we have maximum leverage to engineer change.
Final question - have been a group of CETLs, 600+ academic/AL staff (between 500-1500), have innovated and promoted change. How do we ensure that community of people has an engagement which is scholarly? A lot that we do is not scholarly, we have a good idea, we implement, we make anecdotal judgement about its effect. How do we ramp up the professionalisation of what we're doing? Also, what about ALs? None of the mechanisms take these 7000 or so staff with direct experience of students in. Need to be more ambitious about how we plan for scholarship and innovation to be an inclusive, participatory activity for the future.
Martin: may be too early but any evidence of sustained change in practice from participants?
Steve: Yes, it may, but some evidence. Much work on Student Support Review now implemented, informed by CETL perspective. Don't want to claim too much ownership of any of these things, but yes, there has been change to practice.
Will Woods: I think it's important to continue CETL work but it's about ringfencing time from groups of people around topics as much as it is about governance? - what do you say?
Steve: Only way this happens is people have ring-fenced time. Is within the gift of the Faculties and managers of the university. No reason at all, is now accepted, will happen that people will get workload including time to engage in innovation and scholarship. Need time, but also structures, support, organised, mentoring.
Martin: Ringfencing time - e.g. podstars - the important thing wasn't the training, but ability to legitimise people doing things. Need to give people some space, some structure.
Clare: Last slide, scholarship. The OU's current scholarship document doesn't involve a role for ALs, that's what you're pointing to?
Steve: Was being slightly subversive, yes. That issue is not sorted out. Should be high priority for OU to involve this enormous expertise.

Doug Clow
14:04 on 23 June 2010

Notes from Discussion:
Steve: To all, taken by Alison's contribution - challenges of creating effective learning in challenged communities. Not just technological, social pressure, expectations, and so on. Are we as a community fulfilling our remit, bringing appropriate technology in to our working with groups such as Alison is addressing? Terribly easy for us to innovate with our unlimited horizons and huge self-confidence. Are we emphasising enough of our work, ingenuity and innovation - in to reaching somebody in a health centre outside Addis Ababa?
Nigel: Highlighting one of those problems. It's very difficult to disseminate. I'm working in prisons, so is Val. It's not silo working, but difficult to keep across all the things happenings across the OU, before you get to the whole world.
Martin: OU has ring-fenced OU Africa work.
Doug: We are working to get funding support to take iSpot model to an international audience, with British Council - looking at Southern Africa, Arab world, Latin America, Caribbean initially.
Alison: Will be reusing technology we've moved away from in the UK - e.g. radio broadcasts. Initial funding for HEAT from Ferguson, other pledged to fund OU contribution but also the implementation, practical skills training. Like TESSA, to roll out we need additional moneys, so a lot of time is spent pitching for funding.

Doug Clow
14:05 on 23 June 2010

Notes from Jimmy Wales

Potentially no relationship between Wikipedia and Wikieducator - not a major relationship - but some people know each other.
Talking about history, reach and scale of Wikipedia. Then answering questions.
Wikipedia was the great experiment - the core idea behind Wikipedia was to create a free encyclopaedia, for everyone in the world, in many many languages. Charles van Doren was editor at Britannica - was saying it should be radical and stop being safe. Admire very much, but isn't radical.
Wikipedia has radical idea - every single person on the plant it given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. Each part is important. Defines what Wikipedia is.
Everyone knows what it is, but may not have full ideas. A free and high-quality encyclopaedia written by thousands of volunteers in many languages. Over time, have come to think of important: neutrality and quality, Need minimum level of reliability - if was random nonsense and rubbish, people wouldn't rely on it. Within community, have processes and controls designed to bring about higher level of quality. If dig in to Wikipedia, interesting discussions about how we do our work - those conversations centred around quality. What tools we need, rules, norms, to generate high quality as possible. Nothing is top down - many people think that's required. We've proven that's not necessarily the case. Neither top down, nor complete anarchy. Is the major innovation.
Core idea of neutrality has always been with us - neutral point of view - NPOV is non-negotiable. Not advocating from one side or another - none of those, Wikipedia should not take a stand on any issue, but present all sides fairly. Many ways defines who is and is not part of the community. If someone wants to push an agenda, even if community agrees with the agenda, say can't use Wikipedia as a platform for advocacy. Important to know the principle is social, not technical. Can't enforce in software. It's up to the readers, editors, to discuss and debate.
What is free access? Old joke - free as in speech, not as in beer. Free beer is good, but this is more fundamental and important. For all work in Wikipedia - the text, and software - all our work is freely licensed. You can copy, modify, redistribute, commercially or not. Contributing to a base storehouse of knowledge that can be reused for many possibilities. Likely long-term impact of Wikipedia in education. Encyclopedia not necessarily best format for learning something - assumes a basic level of knowledge, doesn't build. Hard to use as only resource for learning, say, geometry. But a lot of the content in Wikipedia could be reused and structured - though that is a big piece of work to do.
The "sum" of all human knowledge. It's an encyclopaedia, not an archive, library, textbook - type of reference work. Not everything belongs. No jokes about the Eiffel Tower in that entry, for instance. A centralised summary of human knowledge, with the depth depending on the context. Most entries should be accessible to the general public with a high school or college education. Isn't always true, some advanced concepts in mathematics where it's not likely that you can really understand, stay, stochastic differential equations. It's for the community to say.
Wikipedia is created in a fairly unique way, with a pretty much unprecedented business model. Is a charity, supported by donations. Vast majority of money comes from small donors, through annual giving campaign, average size around $30 raised $8m. Is other funding - foundations, gift from Google. And major wealthy donors. Also important that core funding is from small donors, community is independent, no pressure from donors to change content - issue doesn't come up. Could this be a model for other sites? Could be. Has enormous audience, only a tiny percentage donate - 275m people visit. Hard to imagine lots of other projects could be funded that way. But we have very very low costs - only reason it costs so much is because 275m people a month visit it, logistical issues with servers, staff, lots of resources. Very low costs, in many cases don't even need a funding model, can happen organically without money.
Wikimedia Foundation is charity that runs Wikipedia - have 35 employees (or 37, 38) but hundreds of thousands of volunteers. The staff keep the site on the air and communication.
How global is Wikipedia? Vision that want to be for every single person on the planet in their own language. Better in some languages than others. 3m+ in English, >500k in German, French, Polish, Japanese, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese - all European/Japanese language. Also Chinese. In all the other languages of the world we have less content and participation. Partly connectivity, literacy, culture, speed of the site. Often slow to load in India because servers far away, looking at closer-to-Asia data centre. Many reasons, but focus on those is important, impact of Wikipedia not yet seen to bring encyclopaedia to languages that have never seen one before.
Chinese - 308,000 articles - China is not particularly open. Articles is small compared to number of Chinese speakers online. Were banned in China until 3y ago. Have never compromised on censorship, is a fundamental human right. Will never compromise on censorship. Long process of quiet diplomacy, agree to disagree. Currently, Wikipedia generally available but some are filtered - e.g. Tiananmen Square, Taiwanese independence, Falun Gong, etc. But rest comes through.
Wikipedia popularity? Top ten in lots of places (US, Germany), but only 53rd in China. Chinese minister wanted to know why Wikipedia didn't have more Chinese articles. Have had a cultural impact of sorts in China - Beijing menu offering Wikipedia fried with eggs - Beef Brisket in Wikipedia flavour. Also Wekipedia bread company. People ask, "Jimmy, what does this mean?" I say I have no idea. Asked Chinese Wikipedians, and they said "Jimmy I have no idea". Maybe that if you put in any menu name, first thing out of Google is Wikipedia, so that could be it.
Popularity of topics by language - pop culture in Japan extremely popular (no surprise). French and Spanish have no sex at all, could be they're actually doing it rather than reading about it.
Have same interests, neutrality - deep culture transcends - things like Star Trek and Star Wars are universally interesting. But are differences in reader patterns.
Michelle: French/German/Russia have more geography articles than other kinds?
Jimmy: Usually joke that Germans are most interested in Geography, not sure that's a good thing. Not sure that these really map to differences in viewership map to differences in quantity - it's just that they're more popular.
Nigel: What's next?
Jimmy: That's the hardest question possible. In the short term, - engaged in a long-term strategy project, just beginning to make longer term plans. Three things are priorities, two are inter-related, all of them are. One is quality - in the large languages. Once at a certain size, adding more quantity to e.g. English wikipedia is a lower priority. Not that it is not growing, but it is quite comprehensive already but now looking at improving the quality across multiple dimensions. Another focus is growth in the developing world - running pilot projects in three or four different languages, put boots on the ground to help grow the local-language Wikipedia.  Size of community, barriers to entry are different. In Arabic, there could be keyboard-entry issues can address technically, have 125k entries but could do with PR/communications/marketing support so Arabic world know about it. A lot of people will also use English or French, don't realise there's an Arabic Wikipedia. Where we have a very small Wikipedia - say 1000 or so entries - very low-level engagement, get early community engaged, bloggers, academics.  Finally - usability. Cuts across both of those. We know our software is not as user-friendly as we'd like. Want to make it much easier for a wider-range of people. When you click on 'edit' get complex table, complex markup - not intentional, has grown that way. Want to move to WYSIWYG editing environment, don't want tech skills to be a barrier to entry. Quality issue - e.g. Elizabethan poetry geeks may not be computer/tech geeks as well.
Dominik Lukes: Many educators have been setting students (from postgrad to undergrad) assignments to edit or create Wikipedia pages based on their course content. What are your views on that?
Jimmy: Sometimes excited, sometimes dismayed. Depends on the project and how it's structured. An old example - was more or less a disaster. At Dartmouth, instructor told students to write something about Dartmouth with no preparation. Many wrote about, say, a bus stop, a garbage can on the corner of two streets. Wikipedia community reacted badly, blocked many of the Dartmouth people from editing. Few people learned much. But some great ones where students had appropriate background, could do something of quality, and learn about participatory culture and how knowledge is constructed. Very important skill, is wonderful if can find ways for students to participate, work well with others. Realise it's not all handed down by gods, there are human beings, can engage and tussle with knowledge, not just something for you to absorb. Need to have support. Good way to do it is to talk to the Wikipedia community, say what you're planning, can we put a group together to help out, generally will get lots of people who want to help. Giota posted a link - good place to look
Will Woods: do cultural differences impact on entries? - e.g. history being written by the winners
Jimmy: To compare to Wikipedias, have to speak two languages really well. How much impact do those differences have? Difficult to say. One example - English Wikipedia thinks it's obvious that the Wright brothers invented the airplane. But in France they're taught a different, plain answer - some guy we've never heard of invented it. So French and English Wikipedia say different things. But now when you look at it, it's a fairly nuanced story, lots of people working, various advances, which you want to call the first airplane is tricky. Wright brothers flew further than it would have if it was a glider, but the French/Brazilian guy was the first to fly up, rather than gliding down more slowly.
Q: Quality control issues?
Jimmy: Vandalism - people write curse words, bad things. Most famous quality problem, but it's the one we have the most handle on and is the least important. News media find it interesting if there's a curse word in an article. They're generally repaired within minutes, and most of our readers get it . Deeper issues are about issues of bias, particularly relating to less popular and less controversial topics. If you take a look at any seriously controversial issue - Israel/Palestine, Scientology - within WIkipedia, always a lot of noise, but a lot of good people working together to reach a compromise. Generally those articles closely monitored and good quality. Once you've had a Wikipedia entry heavily edited over many years you're not going to get anything better. But much more obscure topics where only people who care really like or hate something. More problematic, can have long-term persisting problems. Article about some actor I'd never heard of, had something to do with Charlie Chaplin - most of article was a diatribe against Charlie Chaplin. Transparently badly-written, was there for a couple of years. Nobody was monitoring, not many people read it. How do we get a system where we can go through a lot of the less popular articles and really vet them? That's a question for the future.
Martin: Comparison with Britannica vs Wikipedia - HE is like Britannica, or let the community filter it. Is there more of a model for HE - does this approach only work for certain types of resources?
Jimmy: Best answer is a non-answer: the kind of question is the question we should all be asking. Lot of innovation. Not just software innovation, though that's a part. But social innovation, around the university, how people think about education, teaching, research. These techs are changing how people are learning, and university isn't changing so fast. Wish I knew some of the answer, but I only know a few of the questions.
Karen Cropper: I wonder how you feel Jimmy when people say negative comments about Wikipedia.  I think it is always easy to knock things and we have even seen that yesterday and today with people being cynical about what we are doing with this conference.  Yet it is much harder to pioneer and take action in a positive way to make things better.
Jimmy: I feel very happy about that. It's true, it can be quite distressing sometimes when people criticise WIkipedia. Two kinds of criticism - one is things that are blatantly unfair and unwanted. Here in UK, famous newspaper columnist bashed Wikipedia, singled out two volunteers by name, they were lovely to him and he savaged them in the press, was really unfair. Other times, we screwed up, and say something's really bad on Wikipedia for say four months, and that's bad. But take solace - for the most part it's good, but want to listen to criticism. As long as people aren't mean, and are willing to engage, believe in good faith but point out a problem - that's great, we think the same, come and help.
Mira: How are the controversial entries negotiated - are any consensus generation techniques used? (I'm guessing not, because of Wikipedia's concern to diminish barriers to entry)
Jimmy: There are a lot of techniques that are used to generate consensus, but it's all informal. Most important method is people go on the talk page and discuss it, with reference to general principles, ideas about neutrality, reliable sources, Wikipedia not taking a stand. Of course, issues where people struggling to gain advantage, but in general community frowns on that behaviour. Yeah, they do good work but they're a POV-pusher. Lot of techniques for dealing with it. We say, go meta - don't make a statement, say who made the statements. You don't say this happened in Israel, you say the Israeli government says this happened. We can agree on what was said about what happened.
Patrick McAndrew: You haven't mentioned wikia as a possible place for developing more academic areas - such as theories that need community input.
Jimmy: We welcome all kinds of projects. Not mentioned Wikia today, it's my separate company where anyone can create a wiki on any topic, we welcome educational projects. It's about 6-12 months ahead of Wikipedia in terms of usability. Has WYSIWYG editor, don't know when or if Wikipedia will do that; they talk to each other but it's up to separate tech staff. Would welcome creation of any kind of project, educational projects are an obvious thing.
Karen: What does going meta mean?
Jimmy: Take abortion. Wikipedia can't say it's a sin, or it's a human right - those are controversial statements. Instead, can step back one step and say Catholic position is it's a sin, Pope has said X, we are not taking part in the debate, we're describing the debate.
Aldo de Moor: What about better visualized basic indicators (#changes/time, #authors over lifetime, #deletions/time (not additions) etc) as a way for the reader to immediately make some sense of the level of stability/quality of an entry?
Jimmy: Intruiged by these ideas. Can offer as tools. But are never going to be reliable enough to really give the reader a definitive answer. Number of changes, deletions - can be gamed, something we really discourage. If I don't like it, don't want people to trust it, can generate a lot of noise. And they can just be wrong. Every entry is what it is at a moment in time, anyone can change the whole thing at once, the metrics based on the past can be entirely wrong. So, take an article been left alone for 2y would look bad on metrics, could come in with a really-great update and the metrics wouldn't keep up. Better ask people is this a good article or not, measure that. But even that - could get robots to click 'great article' so it comes up. Gain a lot by keeping quality at the human level. But also don't have tools to spot things that are not good quality.
Dominik Lukes: More of a general discussion question: I've noticed gaps on Wikipedia in many relatively obscure fields, e.g. British educational philosophy, action research. I think this is because people who know about these fields don't know much about Wikipedia. I think academics in these fields have a responsibility to keep Wikipedia complete. What would be the best way to get them involved? The wikipedia community spirit often does not fit with the traditional system of reward in academia. I was toying with the idea of applying for funding for a research project to create seeds for the relevant entries but was told it was a fool's errand
Jimmy: It is a general discussion question. Lot to it. For better or worse, Wikipedia is now a fundamental part of the infrastructure of knowledge in our society. To the extent that academics think that their role is not just the specific research they're doing, teaching students, but being a public intellectual, assisting society at large - there is a responsibility to explain to general public, and Wikipedia is a good place to do that. There are barriers to entry, and we the Wikipedia community should reduce them. One is simply technology. Especially fields not especially computer-science generated. Can find themselves bewildered. Will get better over time. But there's also a social barrier - complex rules, different shorthand lingo, processes, are something people need to learn about. Can be dismaying experience if you do it wrong - we try to be nice to people who start doing something not quite right, but that experience can be bad. There's always a few people who are a bit too snippy. Also, there are people who are professors who are not good at neutrality, they're accustomed to putting forward their agenda in a polemical way. An article on psychology written by Skinner or Freud would be wildly different, equally brilliant, equally idiosyncratic. But they're not encyclopaedic. Can be difficult to write in that form. And some are arrogant, I am the expert, anyone correcting me and I'm angry. The best academics are not like that, willing to talk to even a bright teenager who disagrees. Not all are like that.
Fred Garnett: Reading about Google, Wikipedia is more inspiring.
Jimmy: Thanks for the excellent questions.

Jimmy: As a Dad, asked my Dad and he could pontificate and I had no way to check him. My daughter will fact-check me on Wikipedia - so it's a problem for Dads as well.

Doug Clow
15:31 on 23 June 2010

Embedded Content

Doug Clow's iSpot presentation

Doug Clow's iSpot presentation

added by Martin Weller



communities   conference   digital divide   HEAT   iSpot   open access   Open CETL   OU   OUConf10   research process   technology and learning


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