Learn 5 key communication insights for educators, including the positive impact of technology in the classroom.  Chris Besse shares how edtech platforms like Edsby make education more student-centric, they enable communication and collaboration, they enable accessibility and immediacy of information, and they encourage students to learn how to learn.

Link to Printable Shownotes: https://talkabouttalk.com/podcasts/#shownotes


    • 5 Communication Insights for Educators
    • 5 Benefits of Educational Technology Platforms



  1. How to interpret teaching advice: Accept teaching advice about what NOT to do (i.e. common teaching pitfalls) at face value. However, be skeptical of prescriptive advice about what you SHOULD do in the classroom. 
  2. Leverage the power of storytelling in the classroom. Stories are engaging and memorable.
  3. Seek the ideal level of confidence in the classroom with a growth mindset.
  4. Go multi-media.
  5. Embrace technology.


  1. A shift in focus from education being teacher-centric to being student-centric.
  2. Improved communication and collaboration amongst key stakeholders: students, teachers, parents and administrators.
  3. Teachers spend more time interacting with students, less time on preparation and administrative duties.
  4. Enables accessibility and immediacy of information and feedback regarding students’ progress. It’s like getting a report card every day. More importantly, access to this information can prevent late diagnoses of learning disabilities. And when the information is data, data analytics can be leveraged.
  5. Ed-tech platforms encourage students to learn how to learn. Students have access to a familiar, private, social media-like system. Guided by their teachers, they can learn to explore what’s on the platform and beyond, and then become life-long learners.


Chris Besse & Edsby

Andrea Wojnicki & Chris Besse at the Ensemble Future of Learning conference, October 2020

Andrea Wojnicki & Chris Besse at

“THE FUTURE OF LEARNING” Ensemble Conference, October 2020


Other Resources for Educators

Talk About Talk & Dr. Andrea Wojnicki

Dr. ANDREA’s INTRODUCTION – 5 Communication insights for Educators

Hey there – I’m your communication coach, Dr. Andrea Wojnicki (please call me Andrea!) Welcome to Talk About Talk.


If you’re a life-long learner, or if you’re trying to get noticed and advance your career, or perhaps both, then you’re in the right place.


Talk About Talk is a learning platform – an online resource where you’ll learn how to boost your communication skills. If you to check out the Talk About Talk.com website you’ll see a variety of resources, including academic and white papers, corporate workshops, one-on-one coaching, online courses, and the email newsletter, which you can think of as your source for FREE weekly communication coaching. There’s also an archive of over 60 podcasts now. And I update the website with new resources every single week.


We talk about things like Networking, Storytelling, Communicating with confidence and – communication for educators!


This episode will appeal to educators, to teachers, of course, but also to parents of school-aged kids.  It’ll also appeal to anyone who coaches or teaches, even informally. 


If you are am educator, I want to start by saying THANK YOU.  Thank you for dedicating your career to education.  For people who haven’t formally taught before, I think teaching can seem a lot easier than it actually is.  Teaching is ALL ABOUT COMMUNICATION, isn’t it?  And there are high stakes.  You’re shaping minds. Students have very high expectations.  Parents have even higher expectations! 


I remember my first year teaching when I was on the faculty at the U of Toronto.  I was like a deer in the headlights. Yep, OF COURSE I have stories.  But I took it very seriously and by my second year I won a teaching award.  That said, I only had the students to deal with.  Once the students are in university, they’re considered adults. I didn’t have to also deal with their parents. 


So to all you K-12 educators out there, bless you for what you do! The communication skills required of you are ENORMOUS!  There’s the in-class teaching, the online teaching, and then there’s communication with parents.  Through report cards and parent-teacher interviews and day to day interactions.  Yowza..  Never mind communicating with school administrators.


In this episode you’re going to learn my top 5 communication insights from teaching. One of these insights relates to technology in the classroom. And that relates to an amazing guest expert that you’ll also hear from in just a minute. His name is Chriss Besse and he’s a senior executive and investor in the EDSBY education platform.  Recently I was asked to interview Chris for an online conference hosted by ENSEMBLE, called “The Future of Learning.  I’ll leave links to that online conference in the shownotes for you.


OK – so got it?  There’re my top 5 communication insights for educators, then an interview with Chris Besse of Edsby, focused on The Future of Learning.


Let’s get into the top 5 communication insights for educators. They are:

  1. What kind of teaching advice to take and what advice to question
  2. the power of stories and storytelling
  3. Seeking the ideal level of confidence with a growth mindset
  4. Going multi-media
  5. Embracing technology


My first insight is something that I believe transcends beyond teaching. The insight is this: when you’re considering advice about how to teach, you can take the advice about what NOT to do, the common teaching pitfalls, at face value.  The advice about what to avoid is probably valid.  However, when it comes to prescriptive advice about what you SHOULD do in the classroom, take it with a grain of salt.  It needs to work for you and your style. You need to be authentic. 


As a doctoral student, I was privileged to learn how to teach from interacting with award winning educators.  I remember in particular conversations with HBS faculty Youngme Moon and Frances Frei.  They were both so generous, sharing their insights.  And they both won teaching awards all the time – students adored them. I first heard this advice about how to interprets the do’s and the don’ts of teaching advice from them.


Here’s the big insight: you can take teaching advice about what NOT to do, about what to AVOID at face value.  But when someone tells you what you SHOULD do, take it with a grain of salt.  Why is that?  Well, there certainly are common teaching pitfalls. Things we should NOT do. Like not assigning enough homework.  Or assigning way too much. Or choosing favorites, having a teachers’ pet. This advice, the don’t-do-this or the don’t-do-that advice?  You can probably take that at face-value. 


On the other hand, if some well-meaning experienced teacher gives you advice for what you SHOULD do (like the personality you should adopt in the classroom or the things you should say to students), you need to carefully consider that prescriptive advice.  The reason is simple.  The best educators are not only passionate, they’re also authentic.  They have their own style. 


Simply put, you’re a teacher, not an actor.


Of course I realize this insight requires some thought and discernment.  If your boss tells you that you need to change something, and particularly if you’ve heard it from more than one source, it’s probably valid.


You might want to also consider this advice outside the context of teaching and education.  Personally, I use this filter when I hear advice about parenting or even about things like giving speeches.  If someone’s warning you about a common pitfall, it’s probably valid for many people, including me, and including you.  But If they’re prescribing how you should act, ask yourself whether it matches your style and feels authentic. 


OK – insight #2 is leverage the power of stories in education.  If you’ve listened to previous Talk About Talk podcasts, you know that storytelling is a superpower.  But I’m not the only one who thinks this. Research shows that stories engage audiences, so they pay attention.  Stories are also ,memorable.  So let’s just think about that. If we incorporate stories into our teaching, our students will pay attention AND they will remember things.  That would be awesome, wouldn’t it?


Do you remember stories that some of your teachers told? My kids tell me stories that their teachers shared ALL THE TIME.  I mean, my kids don’t tell me a lot of what happens at school – you know what I’m talking about – HOW WAS YOUR DAY AT SCHOOL?  Their answer?  One word – good.  WHAT DID YOU LEARN?  Again, one word.  Nothing.  But then later they’ll tell me the story their favourite English teacher shared about her twins.  Or the story their science teacher shared about what happened to him on the weekend.


SO if nothing ore, the stories that teachers tell make the classroom more engaging. But ideally the story will relate to the classroom lesson and reinforce the learnings.  When I was in my second year as a doctoral student, I had to take a microeconomics course from this amazing professor named Jerry Green.  When I say amazing, I mean like he wrote the 500-word textbook for this doctoral level class. Yah.  He was a fantastic teacher.  I had no real interest in economics, this was a required class.  But he made it interesting.   


Anyway, I sometimes remember a story he told about how a glass dish broke in his oven when he and his wife were baking a chicken for dinner.  I think the lesson in class that day was something to do with over and underestimating probabilities.  He told us that his wife wanted to wipe the glass off the chicken and eat it.  (I know, right?)  He said that sometimes, even when the probability is very very small, the implications of a negative outcome can be so detrimental (like eating glass!)_ that considering the probability of that negative outcome is irrelevant – or perhaps irrational.


Wow.  I can picture Professor Green perfectly in my mind telling us that story.  And that’s my point.  Stories bring the classroom to life.

The 3rd insight is about being confident in the classroom.  That’s important, right?  If you’re not confident then the students won’t respect you.  And in fact, arrogance can be even worse. So the ideal level of confidence is truly a fine line.

Three things that might help you here.  First how to boost your confidence, second, how to avoid being arrogant, and last, one concept that I think might help you find that ideal equilibrium.


First – how to boost your confidence in the classroom? Of course there’s practice.  Practice and experience will help immensely.  Beyond that. I hope you’ll listen to my two episodes on confidence.  #xxx is about MENTALLY PREPARING to communicate with  confidence.  #xxx is about how to boost your confidence in the moment.  I promise promise that the frameworks in these episodes will help you boost your confidence.


Now.  Arrogance. FWIW, I’ve never heard my kids complain about their teacher lacking confidence or even seeming shy  A few times they have complained about arrogant teachers who “quote – think they’re so great.”  Now, I get that they may have misinterpreted what was going on with their teacher.  But what’s important for us as educators to consider, is that in achieving the ideal level of confidence, we should consider not only how to boost our confidence, but also be conscious of where confidence becomes arrogance.  DO you know what I mean?


Awhile ago I wrote about confidence in the Talk About Talk newsletter.  Let me read to you the attributes of someone who is confident, then of someone who is arrogant.



  1. is rooted in positivity, optimismand learning opportunities
  2. Confident people are internallyfocused and intrinsically
  3. CONFIDENCE means humility and respect for others, and being an active listener.
  4. Confident people learn from their mistakes and they’re willing to take the blame.


  1. is rooted in insecurity and defensiveness. Arrogant people seek to protecttheir reputation.
  2. Arrogant people are externallyfocused on what others think of them. They are self-absorbed and they have no time to actively listen to others. 
  3. Arrogant people fear of criticism. They point fingersand blame others.


When I look at these two lists, there is one term that comes to mind. GROWTH MINDSET.  And I think this is a key insight for communicating as an educator. If you truly have a growth mindset when you’re teaching, that will build your confidence and even prevent you from being arrogant.  Certainly you have things to learn too, right?  Not just the students.

 The 4th insight is about communicating the material through multi-media. For starters, we know there are auditory learners visual learners, experiential learners, and I could go on.  SO do your students a favour and vary the media that you use in your teaching materials.  Let them hear it, read it, watch it, write it, play with it,… the more media you use, the better.


Of course the students will be more engaged because it’s more interesting when they’re not just reading or just listening, but they’re reading and listening and writing and playing and and and…


There’s all sorts of research out there, some of which I listed in the shownotes that shows the mor you layer various learning media, the better students learn.  It’s not surprising, right?

side of your students brains () and the left side () with learning material.  Suddenly their whole brain is engaged.


The last insight I want to share with you is to embrace technology. As a teacher, chances are you might be a generation or so older than your students.  And they might be lightyears ahead of you in terms of their technology expertise.  But it’s worth it to make an effort to employ technology in your teaching., for several reasons.


Of course this relates to the multi-media recommendation that I just mentioned. Media is technology, and by exposing your students to various media, you’re probably employing technology.  That’s a great start.  It’ll make the lessons mor engaging for students.  But technology can also help you with things like administrative duties, your grading, and your communication with students’ parents and with administrators.


In just a minute you’re going to hear from my gust Chris Besse. Chris said that when it comes to technology,  if you walked into a classroom today, it wouldn’t be much different than what it looked like when we were in school, or even when our parents were in school –  very teacher centric, with lectures and textbooks. Prior to COVID, the education sector has one of the slowest adoption rates for digital technologies at just 2-3% of total spending. As you’ll hear in a moment, there are so so many advantages of employing technology.


Did you get all that? My top 5 communication insights from teaching are:

  1. Accept advice about what NOT to do, common teaching pitfalls, at face value. However, take prescriptive advice about what you SHOULD do in the classroom with a grain of salt. 
  2. Leverage the power of stories and storytelling in the classroom
  3. Seek the ideal level of confidence with a growth mindset
  4. Go multi-media
  5. Embrace technology


I hope these insights help you and give you something to think about.


OK, now let me introduce you to Chris Besse:


Chris Besse is Chief Commercial Officer and member of the board of Edsby®, an award-winning SaaS-based digital platform combining learning management features with advanced assessment, reporting and parent communication. He is deeply passionate about growing and transforming the education sector having spent over thirty years building businesses in education. He’s also been an active contributor to numerous boards and committees exploring innovation and excellence in education. Prior to Edsby, Chris was CEO of EdgeMakers Inc, FreshGrade Inc and Managing Director, K-12, Nelson Education Ltd.


Dr. Andrea Wojnicki: Thanks so much for being here, Chris. 

Chris Besse: Oh, pleasure, Andrea, thank you for having me. 

AW: As I told you before, Chris, two of my kids go to a school that’s been using Edsby for years. And I’m a big fan. So I thought, why don’t we start by having you share with everyone? What is Edsby?

CB: That is awesome. I’m so glad that your kids are using it, and that you like it. So Edsby is really the most comprehensive digital learning and data system available in K to 12. It really is a central, virtual meeting spot for students and teachers, administrators and parents. It keeps everyone in the loop and engages all the stakeholders. So for students, they can see their class schedules and their assignments, they interact in a familiar private social media-like system, safe from the public internet. Parents see their child’s homework and grades. And even better, they get a window into their child’s. Teachers get course planning, attendance, assessment tools. And administrators can access district wide analytics and identify students at risk. Everybody gets what they need in real time in one app.

AW: I would love to elaborate in a minute on that collaboration, that communication, that’s a huge benefit of Edsby. But I just want to back up a minute and kind of state the obvious with what’s been going on in the world with the global pandemic, I’ve observed that Edsby and other education platforms have really accelerated in terms of their adoption and their proliferation in various educational environments. Can you talk a little bit about that?

CB: Yeah, absolutely. I mean,  you talk to anybody who’s in the digital education space, and they would say they’ve had rapid adoption ever since COVID-19 happened. COVID – for education, it’s been a real accelerator. And the reason is because like every other industry, we were forced to do things differently.  Education has stuck to the status quo for so many years. What would the OECD say? They know that student engagement has plummeted over the last 10 years and lost pace with technological advances.  the education sector has one of the slowest adoption rates for digital technologies at two to 3% of total spending. And generally speaking, if you walked into a classroom today, it wouldn’t be all that different than what it looked like when we were in school, or even when our parents were in school:  teacher centric, lectures and textbooks .

AW: right. 

CB: But what education has done extremely well is research. Research on optimizing what the learning environment should look like, and how to prepare our kids for the world that awaits them. The problem is there’s been this kind of buffer between what we know is good for learning, and what we’re actually doing for learning. And some of that research, I’d say, is what are those skills and competencies required for today’s learner?  We hear about 21st century learning. What does that mean? Well, it means how do we build competency in our kids around creativity, around communication, collaboration, critical thinking, computing and character education? These are vital to students in their learning as we move forward? How do we move to a student-centric learning model where students are empowered in their own learning, where teachers are guiding and framing and assessing and coaching? And then lastly, how do we leverage digital tools to drive greater efficiencies in the learning process. So we’ve had this disconnect between what we know is best and implementing what is best. So COVID hits in March. 98% of the world’s student population’s schools close. We have no choice but to move to this alternative mode of education delivery. I mean, this was just thrown upon us, and it was thrown upon education leaders and educators and teachers, etc. And they had to transition on the fly, as did parents. I mean, all of a sudden, parents were hosting the school.

AW: Right. 

CB: And I heard this great quote from one of Canada’s leading superintendents, where he called the pandemic “a fuel for transformation”. And it’s no different than any other sector. Businesses are operating remotely, what’s happened to restaurants, what’s happened to just our social lives, etc. We’ve learned to adapt because that’s what human beings do. And education is no different. So the barriers protecting the status quo have been forced down, and we now have this incredible opportunity to implement what we already know is best for learning. 

AW: Right. So I love that take, there is a silver lining, right? It has served as a catalyst to accelerate our advancement in education, in medicine, and some businesses have pivoted and flourished as well. Can you talk a little bit about how the adoption of educational technology platforms like Edsby will improve learning opportunities for students? How is it going to enrich the learning experience?

CB: Well, at the core of it is it optimizing communication, collaboration and connection between the stakeholders in learning, namely, obviously, the student, the teacher, and the parent, those are the key stakeholders. And so you need some sort of central communication tool that allows that to happen.

AW: So can I just interject and say, as a parent, it is fantastic to have access to this platform where I can see what’s upcoming. So on the weekend, I can say, hey, you have a test on Tuesday, you need to study. And also I can see test scores immediately. I don’t have to wait for report cards, and communication and collaboration really is – are the two words that I would say, kind of sum up one of the biggest benefits, at least as a parent. 

CB: Historically, students have been the gatekeepers of information flow between the school and the home. What information did you have about your child’s learning? iI really came in three modes. One was the report card you mentioned. And what’s a report card? It’s a piece of paper that comes out three times a year, and with a bunch of numbers or letters on it. What does that really mean about my child’s learning? So you have that. And then you have these parent teacher interviews, which are more like speed dating events, where you have your five minutes, you get into no depth really, and understanding regarding how your child is doing. And then the third, and probably most important flow of information comes from your own child. And that’s usually,  how was school today? What did you do at school today? And  the typical answer of a child is I’m not sure, I don’t know. So you don’t really get a lot of information.

AW: How was your day? Great. What did you learn? Nothing.

CB: Exactly. And so now, when, as you said, you have a front row seat at your child’s learning, because you have access to their learning. The conversation when your child gets home changes, it’s not what did you do at school today? It’s, hey, I saw you speaking French, what were you saying? That was really cool. Or, I saw your project you were presenting that was really interesting. And now your child lights up, because they want to tell you, and it changes the dynamics. So the scientists would say that is so powerful around brain development, etc., and around empowering kids around their learning. So you’re absolutely right, that’s one of the best thing. And I would add, also, if you’re a straight-A student, or you have a child as a straight-A student, that’s not as much an issue, but many of our kids are vulnerable, they’re having issues learning. They’re stressed. And when a parent can actually see and help and support…  Because parents want to do anything for their child. And as you said, when you can see that they’ve got a homework assignment due next week, or a test that they’re preparing for, at least you can remind them and encourage them to prepare. So for parents, it brings them right into the equation.

AW: So you mentioned that education platforms like Edsby are shifting the focus from being teacher-centric, to student-centric. And that’s a little bit of what you’re describing. Can you elaborate on that a little?

CB: Yeah. So it’s really about allowing students to take ownership of their learning. So that the teacher is more framing the learning, supporting the learner and coaching them through their learning experience. So delivery can certainly be student-led and teacher framed.

AW: right. 

CB: When students are empowered around their learning, they’re obviously more engaged, because they own their own learning. And when they’re more engaged, the learning is just so much richer. So if a student can come in, and they can see what they’re responsible for learning, they can go through their course content, they can provide that information to their teacher, their teacher can give them immediate feedback on that… It just changes the learning process. They’re not sitting back sitting in their seat, listening to a teacher with their 25 other peers, looking up at a blackboard and trting to take that in. It’s really the opposite of that. 

AW: So as you’re describing that, you’re reminding me of a thought that I had, as I was preparing for this interview, I’d never explicitly thought about this before. But online platforms like Edsby are teaching our children how to learn, right? They’re not being passive, they’re learning to be proactive to accessing the various resources that are available to them, obviously, on the Edsby platform itself, and then beyond. And that really excites me, because I’m hoping that that’s going to enable my children and all children around the world to become more proactive learners, lifelong learners with a growth mindset. Do you guys have any learnings or insight about that?

CB: Of course,  we’re all lifelong learners. We go through a stage in our life when we’re young, where we go to formal institutions to actually develop the skills and competencies to be successful adults. Prior to the internet, let’s say where information was not as available as it is today, we had to provide that content and information as teachers to our students. As the world has evolved, there is so much information out there that students can access anytime, anywhere. So it’s not about learning the facts. It’s about dealing with it. So that’s where these competencies are so important. You need to teach our kids to be critical thinkers, we need to learn how to learn. I mean, that is most important. And I think that’s always been the purpose of our educational system. But with technology giving us access to subject matter experts, to all the information out there. It’s so very, very important. So you nailed it. It’s all about learning to learn.

AW: Yeah, I mean, it’s multimedia. And then even within each media type, it’s overwhelming the amount of resources that we have access to. 

CB: Yeah. 

AW: Is there anything else you want to add?

CB: I’d say just to other stakeholders, I think, these types of technologies are very important.  For teachers, teachers spend only 49% of their professional time interacting with their students. And that’s because of the administrative and prep time those burdens that sits upon them. One of the other areas that we look at, and it’s built into Edsby, is to take that burden off. Lessen it.  The less time they can spend preparing and administrating, it’s just better for our kids,

AW: I can see that.

CB: And then for administrators, we live in a data world now. And on top of all the efficiency that is gained on the system management, there’s a wealth of analytics that we provide that can help identify students at risk. You know, diagnosising students with learning issues, we usually are diagnosing them a little too late. So these are lagging indicators. But now with the data that we’re able to access, with these data sets, we can actually start to look at some patterns. And we can identify kids at risk. So more lead indicators, so that if they’re going to have some reading issues, we can pick that up when they’re 5,6,7 years old, rather than when they’re eight, nine years old, when it’s a lot more difficult to intervene on that. So I think the data analytics is also really, really important for our learners.

AW: That’s absolutely true. And I can tell you as a parent that I have immediate access right to what happened in my kids class today. 

CB: Yeah, so there’s no more report card lag and surprise report cards so there’s a report card every day. That’s the that’s the nice thing is you can go every day and see how they’re doing. Exactly. 

AW: Thank you so much. 

CB: You’re welcome. 

Transcribed by https://otter.ai


No “5 Rapid Fire Qs” for Chris Besse.  As I mentioned, this interview was recorded as part of a big online conference called “ENSEMBLE: The Future of Learning.”  A high-quality video of the whole conference video is available online.  I’ll leave a link to that online conference in the shownotes.  You’ll hear an excerpt of my interview with Chris Besse, but also many others.  My favourite was probably when media guru Amber Mac interviewed the new President of OCAD University, Ana Serrano.  Such incredible thinkers those two.


The Ensemble conference organizers asked each of the conference speakers to share what they think about the future of learning.  Here’s what we said:


Hey, there, it’s Chris and the future of learning is right now and it’s transformational.


And the future of learning is collaborative. Technology enables communication, making learning more accessible and more interactive.


Ok – so thanks to Chris Besse.   I have to say that based on my meeting with Chris, I’m even more enthusiastic about the future of learning, especially with technology platforms like Edsby.  The rapid adoption by schools and school boards of technologies like these may be a silver lining of COVID. Suddenly, as Chris so succinctly put it, parents were hosting the school. I wonder what proportion of education spending goes toward technology NOW?


A few of the main reasons we should all be excited about this? Well, let me highlight five from this conversation.  Education platforms like Edsby:

  1. Shift the focus in education from being teacher centric to student centric.
  2. Improve communication (yes, the magic word, communication), and collaboration between the relevant stakeholders: students, teachers, parents and administrators
  3. Take some of the administrative burden off of educators. Chris said that teachers spend only 49% of their professional time interacting with their students. And that’s because of the administrative and prep time. Technology can shift this emphasis.
  4. Enable accessibility and immediacy of information and feedback regarding students’ progress. Edsby mitigates nasty report card surprises. Its like getting a report card every day. And more importantly it mitigates the late diagnoses of learning disabilities. And when the information is data, there’s so much potential here with data analytics, right?
  5. My favourite point: educational platforms like Edsby encourage students to learn how to learn. Suddenly, students have access to a familiar private social media-like system, it’s a central, virtual meeting spot for them. Guided by their educators, they can learn to explore what’s on that platform and beyond, and hopefully become life-long learners with a growth mindset.


Alright, that’s it. If you’re a teacher, an administrator, a parent, I would love to hear what you think about all this.  Please email me at Andrea@talkabouttalk.com, or check us out on social media.  We’re on LinkedIn, FB and IG.  I’ll leave links to our pages in the shownotes.


If you’re a parent looking for more advice on how to enable your child’s online learning, there’s  a Talk About Talk episode that can help you with that.  It’s episode #49 – parenting teens and online learning with learning strategist Kimberley Acres.  Lots of great parenting advice in that episode.  Kimberley has some fantastic ideas – definitely worth a listen.


Alright, that’s it except one last thing:  – if you’re not signed up for the Talk About Talk communication skills newsletter, please do!  This is your chance to get free communication skills coaching from me every week in a simple to digest email.  I promise  no spam and no more than one per week.  Just go to talk abouttalk.com to sign up or email me directly  and I’ll add you to the list. You can email me anytime at Andrea@TalkAboutTalk.com.


Thanks for listening.  And TALK SOON!


THANKS for listening – and READING!








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