The new iPads arrive at Lexington High School

This student, whom I cannot name because she's just 17, had found time to personalize hers...

Thursday morning I spoke to Michael Burgess’ class at Lexington High School. The format was much like one of Kelly Payne’s classes — the kids had a prepared list of questions, which is what I like. I hate a set speech, with me droning on and wondering whether anyone is interested. With questions, I at least know I’m addressing something my audience cares about — or something their teacher wants them to care about.

Sample questions:

1. How does the media influence the political process? Is this a positive or negative influence?
2. Discuss the impact of social media outlets on the political discourse of today?
3. What is the role of money in determining the outcome of elections?
4.Could you list and describe the various sources of funding for campaigns?
5.What is the real role versus the appropriate role of interest groups in influencing policy?

But my speech was definitely not the most interesting thing happening in those students’ school day, because I arrived on the same day as the new iPads.

I had trouble finding a place to park because the visitor spaces, I was told, were taken up by district people who were there for the iPad rollout.

Here’s a release on the Lexington One website about the new devices:

Last year (the 2010–2011 school year), Lexington County School District One successfully executed a personal mobile computing pilot at Gilbert High School as part of our ongoing search for ways to provide students with the tools they need to support their learning and to prepare them for higher education opportunities and careers.

At that time, we explained that we planned to expand the program to our other high schools.

This year (2011–2012), we are expanding personal mobile computing to our other three high schools. All high schools will begin issuing the devices in November.

The district feels strongly that its personal mobile computing initiative is not about the tool used. It is not about an iPad or a tablet. It is about what a personal mobile computing device enables our students to do.

With these devices, students will acquire the digital competence they need for our increasingly electronic- and technology-driven world. They will learn the essential skills they will need as consumers, citizens and workers.

The devices will give students access to the most current information available through the Internet and to the district’s Learning Management System 24 hours a day, seven days a week during the school year.

Students will be able to complete and turn in assignments, homework, projects or research electronically. Interactive applications will allow them to improve their reading fluency, build mathematics skills or create their own study cards.

Unfortunately, as yet, not all textbook publishers provide electronic copies of every textbook, so the district will not be able to eliminate textbooks. Teachers will be able, however, to supplement material found in textbooks with information they create using various multimedia or with information already available.

Lexington One purchased the personal mobile computing devices as part of the voter-approved 2008 Bond Referendum. That bond referendum included $15 million to expand and upgrade existing technology at all schools.

Read our Personal Mobile Computing Guide for high school students.

I should mention that the students were all politely attentive to my talk. I don’t think I could have been, with a new iPad in front of me…

48 thoughts on “The new iPads arrive at Lexington High School

  1. Doug Ross

    Sounds like a great plan to me. Kids are so responsible and would never use these devices for anything BUT learning.

    I would hope we would see a measurable improvement in test scores after one year. But you won’t. Technology for technology’s sake is just a waste of money. The kids have been using computers, smart boards, etc. for at least a decade and there is no difference in the outcomes. All it has done is created lazy students who cut-and-paste from Wikipedia or create pretty Powerpoints with a bunch of photos and garish fonts.

    It’s a boondoggle that no sane person would spend their own money on.
    But then it’s only $15 million dollars.

  2. Steven Davis

    Doug, I bet Facebook will receive more traffic on these things than Wikipedia.

    There are students in these schools who can’t read or write, and the districts are wasting money on things that can distract them in the classroom even more. I’m all for electronic textbooks and applications like Blackboard which will allow students to take tests, receive notes, and submit assignments electronically. If these devices aren’t locked down, they’re nothing more than toys for the kids.

  3. Brad

    I have to disagree, Doug. At first, I thought, “What? There’s no specific plan for how these would be used to enhance math or science or research skills?”

    But then I thought a bit further, and it occurs to me that simply putting these things in the kids’ hands provides them with just the sort of educational experience that many critics of K-12 education say kids need: Real-world skills.

    Just as it may make more sense to teach how to balance a checkbook than to learn the Chain Rule in calculus, giving kids an iPad and just turning them loose to do whatever with it might do more to prepare them for day-to-day life in the future than anything else they get from high school.

    To understand what I’m saying, don’t think about the kids in YOUR household, who have access to computers. Think about the kids who don’t and the windows this could open up. Yep, there’s plenty of room for mischief. But that’s because these devices open up the whole 21st century world, both good and bad.

    And having them perform basic tasks that they used to perform on paper prepares them far more for how they need to interact with the world going forward than neat penmanship will. I’ll say that another way: Even if there is no additional content being taught, doing the same assignments this way better prepares the students for their adult lives.

    My great regret is that no one has figured out how to break the grip of textbook companies so that this could be the only thing kids have to carry to school. That’s the way it SHOULD be, and everyone knows it. At some point, society will figure out a way around the textbook barrier.

  4. Brad

    Me, too. And I think it occurs to pretty much anyone who holds an iPad. So there’s only so long that the textbook companies can force kids to carry 50-pound packs about.

    As for that major expense of college, buying the books every semester, that should have reduced to a manageable fee already.

    What will happen to publishing, you ask? Well, nothing much worse than what has happened to newspapers. The world changes…

  5. SusanG

    I think they will eventually switch to using the iPad for textbooks — I know my niece, who’s a freshman at Anderson College was given an iPad this year and she does have her books on it — it saved a bunch of money, since they are just a fraction of the price of the regular textbook.

  6. Doug Ross

    So how will we know if this $15 million dollar experiment worked?

    This is Innovista in a handheld package. A solution in search of a problem funded by other people’s money. What real world skills will these kids be learning?

    I have owned computers since I was 17 in 1978. They are tools, not teachers.

  7. Steven Davis

    Doug, get with the SC public educational system… every good Carolinian knows the more money you throw at students the smarter they become.

  8. Kathryn Fenner

    My husband, the computer science professor gives open book/open notes exams, but it gets tough to prevent students from accessing human help from the outside when their textbooks are on their computers.

    A great aspect of online textbooks is that you can instantly find out the kinds of background information that used to clog up the works with endless footnotes, or I’d just gloss over and figure out from the context–most of the time correctly, but sometimes not.

  9. Norm Ivey

    I’ll begin by acknowledging my biases. I just completed my M.Ed. in Educational Technology. I teach in what my district calls an iPAC classroom (Personal, Authentic, Collaborative). My students and I use computers virtually every day in class as our primary tool for instruction, and we’ve been doing so for about 2.5 years. I am a constructivist, believing that students learn best when they build their own meaning.

    Steven and Doug are concerned about the students using their iPads for what teachers call off-task behavior (doing something other than the assigned work). And, yes, the kids do get off-task. But students with pencil, paper and textbooks also get off-task. One big difference, though, is that they are quietly off-task instead of disruptively off-task. They entertain themselves instead of trying to entertain their classmates. That’s not to say that’s a good reason to pass out technology to the kids; it’s just to say that iPads or computers are a wash as far as off-task behavior is concerned.

    I’ve experienced several unexpected benefits from our one-to-one computing environment. I no longer have to deal with students who arrive to class without pencil, paper or textbook, and that is no small thing. (Several years ago I decided to have pencils to give to kids when they arrived without them in order to avoid the disruption. I quit after exhausting my 2 gross before winter holidays.) Another benefit is that I have far fewer classroom interruptions from students who misbehave during instruction.

    Doug is also correct when he says that students copy and paste from Wikipedia. Some do. I don’t accept such work. It’s part of my job as a teacher to watch for this, correct it and help my students understand why it is wrong to do so. They did this before they had computers as well. It just took them longer. And they do choose some garish fonts. They’re sixth graders. Let them have their fun with that.

    Brad makes a very good point above. If education is the great equalizer and doorway to opportunity in our society, then access to technology must be part of that education. I can tell after only a few days which of my students have access to computers and Internet from home and which ones do not. And it’s not just about being able to use a computer, but a way of thinking and looking for information. We have textbooks in the classroom and online. We seldom use them. Why would you when you have access to virtually the entire Internet? I get just as excited as they do every time a kid calls me over and says, “Mr. Ivey, look at this!” and then shows me something related to what we are studying–something they discovered on their own.

    Richland School District 2 is moving toward a 1-to-1 computing environment. Here’s their parent information page about the initiative. Muller Road Middle School in RSD2 opened this year as an iPad school. No textbooks. No lockers. I visited the school with some other teachers a few weeks ago as part of our evaluation of what device to adopt at our school. There were some kids off-task, but no more than what you might expect to see in any other classroom. Some teachers were using the iPads as simple substitutes for traditional pencil-and-paper activities. In other classrooms (math in particular) students had pencil and paper and were using them. In still others, students were using the iPads in very creative ways–the art teacher had students creating advertising parodies that were as cool as any Wacky Package I have ever seen. I talked to several students. Some loved their iPads. Some hated them. Many said they would prefer a laptop, which is one reason our school is doing a trial run with Chromebooks. (Not quite a laptop, but not an iPad either.)

    Have computers helped my students? For some, I would say definitively, yes. For others, definitively, no. I think we have to have more widespread use over a longer period of time to make an honest evaluation. Even the research into programs further along than ours shows us that it’s not so much the device as how it is used in instruction that seems to make a difference.

  10. Doug Ross

    Which of these events do you believe WILL NOT occur in the coming months with the iPads?

    1) Inappropriate photos of underage students will be stored on them

    2) Cheating on tests will occur thru access to websites or instant messaging

    3) 5% of the iPads will be broken

    4) Student will forget to charge the iPad and have to interrupt class to plug it in

    5) Student drops out of school and refuses to return iPad without a lengthy delay

    6) A teacher will be video’d doing something inappropriate

    7) Several iPads will be reported “stolen”

    I’ve got an iPad. I use it to surf the web, play some games, watch videos. Give me some real ideas of what these iPads will be used for to enhance the educational experience.

    How about this – don’t hand out the iPads to anyone who hasn’t passed the exit exams? Make it an incentive.

    It’s always easiest to spend other people’s money on frivolous items under the banner of “it’s for the children”.

    1. Peyton Rose

      our iPads have a lot of restrictions, we are very limited on them. When they are broken, the STUDENTS pay for them, not the school. It has helped me and several others a lot honestly. Not having to carry 15 books around is very easy and helpful.

  11. Doug Ross

    Online textbooks are fine. But you don’t need an iPad to access online textbooks.

    A 1 dollar DVD with PDF files on it would be a better solution.

  12. bud

    Just as it may make more sense to teach how to balance a checkbook than to learn the Chain Rule in calculus, giving kids an iPad and just turning them loose to do whatever with it might do more to prepare them for day-to-day life in the future than anything else they get from high school.

    The chain rule. Now that’s a flash from the past. I used to be pretty good at it. No I’ve never used the chain rule since I left college. But I would suggest knowing stuff like that helps you become a problem solver. Learning to solve differential equations in a pressure filled environment of testing makes you think better and grasp details more clearly. And it helps you understand the world in a more profound and enriching way. Simply learning basic rote problem solving such as the ability to balance a check book is fine but I’m not sure that type of skill requires a great deal of problem solving skill. And I never balance my check book any more. It’s a waste of time with instant access to your bank account and a very limited amount of check writing. I say teach kids as much detailed difficult stuff as you can. They’ll learn how to do the important stuff along the way.

  13. Doug Ross


    I appreciate your detailed response. This one item though gives me pause:

    “Several years ago I decided to have pencils to give to kids when they arrived without them in order to avoid the disruption. I quit after exhausting my 2 gross before winter holidays.”

    So the expectation is that a kid who can’t remember a 5 cent pencil is responsible enough to own a $500 iPad?

    Rather than handing out 2 gross of pencils, I guess I would have given the kids three pencils and then giving extra homework, etc. as a “reminder” after that. The whole culture of education has changed over the years to set the bar lower and lower rather than enforcing some measure of responsibility. I saw it with my own kids – a failed test could be erased by going to a help session and then taking the test over again (which results in kids putting in less study time in the first place when they know the out is there). Also points would be added to tests simply for bringing in canned goods (defeating the notion of charity).

    I’m even seeing it at the college level now where my son’s English teacher is allowing the students to rewrite all their papers by the end of the term to increase their grades.

  14. Brad

    I was the kid who didn’t bring the pencil. I had a teacher in junior high who punished me for that, which was pointless — nothing she could do IN the class could make me remember to bring something from OUT of the class.

    Over the weekend, we were out running errands, and my wife asked, “Why didn’t you think to bring (blank)?” My answer: “Because I didn’t.”

    Excuse me for getting way existential, but you can’t think of something if you don’t think of it…

  15. bud

    I’m with Brad. Punishing a kid for losing a pencil does zero for helping him remember next time. That’s a conservative solution that just won’t work.

  16. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Doug–I realize you have other issues with your son’s English teacher, but isn’t rewriting a great way to improve skills, and giving a better grade is an incentive for the student to actually do it.

    As the wife of a forgetter, I will say that he’s more likely to forget the little things than the big ones. He’s lost cheap sunglasses, but never his expensive prescription glasses, and certainly never his laptop. I even noticed it the first nice pen I got: a Cross pen for high school graduation I still have. I make sure I get it back when someone borrows it, vs. a cheapo Bic-type pen. I think pencils are expendable–forgettable–more so than iPads.

    @ Brad– I also notice that my forgetful husband does not often forget the things that are truly important to him. I suspect the perspicacious Miz Dubs has noticed this about you, too.

  17. Norm Ivey

    Doug makes the valid argument that the iPads will be misused, abused and taken advantage of. I expect that every one of his concerns will occur, though probably not in large numbers. Most of the scenarios reflect the low level of morality or self-respect of the individual involved. People like that are like that, and they will be like that with or without the iPads. I’m not sure those concerns are good enough reasons to keep the iPads out of the hands of the larger group that will use them responsibly.

    The textbook companies charge nearly as much for a CD with PDF files as they do for a traditional textbook. It’s illegal to simply burn the online textbook to a CD or DVD.

    I don’t use extra homework as a punishment. My job is to help a child learn. If I use homework as a punishment, I am teaching the child that school and education are negative things. The type of child who doesn’t have a pencil is also the type of child who’s unlikely to have his homework, so the punishment of extra homework means nothing. It’s not as much of an issue now, but I allow the student to borrow a pencil from a classmate or to take the natural consequences of his actions and assign a grade of zero for the day’s work.

    I allow students to re-take tests and re-do assignments. The test or assignment itself becomes a teaching tool. If the student misses the question about how photosynthesis and respiration are related, then he and I both know what he needs to study. The first naivete that I had to overcome as a teacher is that all kids learn about the same. They do not. Some take longer to learn.

    On one point, Doug and I agree–the passing out of extra credit for some non-educational task (like food donations). It’s especially offensive at the high school level where grades become a competitive measure for class rank and college admission.

    There’s an app for that…

    @Brad: I have learned to choose my “why” questions carefully.

    Good “why” question to ask a student: Why do flowers exhibit bright colors and pleasant sells?

    Bad “why” question to ask a student: Why would you think it’s OK to take the long way to the trash can and flick your friend’s ear as you walk by?

  18. Doug Ross


    I said give him three chances first. The liberal solution apparently is to create the dependency mindset that says someone else will take care of your problems.

    It’s pretty sad that we can’t have any expectations of responsibility. I know, it might hurt little Bradley’s self-esteem if we made him feel badly about always forgetting his stuff. I’m sure he’ll grow out of it one day.

  19. Doug Ross


    I’d agree with you if a) my son had received a single graded paper back as of today (three months into the semester) and b) the professor actually wrote copious notes on a paper to indicate where it might be improved. Care to bet on the latter happening?

  20. Doug Ross


    Do you think there is the potential for lawsuits against the district when (not if) inappropriate photos are found on the district-provided laptops? Let’s say boy X gets a compromising photo of girl Y while they are dating and after they break up, X decides to share the photos with his buddies who save them on them on the iPad. Let’s say girl Y is 15 years old. Think Y’s parents will be looking to confiscate all the iPads?

  21. bud

    Speaking of forgetfullness, has anyone besides me and Rick Perry ever had a major brain freeze when they delivered a talk of some kind? I often forget the names of major celebrities. But I’ve always had that problems so I don’t put any particular medical implications to it, it’s just the way my brain works. I’ll be much more worried if I forget how to solve some mathematics related problem.

  22. Steven Davis

    I disagree, if you have to sit through class without a pencil you’ll remember to bring one next time. If the teacher just continues to give you a pencil, you expect the teacher to give you a pencil.

    But then, the way bud sees things and the way I see things are totally opposite. I don’t expect people to give me things and do learn lessons especially when they’re the hard way.

  23. Steven Davis

    To add to my previous statement. I know a college professor who had problems with students walking in late to his class. Now he locks the door 5 minutes after class starts. If you come to class 6 minutes late, you don’t get in. If you leave, you don’t get back in. Guess how this affected attendance… yep, his tardy students were cut by nearly 100%. You also don’t want to text or surf the web in his class either.

  24. Brad

    Doug, I didn’t get my feelings hurt. I just thought it was pointless. I can’t remember now HOW she penalized me — it was probably a 0 on a daily grade or something — but I know it didn’t help.

    To Steven’s example — I had a teacher in high school (yes, Burl, at Radford) in the period right after lunch, and SHE was always late. So I would pick up a popsicle stick from the ground outside (Radford was arranged like a motel, with all classes opening upon an open-air sidewalk), slip it behind the thingy that holds the locked door, and pop it open. Easy as pie; there was a gap more more than a quarter inch.

    She never did figure out how we were always waiting for her when she deigned to show up.

    One time, I got particularly bored waiting for her, and decided to sabotage her slide projector — a simple matter of unscrewing the long tube containing the lens, and inserting a wad of paper near the lens and far from the hot bulb. (Not that I never did anything destructive; I simply disrupted). It took her a LONG time, trying to focus that blob of light on the screen, to figure out the problem. Then, she — did I mention this was a German class — she strode up and down before the class, with a manner highly reminiscent of a Stalag commandant, demanding to know who had done it. This amused me for a time, but when she started giving individual students the third degree in front of everybody, and actually flinging completely unfounded accusations at them as she got more and more frustrated, I finally said, “This is enough — I did it.”

    Funny thing was, she refused to believe me. This class was mostly underclassmen (German I), and I was a senior. I had only taken it as a crib course to rest between my much harder classes, such as Algebra 5 and analytical geometry. (Actually, I had some fun in those classes, too, but that’s for another day.)

    She said something like, “Don’t waste my time!” and started to turn away from me, and another kid said “No, really, he did it!” Some people crack under pressure. The rat.

    So she sent me to the principal’s office — Principal Yamamoto. As Burl can tell you, no one got to see The Ghost Who Walks (Burl’s pet name for Mr. Yamamoto), so I saw an assistant principal.

    He said, “You’re a senior, right?” Yes. “And you did WHAT?” And I told him. “Don’t you think this is all a little bit ridiculous?” I said yes. And he released me on my own recognizance.

    Where was I? Oh, yeah…

    I probably would have had some fun with an iPad (and I KNOW Burl, the author of the school’s underground newspaper, would have). But I wouldn’t have hurt it any.

  25. `Kathryn Fenner

    @Doug– I sure wouldn’t take that lawsuit on contingency in this state. The courts don’t look kindly on “blame the messenger” lawsuits in this state.

    Sexting is already a problem. That horse has left the barn a while back. Furthermore, I’m far more likely to back confiscating cellphones, with little academic merit, over confiscating iPads.

  26. `Kathryn Fenner

    I think you look at the balance of potential harm to the potential benefit. As Norm puts it, sure some kids will screw up with the iPads, but a just system doesn’t penalize everyone for a few chuckleheads.

    and about the English prof–PLEASE have your son contact the appropriate authorities. If no one knows there’s a problem, it can’t be fixed. See Penn State.

  27. Burl Burlingame

    In Hawaii, “Yamamoto” is like “Smith.” Most people don’t carry that baggage.

    Doug thinks it only takes a DVD. Well, you have to play it on something, and an iPad (or Kindle or whatever) is actually designed to be a reading tool. iPads are NOT computers. They don’t do any computing. Words are words, and it’s inefficient to distribute textbooks on paper and they are immediately outdated. The textbook industry is a huge hustle.

  28. Doug Ross


    An iPad certainly does computing. Every single app is a computer program running in a CPU.

    How many students in Lexington DON’T already have a computer with a DVD device? A cheap netbook with a DVD drive would cost far less than an iPad. Give them out to the kids who don’t have computers at home.

    And riddle me this, Batman… if the iPad is really only useful with a wireless internet connection, what are the kids who don’t have internet at home supposed to do? And what is the additional cost for network bandwith to support all these iPads?

    This is a boondoggle if I ever saw one. Nobody on the school boards that approve these programs ever has to provide a cost/benefit analysis.

    What we need to do is pay teachers more not shift the expense to a piece of glass and silicon.

  29. Steven Davis

    iPads don’t do any computing… funny, I have a calculator on mine, it can scan barcodes and find less expensive vendors, it plays games nearly as well as a computer. I don’t think a Kindle can do any of those.

  30. Doug Ross


    The new Kindle Fire release this week can. I bought one. Runs the Android operating system. $199 bucks. Connected to Amazon Prime ($79/year), you get plenty of free video content plus one free book rental a month plus 5 gb of cloud storage.

    Now what Lexington should be doing is starting an apps development curriculum. Just like Blythewood has an exceptional culinary program, high schools need to provide environments that teach work ethic, job skills, and hands-on experiences.

  31. Norm Ivey

    Part of the discussion in evaluating the various devices available for our school to choose from (iPad, Droid tablet, Laptop, Chromebook) was how useful the device was once they get home and have no wireless connection to the Internet. The iPad had a distinct advantage because many of the apps allowed the user to continue to practice the relevant skill at home without a connection.

  32. bud

    high schools need to provide environments that teach work ethic, job skills, and hands-on experiences.

    I agree 110% with that statement. Kids should be able to do all of the following by the time they graduate HS:

    1. Understand basic nutrition including how to cook a healthy meal
    2. Read at a proficient level
    3. Perform basic algebra
    4. Drive a car
    5. Swim
    6. Ride a bicycle
    7. Balance a checkbook
    8. Have a workable understanding of computers and programming.
    9. Be able to change the oil in a car.
    10. Understand basic American History
    11. Run a mile in under 8 minutes (unless physically restricted)
    12. Perform basic carpentry.
    13. Perform basic electrician work.
    14. Know how to care for a dog or cat.
    15. Be able to play chess.

    And perhaps others. Too little emphasis is put on these basics. once these skills are mastered then a good understanding of the Arts, Science, Literature and Mathematics would be helpful in learning how to think.

  33. Doug Ross


    What apps are the kids using in a disconnected mode? What percentage would you estimate do not have wireless at home?

  34. `Kathryn Fenner

    Not sure I see the point of being able to run a mile (as someone who cannot run because my knees self-destruct, I have gotten along very well without it.) Some basic physical fitness, yes, totally.

    Chess, why? Ditto carpentry? Why not sew on a button and mend a hem. Be able to cook a week’s worth of reasonably healthy meals, from scratch. Shop for the ingredients. Clean a house. Do laundry without wrecking the clothes.

  35. Doug Ross

    How about change a diaper, read a book out loud to a kid, stand in front of a room and explain something, shake hands, tell a joke, put together an Ikea bookcase (masters class), sit quietly for 15 minutes without an electronic device.

  36. Steven Davis

    Why carpentry??? Why not? How many people do you know these days who have to call a carpenter when a doorknob falls off? I had a neighbor who had to call a plumber because a sink in their bathroom was clogged.

    Kathryn, do you want to bring back FHA? You’re the last person I’d guess here who’d suggest girls take Future Homemakers of America classes.

  37. Norm Ivey

    I collected data the first week of school. 87% of my kids have computers at home. 80% have internet. I didn’t ask about wireless. I assume that it’s necessarily less than 80%, however. That’s in RSD2 (Summit Parkway MS). I make myself available before and after school for those kids without Internet access at home.

    As a science teacher, I only reviewed apps that were applicable to my content. Most were some form of dictionary or vocabulary resource. I also found a metric conversion app that worked offline. There are several offline apps that were variations on the Rube Goldberg theme–useful for my content area because they utilize simple machines and problem-solving skills. There also also apps for body systems, periodic table and astronomy that I assume work offline. These types of apps are simply databases.

  38. bud

    Ok, the chess thing was a bit self-serving. My only point is there are many avenues to a productive and fullfilling life. And then there are basics. Both should be addressed while a person in still in high school. Why not expand what we require our young people and not dumb down the curriculum. And there is certainly room for 21st century skills in the mix. But lets not forget the 19th century skills while we’re doing this.

  39. Jonah

    Being a student at this school, I can tell you, grades are dropping like stones. Most of my peers are only using the iPads for personal use instead of for the educational purposes intended. Playing games and using. The Internet are popular ways of passing time in class. Most teachers found out at the end of the first semester just what these students were doing. The school distric should reconsider their decision and stick with pen and paper.


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