Podcasting: A Tool for Blended Learning

This week I am sharing a post I wrote for Kasey Bell @shakeuplearing. Check out the post on Kasey’s website CLICK HERE.

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Addressing Anti-Semitism After the January 6th Attack on the Capital

Last week’s attack on the Capital is something that shook up the world and also brought attention to the vile, pervasive white supremacy in America today. Images of insurgents wearing “Camp Auschwitz” and “Six Million Wasn’t Enough” shirts to carrying confederate flags, to a noose hanging outside the Capital building affirms that anti-semitism and Neo-Nazis, hatred and racism, are not only something of America’s history and dark past. White supremacy is alive and well, and last week’s terror attack continues to affirm this.

Amy Spitalnick writes in a blog post for Integrity First for America, a nonprofit organization dedicated civil rights and equal justice, how “the capital attack followed the Charlottesville playbook in many ways: On both mainstream and fringe social media sites, these extremists planned violence in explicit detail. They then show sup with weapons in tactical gear, prepared for the violence they planned. Both are field by the idea of the “country being stolen from them.” And now, far right extremists are using the attack to recruit and organize online, with all indications pointing to the potential of more violence in the coming weeks.”

The Anti-Defamation League reports 2,107 hate crimes against Jewish people nationwide in 2019, according to the organization’s annual survey. That’s the highest the number since the ADL began tallying hate crimes in 1979. In 2020 the number of hate crimes around the world only increased. Hannahmichelledraws created and posted the image below on her Instagram account to highlight 9 antisemitic incidents in December 2020 alone.

We must allow for space and time in our classrooms and around the dinner table for conversations about dismantling racism, hatred, and anti-semitism.

Here are some resources to support these conversations:

21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge from America and Moore

Teaching Tolerance recommends the resources below to help teach about Jewish identities and antisemitism: 

When teaching social justice and WW2 with my middle school students we start with the Anti-Defamation League’s Pyramid of Hate. The Pyramid shows biased behaviors, growing in complexity from the bottom to the top. Although the behaviors at each level negatively impact individuals and groups, as one moves up the pyramid, the behaviors have more life-threatening consequences. Students read choice novels about WW2 and the Holocaust that coincides with studying about WW2 in social studies.

Classroom Resources for Teaching the Holocaust

Here is a curated list of 50 social justice books from the nonprofit Teaching for Change. Here is a second, broken down by grade level, by The National Network of State Teachers of the Year. On this blog I have shared out the playlists and projects that my students create that coincide with their reading and research about WW2 and social justice. You can check out more of these posts or grab a copy of the WW2 playlist HERE.

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5 Teaching & Talking Points for Washington, DC January 6th, 2021

We ended 2020 with promise and possibility. A vaccine for the Corona Virus, a woman of color to be our next Vice President, Black Lives Matter at the forefront, a congress and senate that is diverse and representative of our nation. And then on Wednesday January 6th, 2021 a mob of pro-Trump people stormed the State Capital following a rally where President Trump “falsely claimed of widespread voter fraud.” The New York Times reports, “Hundreds of people barreled past fence barricades and clashed with police officers in an attempt to disrupt the certification of the Electoral College results.” The mob smashed windows and broke through the main doors moving freely throughout the building, some vandalizing statues, carrying confederate flags, and taking pictures of their endeavors. The images displayed through social media and presented on news evoked feelings of terror, embarrassment, and appal.

Image from Leah Millis/Reuters Published in New York Times 1/7/2021

Reactions around the globe are of disdain, dismay, and doubt of the stability of the United States Democracy. It was the War of 1812 when the British set fire to the Capital building. And now in 2021, a collective of Pro-Trump Americans inciting violence and treason stormed the capital building. History is being made everyday.

How do we as history and English teachers address these events in a ways that promotes conversation, not division and greater divide?

Depending on the age level of your students, here are some possible avenues to engage in conversations in our classrooms relating to yesterday’s events.

  1. Examine The History of the US Capitol Building through Architect of the Capital website published by the government. On the website it states, “The history of the United States Capitol Building begins in 1793. Since then, the U.S. Capitol has been built, burnt, rebuilt, extended and restored.. . . it stands as a monument to the ingenuity, determination and skill of the American people.”
  2. Teach a lesson on Fake News. So much of what Trump has posted on Twitter and spoken about to the country is false. He throws around the concept of “fake news” since the beginning of his presidency. But what really is fake news and which information is correct? Check out the New York Times Fact Checks website that details the falsehoods and misleading statements from our political leaders. Although the Newseum in Washington, DC closed its doors last year, their resources for Fake News lesson plans and resources from the Education Department are very valuable.
  3. Re-examine the Constitution and the 25th Amendment. Right now the conversation is whether Trump is fit to hold office for the remaining 13 days. Trump has shown over the past four years his disregard of the Constitution. Allow students to closely study the Constitution and decide whether or not Trump should remain in power. For more historical details and debates, check out Representative Barbara Jordan’s speech on impeachment back in 1974.

4. Read a Dystopian Text. Right now my students are reading Animal Farm and although Orwell wrote this book to parody the Russian Revolution, there are so many passages that connect with our political parties today. Whether addressing propaganda or rebellion, revolt, and revolution, these fiction tales of dystopian communities are a mirror to current events. Essential questions can address, Does power have to corrupt? and Can we protect ourselves from manipulation?

5. Parlay, a discussion based platform and learning tool, showcased two lessons reflecting on January 6, 2021. Both addressing topics of government and civics. In one discussion prompt students respond to the provided questions or post a question of their own. The following sources are used to kickstart the discussion:

Parlay has many more government and civics related lessons. The questions designed by Parlay can also be used for online discussions on a Google Jamboard, Padlet, or Flipgrid responses.

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Highlights of 2020

2020 has been a challenging year for many of us. From health, schooling, financial, and social emotional highs and lows; we have all faced hurdles. My heart goes out to those who have lost loved ones and are struggling right now.

Schooling made tremendous shifts with technology and teaching. The learning curve was huge for families, students, and educators. For me, we went 100% remote in the spring in the matter of a weekend only to go back in a hybrid setting this fall. I saw my students take the lead and others completely shut down. I have learned that there is no perfect model and every student is unique. The debates continue to address whether standardized testing is necessary during a pandemic (NO!), should we compassionately grade our students (Still, undecided), and what will the future of school look like post COVID-19.

At the same time I was teaching, I did not stop writing and sharing insight from my own classroom learning. I published a Jump Start Guide with ISTE on Podcasting with students this fall highlighting tools and tips for helping students become creative communicators. I love offering my students alternatives to the traditional English assignments.

I am grateful to be a guest on a number of educational podcasts. These were all personal highlights:

Writing Matters is the perfect podcast for professional development and personal learning from Writable. I was interviewed by Troy Hicks in September 2020. You can listen to the full podcast HERE.

In early December I spoke with Dr. Monica Burns of Class Tech Tips about creating podcasts with students. Her podcast show and weekly newsletters offer so many great tips for teachers.

This fall I was also featured on BAM! Radio Network with Carl Hooker sharing ways to inspire students to love writing. I highlighted tools and strategies that have the ability to turn reluctant writers into writing enthusiasts.

There were virtual conferences galore to support educators and best practices for blended learning. I was honored to present at edtechteam’s virtual summits, ISTE20, and NYSCATE. You can visit my resources page on this blog to access the slide deck for each of these presentations.

What I am looking forward to the most in 2021 is the possibility of getting a COVID vaccine and being able to see my family and friends again. I hope that we will be able to attend conferences in person and I can see a Broadway show in the new year. There are more books to read and great movies to watch. As every year, I wish for peace on earth and everyone healthy and safe. I think of the mentors and models around me who inspire me everyday and think about what James Clear, author of  Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones said,

“All big things come from small beginnings. The seed of every habit is a single, tiny decision. But as that decision is repeated, a habit sprouts and grows stronger. Roots entrench themselves and branches grow. The task of breaking a bad habit is like uprooting a powerful oak within us. And the task of building a good habit is like cultivating a delicate flower one day at a time.” 

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Getting Peachy with Pear Deck

Pear Deck seems to be calling me this fall. In an online workshop on Hybrid teaching with Emma Pass @emmabpass she raved about Pear Deck being one of her favorite edtech tools. Additionally, the technology specialists at my school offered two workshops on Pear Deck integration into our hybrid model. My science teacher now says it has changed her teacher life for the better. Due to the universe pointing me in the Pear Deck direction, I decided to update a few activities with Pear Deck and see for myself the benefits of using this digital platform.

Pear Deck is awesome because of the ability to directly add interactive questions (multiple choice, short answer, drawing, matching) into Google Slides (or Power Point). This capability makes it easy to collect formative assessment data when delivering a lesson synchronously remote or in person. There is also an option to make the lesson “self-paced” so students can move through the lesson independently and interact with materials, follow links, and answer questions. Here is a video that provides a little overview:

Here are some additional benefits to using Pear Deck:

  • The “Classroom Climate” when turned on allows students to reflect on their mood pre-lesson, post lesson, and students can reflect on how they thought the lesson went.
  • Utilize and turn on “Immersive Reader” for slides in your Pear Deck Sessions.
  • Using the Templates from the “Templates Library,” “Orchard” and “Weekly Wonders” provides innovative ways to have students engage with the content they are studying. The Orchard has ready-made templates that are edible and adaptable. You can drop them into any of your lessons. Weekly wonders are curated content from educational and inspirational sources on the web — think Wonderopolis. Each week three decks are released and each includes a video or article paired with 2-3 discussion prompts and short activity.
  • The Teacher Dashboard allows you to see work in real time and provide meaningful and timely feedback.
  • “Takeaways” allows you to publish personalized review Doc for teach student that contains every Pear Deck slide and that student’s response. This allows for feedback for students and material review.
  • Pear Deck has teamed up with Newsela to create free, ready to teach activities. Every Monday, five decks are released featuring an adaptive news article and interactive prompts to help explore current events. They are designed to help improve literacy, enhance critical thinking skills, and build classroom community

I am currently teaching in a Hybrid learning model with half of my students remote and the other half in person. Taking a teaching idea I found on Teachers Pay Teachers of “Figurative Language Truth or Dare” I adapted the questions onto Google Slides with Pear Deck for a live game of Truth or Dare. Students were given options to respond to a truth or a dare question/activity. Most students told me they enjoyed the choice and were able to review figurative language in an engaging way.

Need more reasons to use Pear Deck with your students? Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook created this video on teaching lessons remotely with Pear Deck and he offers a dozen or more ideas how to use Pear Deck with your students on his blog:

Pros – Students will appreciate the interactivity of the slideshows, which get them drawing, writing, and responding to teacher-created prompts and polls. Slideshows peppered with interactive assessments can support students’ understanding and retention. 

Cons – Some students might use the slides to write what ever they wanted. For example, one of my students during Figurative Language Truth or Dare decided to draw a ladybug instead of matching the similes and metaphors – it was clear that he wasn’t engaged in the lesson.

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10 Books to Gift in 2020

Favorite YA Titles of 2020 . . . 

I fell in love with Daniel Nayeri’s book on the first page. Like Sheherizad and the one thousand tales who tells a story every night to help stay alive, a young Daniel tells the story of his journey to America to find safety with his family to keep his memories alive. His tale is one of intrigue, adventure, destruction, love and sadness that takes your breath away. Nayeri weaves Persian mythology and folklore as it parallels his own awakening and understanding of the complexities losing one’s home and family after leaving Iran, detour in Dubai and Italy before coming to Oklahoma. But most people are not welcoming towards him, his family or refugees. as you know. This story will have you laughing and crying all on the same page. His adolescent insight ranges from detailed imagery of Persian food, American culture, and even poop. His stories engage readers as well as his classmates in Oklahoma who see him as an outsider and bully him constantly. 

Penguin Random House writes about the The Black Friend: On Being a Better White Person, “Speaking directly to the reader, The Black Friend calls up race-related anecdotes from the author’s past, weaving in his thoughts on why they were hurtful and how he might handle things differently now. Each chapter features the voice of at least one artist or activist, including Angie Thomas, author of The Hate U Give; April Reign, creator of #OscarsSoWhite; Jemele Hill, sports journalist and podcast host; and eleven others. Touching on everything from cultural appropriation to power dynamics, “reverse racism” to white privilege, microaggressions to the tragic results of overt racism, this book serves as conversation starter, tool kit, and invaluable window into the life of a former “token Black kid” who now presents himself as the friend many readers need. This book also includes an encyclopedia of racism, providing details on relevant historical events, terminology, and more.” As a teacher in a predominantly white school, I want all my students to read this to help broaden their perspective and build empathy.

When I read Stamped back in May I knew that this book would be included in my curriculum. It was part of a summer book club with students and teachers in my middle school because it is a powerful nonfiction text. Reynolds states repeatedly throughout the book that is is not a history book but rather a “primer on the historical roots and present-day manifestations of antiblack racism in America. In five sections, Reynolds’s conversational text discusses the influential figures, movements, and events that have propagated racist ideas, beginning in 1415 with the publication of the infamous work that laid the groundwork for subsequent religious justifications of enslaving African peoples and continuing through the “war on drugs” and #BlackLivesMatter.” (Publishers Weekly) So many of my students spoke about how the information in the book was never taught to them before 8th grade and it made me audit the authors and texts students read prior to 8th grade so that we can provide students with more diverse voices.

Budding Chefs . . .

Milkbar: Kids Only is for families who have taken cooking in quarantine with gusto. I have been obsessed with Milkbar since I first saw their compost cookies on television with everything from potato chips to pretzels, chocolate chips and anything else that you have around the kitchen (You can access the recipe HERE) Tosi is a genius and whether you want to perfect dessert or your mouth begins to water with apple pie waffles, this is the cookbook to get for a budding chef. 

If we are going to talk about cookbooks, I would be remiss to not to nerd-out with these two geometry inspired cookbooks for the mathematicians in your life. Ko is not a trained chef but a self taught baker and created an Instagram account with her amazingly beautiful pies that led to a huge following due to the artistry she presented in color and geometric shapes. Kenedy, on the other hand, is a trained chef who provides insight into more than 300 different shapes of pasta based on the region in Italy and the perfect sauce to pair with the pasta. 

The Geometry of Pasta by by Caz Hildebrand and Jacob Kenedy 

Picture Book Love . . . 

How to Solve a Problem by Ashima Shiraishi, illustrated by Yao Xiao – World-class rock climber Ashima Shiraishi shares her story of determination in this insightful picture book. She points out that a boulder is just like any other obstacle you might face in life. It takes patience and problem-solving to reach the top, but once you do, the reward is worth every ounce of effort you put in.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James – This book is a fun and empowering read for adults and little readers alike, with a Black narrator that is 100% proud of who he is. He has big ideas and plans for his life; and while not everything goes his way, nothing will stop him as he always picks himself back up and starts again.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard – Thank you to Colby Sharp for this recommendation because my students loved listening to the story and learning about Mary Walker. Walker was born a slave and did not learn to read until she was 116. Yes, Mary Walker actually was a real person and her story shows perseverance and the power of literacy.

For Your Teacher Friends . . . 

A Perfect Blend by Michele Eaton

This book does not come at a more perfect time. Hyperdocs, choice boards, flipped lessons  – Oh My! Readers will  learn how to create effective blended learning experiences for their students. Rather than focusing on finding and implementing a specific established model, author Michele Eaton shows teachers how to embrace the flexibility of blended learning to take an active role as a designer of learning and, in the process, help students become advocates for their education.

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Critical and Close Reading of Marvel’s Black Panther

I teach a media literacy course to middle school students. Throughout the semester students are studying elements of film and creating their own films including short documentaries and creative films to showcase their understanding of the craft and structure of visual storytelling. 

I wanted to take some time to closely examine a popular film and look at not only basic comprehension of the storyline but the nuances of craft and structure to help convey themes and ideas about deeper socio-political and historical topics. I selected Marvel’s 2018 Black Panther knowing that it is rich in African American history, culture, and commentary. When my students are in class, we watch the movie and then when students are home and learning remotely, I have created a viewing guide and hyperdoc to guide their viewing of the text and even reread significant scenes. 

The first hyperdoc contains background information on Black Panther the comic and how the movie came to fruition. Thanks to history teacher Amanda Sandoval for her Frayer Model Vocabulary slides. 

The second hyperdoc is for students after viewing the first 30 minutes of the film. Students will analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.3) and Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.9-10.1)

An additional resource from the New York Times to address craft and structure feature so the film is their Anatomy of a Scene series. In this particular scene director of Black Panther, Ryan Coogler narrates a sequence from his film featuring Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa, a.k.a. Black Panther. If you are not familiar with this online series from the New York Times, it is a great resource where film directors walk viewers through one scene of their movies, showing the magic, motives and the mistakes from behind the camera.

With the unfortunate passing of Black Panther star, Chadwick Boseman this past summer, teachers might also use his commencement speech at Howard University in 2018 or his acceptance speech at Screen Actor’s Guild Awards in 2019, two powerful speeches that showcase his grit, perseverance, and resiliency. 

The lessons are endless that stem from this movie and I am not finished in creating this unit. It continues to evolve. How do you use popular culture to teach literacy, history, and lifeskill? Share your ideas in the comments section on this blog.  

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#NYSCATE Annual Conference is virtual this year. NYSCATE stands for New York State Association for Computers and Technologies in Education and every year at this time the annual conference is held in Rochester, New York. This year the conference was complete virtual with 120 presentations delivered by educators and technology experts over the four-day period. Key note speakers included Jenny Lay-Flurrie, Chief Accessibility Officer, Microsoft and Jay McTighe, educational author and consultant. Additional speakers include Carl Hooker, Tim Needles, Monica Burns, and Tom Murray to name a few.

I led two workshops during the conference and you can view the slide decks below. If you have additional questions do not hesitate to contact me directly. Many of the templates in the slide decks can be accessed on the Resources Page on this blog.

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Carving Out Time In Our Classes For Reading Is Key

This week’s blog post is a guest blog post that I wrote for Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher as part of a four part series: “Give Students Choice When It’s Time to Read” with additional insight from Laura Robb, Pam Allyn, and many more.

I have reposted the post I contributed below but you are going to want to read the entire blog series on teaching readers and reading on the Classroom Q&A With Larry Ferlazzo – Education Week Teacher webpage.

There is nothing like a great book to engross the reader, travel to another time or  place, offer a new perspective on  history, provide another  perspective, bring new awareness, and hold up a mirror to one’s  own life. As an English teacher, reading is a passion and pastime for me. But it wasn’t always this way. When I was in middle and high school, I was a reluctant reader. I disliked so many of the assigned books I read in my youth. The classics and canonical texts filled the reading lists.  I found myself procrastinating summer reading requirements until days before school would begin again only to be faced  with more required reading of people I did not connect with. 

Today,  it is the complete opposite in my own classroom. Students are given choices when it comes to school reading. Whether independent reading or working through our thematic units of instruction, students have book choice, and this leads to an increased motivation to read. To help them choose a book that piques their interest, I read aloud excerpts from books, share book trailers, and play audio selections of popular and poignant books I want to share with my students with the hope to match the right book at the right time with a reader. I share with my students books I am reading, listening to, and that comprise my ‘To Be Read List.’  Students have time to read every day in our English classroom. My classroom library is bursting with advanced-reader copies (ARCs) I collected at conferences like NCTE, ILA, and NerdCamp. Plus I am always purchasing books on Amazon after I read a new book review and get a recommendation from my professional learning community. 

Educator and author of BookLove (Heinemann, 2013), Penny Kittle states that to motivate readers, students need choices, book talks, time to read in class, book clubs, access to books, and to see teachers passionate about reading. Literacy is a schoolwide initiative.  When students see the adults in their life reading, talking about books, and share their reading life, they have positive reading role models. Similarly, carving out time in our classes for reading is key. When we flip reading time during class time rather than assigning reading outside of school, we allow students to practice reading in real time, promote discussion, and apply reading in the classroom. If we are going to help cultivate students who are avid readers of text—print, visual, digital, audio—then it means we are intentional about creating a culture of reading in our schools and classrooms. 

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Jammin’ with Google’s Jam Board

This week my school quarantined due to a COVID outbreak. As a result, the next two weeks we are teaching synchronous lessons remotely. Students and teachers are online from 8AM – 3PM; that is A LOT of screen time. How do you keep students engaged in live online lessons?

This semester I have found Google’s Jamboard to be a great chameleon-like tech tool for any content area teacher to utilize. Here are ten suggestions how you can use Google’s Jamboard for collaboration, classroom hooks, showcase understanding, exit tickets, and even assessment. What is even more awesome, you can open or create a Jamboard right in Google Meets.

Now this tool is not all cotton candy and rainbows. An important thing to note is that just like any of Google’s other collaborative tools, once you share a Jam with your class they have full editing power, meaning they could write on any and every sticky note provided for the class (or do a number of other devious things. So, setting clear expectations with students is imperative.

This quick video shows students adding ideas and observations to a class Google Jamboard during a Google Meet after reading aloud a student’s essay on gun control. Students add sticky notes with their observations of the craft moves in the essay.
  1. Stickynote Brainstorming – Ask a question. Students respond and reflect. Jamboard is great for student brainstorming to share their thinking in a collaborative way.
  2. Annotate a Text – Consider Jamboards a giant whiteboard and the teacher can add print text, a key quote or even a picture. Students can each annotate and write around the text to show thinking and understanding. FYI, if you teach science you might post an image of a cell or rock formation and students flood the board identifying and labeling elements of the image. This video provides more detail how to annotate texts in Jamboard.
  3. Graphic Organizers – The teachers can use a Jamboard template to create a Frayer Model or Sequence Chart, or Mind Map. Matt Miller of Ditch That Textbook offers lots of graphic organizers for Jamboard you can copy and use in your classroom.
  4. Jamboard templates – Want more? this post on Ditch that Textbook provides 10 Jamboard templates for distance learning (with Kris Szajner)
  5. Exit Tickets are easy to create on Jamboard. Students can post something they learned, a question they have or even rate the lesson. The tech fairies recommend for exit tickets, keep it as simple as students dragging their sticky note to a column (or image) that was labeled with what they learned, what was interesting, or a question that they still have.
  6. SEL – Since many students are learning in isolation being remote, teachers are now being asked to focus on social emotional learning. Beginning your lesson with a check in using emojis, pictures, and icons, and asking how are you feeling allows teachers to take a SEL temperature among students.
  7. Freewriting & Sketchnoting – Give students the space and time to sketch and write responses, prototypes, even brainstorm story and design ideas. Provide students the opportunity to debrief afterwards and share their thinking with others.
  8. Storyboarding – Students can put sticky notes of events that happened in a story or book to create a plot pyramid. In History class students can design a timeline or if students are creating a movie they might sketch and write out the types of shots to plan the beginning, middle, and end of the story presenting.
  9. Show What You Know – Math teachers can use Jamboards for students to show their work and explain how to solve a problem or define a math concept.
  10. Towering Ideas – Google has a collection of Jamboard activities for students in grades 6-12 that focus on critical thinking and collaboration. You can read more about them in this document: Student Centered Learning with Jamboard.

Before Jamboard I used Padlet and I still am, but as a paid platform I am limited in the amount of padlets I can create using the free version. With Jamboard, I can create unlimited Jamboards and allow for similar collaborative features that Padlet provides. Plus, teachers are getting even more creative using Jamboards for blackout poetry, games, and 6 word stories and more. Perusing social media and Pinterest, you can find lots more ideas to adapt for your own content and students learning.

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