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A Journey:

Technophobe to Technogeek

made
the impossible
possible

My name is Bronwyn Davis and as will be evident to most of you I am an


Australian. I am something of a globe trotter having travelled widely and worked in
Africa and I am currently teaching in San Silvestre, an all girls school in Peru. Do
you want the good news or bad news. Well let me start with the bad news.

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If you are here to find out exactly how to use moodle, I am afraid you are in the
wrong room. The good news is that my intention is to inspire you to investigate the
magic of moodle. I hope to do this by telling you my story and my personal journey
with moodle. I do not claim to be a guru, I claim to be an explorer who is still
exploring but one who has found some treasure along the way and that is what I
would like to share.

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It all began with the BETT show, the world’s largest educational technology event,
in January 2008. My husband is a certified geek and was planning to spend the
whole 4 days at the fair. What was I to do in London while he was there? I agreed to
go for one day, after all he is my husband… What reason did I have to discover the
wonders of technology when I worked in a school with faulty tape recorders and
slow computers? Why taunt myself with great gadgets and programs when at that
time we had a budget of zero for technology in the Primary Section. I could think of
better things to do in London.

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I have to admit that initially I wandered around like Aladdin in a cave, daunted and
dazed until I came upon a workshop that was about to start on the use of Web 2.0
technologies in the class room. I won’t lie, I had no idea what Web 2.0 was, but
decided that I was overwhelmed by all the technology surrounding me, and quite
frankly needed to sit down. So in I wandered to find a comfortable chair with zero
expectations. An hour later, I confidently strode out, no longer daunted by all that
surrounded me, ready to explore what had seemed like another world. Wow, I
struck gold, I discovered that you do not need to have loads of money to enhance
learning using technology in the classroom. 3 days later I emerged from Betts
having attended every available workshop, and I was determined to return to Peru
and put it into practise.

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First step: I set up a wikispaces account primarily to provide a forum where
students could be informed as to their homework assignments
school photos could be posted and shared at home
creative thinking activities could be collaboratively undertaken e.g. a hundred uses
of a ping pong ball.
Wikispaces.com
Wikispaces.com offers free accounts to teachers for their classes. I enrolled all my
class and our journey began. Again I am ashamed to own that at this stage I had
very little idea of the full potential of wikis but more about that further along the
road

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Once the girls could confidently navigate the site, my imagination took flight. I
could put links to online maths games and activities to reinforce classroom learning
in a novel way. Then I began to think a bit more about maths. I was teaching 2
classes of maths at the time and we were wasting too much valuable time at the
beginning of every lesson correcting homework. Our school does not use a maths
scheme or textbook, rather teachers have developed materials to support our own
curriculum. I wanted students to complete homework and immediately receive
feedback as to their level of accuracy in the hope that they would search for new
solutions when their answers were incorrect. Was there a way to make this dream
come true? I considered scanning my own personal answer sheets, errors and all,
and then putting them onto wikispaces. I should make it clear here that I teach
maths to 2 classes and English/Social Studies to 1 class. This presented me with a
problem as my wikispaces was set up for the class that I taught all subjects to. I did
not want to enrol my second maths class into the same space as this would enable
them to access and potentially tamper with the English work my other class were
doing. I looked into the possibility of limiting access to certain areas of wikispaces,
but found that this was not possible. It was at this time that I discovered moodle,
thanks to Richard (my husband).

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvCIv5KCbe
E&fmt=22&annotation_id=annotation_300890&f
eature=iv

What is moodle. It is basically an open sourced learning management system. So


what does all that mean? I like to think of it as a bit like a set of bookshelves, a
place where you store lots of different resources that your students can access at any
time online.

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http://ssp5math.ninehub.com

I found a site that hosted free moodle accounts and set up my own account. I then
started a course within moodle where I saved all the scanned answer sheets for my
maths classes and then enrolled the whole of grade 5, 100 students. Students now
were able to get immediate feedback on their work rather than waiting till the next
day. I was very excited about this time saving device, but then I suspected if it could
do that, it could do so much more.

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Mental Maths Weekly Challenge

Every week our students undertake a mental maths task. Supposedly they practise
during the week and then on the Friday they take a timed quiz. I found that many of
my students were just not improving. They were either not practicing, the most
likely cause, or they were practicing but merely memorising the questions rather
than developing effective mental calculation strategies, so when it came to the quiz
and the numbers had changed, they were not able to do the calculation mentally.
How could I get the girls to practice daily and really develop mental calculation
strategies?

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An idea popped into my head, moodle! And so I began writing quizzes that replicate
the actual task, on line. Initially I used the simple short answer facility in moodle
and instructed it to mix up the order of the questions each time it was opened.
Pitfall… The questions and answers were always the same and encouraged more
memorization. Therefore no real progress was seen.

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Discovery
Then I discovered that moodle had the facility to write calculated questions. This
meant that every time the students logged onto the quiz they would be presented
with a different set of questions that replicated the original task and the quiz.
Another major benefit of online practise was that in the absence of pen and paper,
mental calculation strategies became the only option.

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The following slides show how a calculated question is set up.
The question is first written with an algorithmically generated variable inserted at
the place where you want the number to change. This is simply done by replacing
the number with a variable inserted in parenthesis. For example the A in Parenthesis
in my question is the number of days. You can set the range of the variable to any
limits you require.

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The answer is then calculated using the same variable in a formula. For example to
calculate the number of hours in any given number of weeks the formula is simply
24 multiplied by the variable

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Now whenever the student does the quiz, a different question will come up.
Therefore students really do need to develop mental strategies rather than relying on
memory or pen and paper.

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When the answer is correct…

When the students is finished the quiz they get instant feedback. If it is right it is
highlighted in green and ticked

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1st attempt: wrong answer

2nd attempt: right answer incurs a penalty

If however it is incorrect a small red cross can be found next to it. One of the great
things about moodle is you can opt to allow students more than one attempt at the
question if you so wish. As this is just a practise area for my students, I allow them
to have as many attempts as they want. However each time you get it wrong, a
percentage is deducted from their final score as you can see from the example. For
those of you who are beginning to sweat with the stress of it all, don’t worry, there
is a very comprehensive online manual and it is accessible, easy to understand and
frankly very useful even to the non specialist

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Multiple Choice Question

I did however find that I could not create calculated questions for some problems
for example this question on naming a shape. I simply solved this problem by using
an alternative question type. Multiple choice is an easy one and you can even insert
images as I have done here.

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Matching Question

Another question type available is called a matching question- here the students are
given multiple possibilities and they select only one answer for each question

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It gets better and better
One of the features that I really love about moodle is that you are able to view what
students have actually done. Prior to using moodle students would tell me that they
practised daily, but there was little evidence of this in their final score. Now I
simply click on the results tab each morning to see who has practised the night
before. Here you can see that Mariana practiced daily, sometimes more than once.
You can see the time of day that she actually practised (because the server we are
using is based in Australia, the times that they accessed the system are Australian
times). You can also see how long it took her to complete the task and her final
result. Her best score is highlighted in green.

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Individual item by item results

If I then have a concern about the results that a girl has achieved I can click on her
test and view the actual mistakes she made. In this way I can personalize her
learning if necessary. Here we can see that one question is correct, one is partially
correct and she obviously needs some support with weights.

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Whole Class Item Analysis

As well as looking at individual student results, I can use the item analysis tab to
zoom in and view the complete spectrum of results for any one question.

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Whole Class Item Analysis

This tool gives the teacher precise information that can then be used to accurately
determine next steps for teaching and learning. As you can see from this slide, 93%
of students were able to add a number on to 999. The red results are the wrong
answers that were given and what number of students gave them.

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Whole Class Item Analysis

I knew from looking at the following question that I needed to do more work on
time duration, as only 67% of students were able to do this question. This facility of
moodle really allowed me to fine tune my teaching of maths.

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Impact on Achievement
Bimester 1 Bimester 4
Average grade Average grade
Student 1 11.1 16
Student 2 15.7 18.6
Student 3 12.6 16.1
Student 4 14.4 18.3
Student 5 14.3 18.4

Impact
I have selected the mental maths results of 5 students who used moodle very
frequently. On the screen you can see their average attainment out of 20 in the first
bimester, before moodle was fully exploited and their average attainment in the
fourth bimester when moodle had been fully exploited for 3 bimesters. One should
bear in mind the tasks became increasingly complex over time

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So, I was really beginning to get a handle on how to use moodle to support student
learning of maths. The students felt empowered and began to requests more
activities and links to support other areas of the maths curriculum. Fortunately at
this point the school decided to subscribe to mymaths, an online maths program, so
this link was added to moddle enabling girls to access all available resources
through one site.

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An Aside (or a plug for mymaths)
For those of you not familiar with Mymaths it provides lots of interactive activities
and games to help students understand new concepts. As you can see it is very
bright and user friendly. I have provided a link to their site in the handout

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The other great feature of mymaths is that all lessons have homework activities
linked to them. These are also user friendly and invite the student to complete tasks
multiple times ensuring that the students have a sound grasp of key concepts before
moving on

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Spelling Practice

A never ending journey.


So with maths somewhat under control, what else could moodle do for me? I was
still really focussing on the quiz function of moodle. I was aware that my students
needed novel ways to practice and reinforce spelling skills and word meanings. So
spelling became the next focus.

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Short Answer Question

The word meanings of spelling words were tested with a simple quiz as shown,
where students write the answer in the short answer format.

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Multiple Choice Question

I also used multiple choice quizzes which required students to select the correct
spelling of a word from a list of 4. This enabled me to differentiate tools for
learning to spell for the visual learner. I also experimented with incorporating an
audio element to benefit the audio learner.

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Cloze Question

And finally I wrote some quizzes using the cloze format where the beginning, end or
middle of a word was left out and the students had to fill in the missing letters.
These 3 formats allowed the students to utilize a variety of enjoyable approaches to
develop their spelling skills.

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Drop Down Menu Question

The next question was, what other basic skills do students need to practise that
could be made more accessible and more interesting by using moodle? Of course as
you probably know learning grammar is not exactly exciting, so I hypothesised that
perhaps practising online would be more fun or at least less arduous. So past tense
quizzes, differentiating between; where and were, has and have etc were added
using drop down menus. This was a lot easier to create than you may think. Trust
me, if I can do it, anyone can.

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What else could I use moodle for? Enough of quizzes I hear you cry. What about
using moodle as a place to store a wide range of resources to support learning. This
would mean that my students would only need to go to one address and there they
would easily find a wealth of useful tools. So I selected and stored safe sites of
source material for research projects, songs for the children to sing along with at
home which provided a fun way to help them learn multiplication tables, elements
of grammar or to develop their understanding of social studies concepts as well as
the maths links mentioned earlier.

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d
c o vere
is Dis
Wik

It was now time to explore further. I returned to moodle and looked at the complete
range of activities in the “add an activity” drop down menu. Research is such an
intrinsic part of Inquiry Based learning and is often done in groups. I wanted to
design a task that would allow students to truly collaborate. Now was the time to
branch into wikis.

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Wiki - First Attempt

I decided to use the wiki facility in moodle to do a research project on different


aspects of Ancient Egypt. Each group was given a different set of questions to focus
their research. Every member of the group had to answer all the questions
independently then meet as a group and share responses. Armed with all the
answers that had been found each student was then allocated responsibility for
collating the answers to one or two questions.
As you can see from this slide there is a picture missing, this is one of the problems
with the wiki facility in moodle, sometimes you insert a picture into your draft but
when you upload it, it does not appear. This year I will look into using different
wiki sites however still adding them to moodle.

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I taught them in a couple of minutes how to create links within their wiki. Yes, it
was that easy, once I acquired some basic tips from the help facility. My students
took to it like ducks to water. At times they created rather too many links so that the
readers had to navigate many pages.

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A
Qu
e st
ion
A ns
we
re
d

Without any more assistance from me the girls worked out how to insert pictures,
change the font, size and colour and became wiki addicts. They were literally
begging for more. Their enthusiastic response forced me to create many more
opportunities to create wikis. Lets face it, how often does that happen in a
classroom. However, for me the best thing about a wiki is that once it is written
anyone in the group can add information and edit for spelling, grammar etc.

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I object
But what if the student who wrote the wiki was not happy with the information
added by others or if they disagreed with the editing? No problem, you just go to the
history button and select the last page that you did and literally select “fetch back”.
The previous version is restored. No information is lost or distorted.

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All performance tasks that students undertake are guided by a rubric that can be
completed by the teacher, student or peer or a combination of. So why not unify the
whole process by creating an online rubric to guide and assess the wiki! I
discovered a free site called Survey Monkey and set up an account.

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Survey monkey allows you to very easily design a survey or in this case a rubric,
which can be either sent to students by email or inserted as a link into a webpage.
This is what I did. Survey Monkey then collects and analyses the data. When I log
onto their site I can easily view their analysis.

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Students were invited to assess all 6 wikis using the rubric. In doing so they were
able to find out about all the other research topics. To my great delight and relief the
data on the rubrics was completely collated and analysed by Survey Monkey, there
was nothing more for me to do but sit back and watch it all roll in.

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A complete analysis was available which I printed and distributed to each group. As
you can see from this sample 52% of the students thought that this group exceeded
the standard in the way they answered the questions, and 64% felt they met the
standard of writing in their own words.

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Please help the group by telling
them what was great about their
wiki

I could not believe the enthusiastic way that the students responded to the rubric.
They would come to school each day enthusing about the work of another group
and many said that they sat by their computer with pen and paper taking notes so
they could give each other more effective feedback. Usually rubrics do not provoke
this kind of response, student responses are often very brief and appear to lack any
thought or insight.

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What was great about the wiki was that it
was very, very interesting. It had a lot of
information and some of the pages were
very easy to read. I enjoyed it a lot and
now I know about your topic. For me you
worked very hard and thought deeply. The
bibliography was good and brief.
The glossary was very good.

Fifth grade
student 2008

Some of these comments reveal thought and insight and included more detail than I
expected. To be honest I thought I would get the usual comments like “I liked it a
lot” or “It was good”.

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Please help the group by telling
them how their wiki could have
been improved.

The students were also able to provide constructive feedback as to how each wiki
could have been improved. However, as with any collaborative online project there
lurks the possibility of what seems to be anonymous cyber bullying. Unfortunately
this did occur. One of the girls completed the rubric inappropriately and then
submitted in the name of another girl. But you can’t beat moodle. Data recorded on
the survey informed me as to the exact time that it was completed and the unique IP
address of the computer used.

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The group didn’t always put pictures that went
with the topic, and I know that it was not
obligatory to put pictures in all the links but it
would look nicer. In one of the links I noticed
that there were 2 different types of text, it
would look better with the same type of
letter. In the same link I noticed that maybe
they didn’t write using their own words.

Fifth grade
student 2008

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I then went into moodle and searched the logs, which record all activity on moodle
including the IP address of the computer used. Therefore I was able to discover who
was using moodle at that exact time. I was able to easily find the IP address with
the name of the student who used it and all her activity on moodle for that day. That
was the beginning and end of cyber bullying. This is an example of a log and
definitely not the girl involved in cyber bullying

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Pitfalls
So having raved about moodle you are probably wondering are there any pitfalls in
using an e-learning management system. I have to admit that there were many days
that I felt like this!!

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Technology failed me a number of times. The most common problem was
undoubtedly access to the internet. This was particularly a problem at the end of last
year when our local internet providers experienced problems managing the volume
of users resulting in severed internet connections, just when you needed it most.

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Congestion

The Australian site we used was inundated by users and crashed several times
resulting in the need for additional servers. This necessitated the temporary closure
of the site on a number of occasions for as long as a week or more. Solution!!! The
easiest way to overcome this is to install moodle onto your school server as many
schools currently do. Warning!!! You do need onsite technical support, which
fortunately we do.
On occasions the time zone differences between Peru and Australia exacerbated the
congestion problems as prime time for our students was peek day time in Australia.
Again this can be easily solved by installing moodle on your own server.

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Home Access

Moodle requires computer access at home if you are going to assign the kind of
activities described in this presentation. However, we now live in a technological
era and the majority of students who attend private schools tend to have at least one
computer in the home. For those students who do not have these facilities our school
provides supervised open access to 4 computers labs on site until 5pm every day.

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Time Investment

I will not mislead you, this does demand a huge investment of your personal time,
determination and a large dose of enthusiasm. But once a bank of resources has
been created the teacher simply continues to modify and develop more resources as
required. As with all good news you can’t help sharing it. This then meant finding
time to convince, inform and train other teachers because having discovered the
value of moddle the teacher in you wants every other student to benefit

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is…. the perfect
place to
a great place for learn.
children to be because you
learn lots of things while the best
playing on the computer. thing you
It’s fun. can use on
the
computer.

the best. I
improved a lot a great tool for
with moodle. learning.

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would be better if….
Moodle couldn’t if it had practice
be more perfect. for all the
We all learned subjects.
from this resource
and we all
improved.
you leave it like it is.
It is very good and you
couldn’t improve
…it is absolutely anything.
perfect!

For all you know I could be making all this up. In order to validate what I am telling
you, let’s listen to the voices of my students. Of course as you may well have
guessed I gathered this data using Survey Monkey

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Wikis are… A great way of
teaching pupils
using a computer.

Much easier and more


fun than any other type
of project.
fun, useful, interactive
and they help you to
A perfect way work in groups and
of learning. learn from your
mistakes.

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Student Survey Results: 5A & 5= 2008
Agree /
Statements strongly
agree

1 I enjoyed using moodle 100%


I practiced mental maths more
2 100%
on Moodle than I did on paper

Practicing mental maths on


3
Moodle helped me to improve
100%

I recommend that you use


4 100%
Moodle again this year
Every teacher should use
5 100%
Moodle
I would prefer to work on a
6 sheet of paper than on the 100%
computer

You may think I only selected the positive comments and ignored anything that did
not serve to support my belief in the power of moodle. So I have included the
statistical analysis completed by the students 2 weeks ago and of course created by
Survey Monkey. The results speak louder than my words.

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Where do
I go from
here?

Present and future


So what will I be doing this year with moodle. There is yet so much to explore.
Maybe I will look at adding actual lessons
or perhaps using the forum activity to up load a photo and generate discussions on a topic.
Or perhaps I will use moodle to host some of the free web 2.0 applications such as toondoo
http://www.toondoo.com/ for making cartoons that students could maybe use to support spelling
word meanings,
splashup http://www.splashup.com/ , an easier version of photoshop,
or do some mindmapping using bubbl.us http://bubbl.us/ or mindmeister
http://www.mindmeister.com/ , both online mind mapping tools.
Or perhaps I will have the students create their own personal blogs
or create podcasts using podomatic http://www.podomatic.com/ or audacity
http://audacity.sourceforge.net/ . (Just imagine how much students could improve their oral
compencies by making podcasts or their listening and comprehension skills by listening to podcasts
made by the teacher and then answering question.)
A school radio station.. now I am getting out of control.
I will definitely look into different wiki formats like wikispaces http://www.wikispaces.com/
I plan to explore wikimatrix http://www.wikimatrix.org/ in search of the best wiki available.
Who knows even Nintendo wii may make an unexpected appearance… Only time will tell. I am
only limited by my imagination!
There is also another free e-learning platform called edu20 that you might like to explore. I can’t
recommend it at this stage as I have not used it but it came highly recommended at a recent
conference for IT educators.
Don’t panic all these sites are in a handout that I will give you.

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Remember
“We are currently
preparing students for
jobs that don’t yet
exist…..

I would like to finish with this final quote.

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…using technologies
that haven’t yet
been invented…

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…in order to
solve problems
we don’t yet
have… ”

Awesome!

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