Elmara Pereira de Souza, Claudia Pinto Sena
Universidade Federal da Bahia, Avenida Reitor Miguel Calmon s/n
Campus Canela - 40.110 100, Salvador, Bahia, Brazil
Universidade Estadual de Feira de Santana, Avenida Transnordestina s/n
Novo Horizonte - 44.036 900, Feira de Santana, Bahia, Brazil
Cláudia Vivien Carvalho de Oliveira Soares
Universidade Estadual do Sudoeste da Bahia, Estrada do Bem Querer s/n, Vitória da Conquista, Bahia, Brazil
Keywords: Teacher Development, Virtual Learning Environment, Visually Impaired.
Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to reflect upon the teacher development process in a virtual learning
environment as well as to link this process to the teachinglearning contexts of visually impaired students.
In this perspective, the paper addresses two objectives which, although distinct, are connected by the same
theoreticalepistemological reference, pointing to language as an essential tool through which individuals
constitute themselves as historical and cultural subjects. The conclusions tend to show that the formation of
teachers in virtual learning environments may favor the construction of new knowledge based on dialogic
and collaborative network communication. In this sense, it is possible to build a construction space of the
senses for the visually impaired in learning processes utilizing educational strategies which also allow for
dialogues and the construction and diffusion of knowledge.
The term epistemology may be understood
etymologically as discourse about knowledge.
Literally, it means the Theory of Science; however,
the term has been reduced to Theory of Scientific
Knowledge. Habermas (1982, apud Franco 2008)
states that, after Kant, the Theory of Knowledge
slowly disappeared with the disruption of the
relationships between philosophy and science. Yet,
an attempt is made through epistemology to study
the origin of knowledge, how to use it, and how to
determine its value.
We understand that reality is complex; therefore,
the possibilities and perspectives of knowing it are
uncountable. This may make us rethink our
epistemological positions. According to Abreu
Júnior (1996, p. 39), “… entrar no cenário da
complexidade implica compreender que o
conhecimento, qualquer que seja ele, é limitado e
não oferece garantia absoluta de compreensão
completa e definitiva da realidade
. Morin (1999)
says that we are physiological, biological, social,
cultural, psychic, and spiritual beings, and this
means that complexity is that which tries to
understand the articulation, identity and differences
of all these aspects.
The perspective of complexity leads us to reflect
on the single and absolute truth imposed by the
positivist theory of science. Yet, what is truth when
faced with a complex, multi-dimensional reality?
What is the emergence of today’s world? In the
complex view of the world, scientific knowledge is
only one of the possible interpretations of reality or
Author’s translation: “entering the scenario of complexity
implies understanding that knowledge, whatever it may be, is
limited and offers no absolute guarantee of complete and
definitive understanding of reality”.
Pereira de Souza E., Pinto Sena C. and Carvalho de Oliveira Soares C. (2010).
In Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Computer Supported Education, pages 29-36
one of the forms of representation of knowledge. We
might say that reality, from this perspective, is
constructed and why not say it? defined by the
relationships between things.
In this sense, we understand that the context of
relations becomes the focus providing meaning to
the instabilities marked by the actions of the
individuals participating in the process and,
therefore, represents the continuity of constantly
evolving facts. Reality, then, stems from actions,
i.e., from a process of individual and collective
construction, thus establishing a systemic thought in
relation to the process as a whole.
Morin (2003) says that one of the principles to
understand complexity is the systemic principle
which links the knowledge of parts to the knowledge
of the whole. Thus, the whole is more than the sum
of its parts. This epistemological position allows us
to have a broader understanding of the world, of
people, of knowledge, and of science.
It is this perspective that this essay adopts, in two
distinct moments: (a) our questions concerning the
preparation of teachers to use Information and
Communication Technologies (ICT) in education
and (b) the aspects related to the teachinglearning
process in the broader sense of understanding what
learning is and the questions concerning how the
visually impaired can make use of ICT as
facilitators in the representation of knowledge by
using a teachinglearning process based on Problem
Based Learning (PBL)
In the first part, the study will address the
formation of teachers in relation to the following
issues: How is it possible to approach teacher
development to enable them to use ICT in education,
maximizing the potential of technologies and of
virtual learning environments as a space for self-
development, taking into account the need to deal
with subjectivities, to deal with others and all their
differences, providing a space that will allow for
reflection about the action and, within this action,
the development of a dialogic space? But what is
formation? How can technology favor teacher
Some years ago, several investigations (Almeida
1996, Moraes 1999, Axt 2000) were conducted to
PBL is an educational strategy which attempts to encourage
the student to become the constructing agent of his/her own
knowledge, guided by a teacher. It is systematized in a 7-
stage cycle (reading the problem, brainstorming ideas,
systematization, formulation of questions, definition of goal,
evaluation of process, follow-up). These stages occur during
tutorial sessions and meetings of the members of the tutorial
group. Each group is composed of a teacher and an ideal
maximum number of 10 students (see Santos et al. 2007).
understand how the use of technologies has changed
the educational context. Much has been said about
the importance of teacher development towards this
end. We understand that teacher development,
research, and the construction of knowledge are
inter-connected concepts that operate together within
the broader context of teacher development.
In the second part, we will address learning in
general and its relationship with the construction of
knowledge, guided by the following issues: What is
learning? How does PBL behave as a teaching
learning strategy? How can ICT collaborate in the
representation and diffusion of the knowledge
generated for a visually impaired audience?
We understand that, although we grasp reality in
a complex way and, therefore, do not exclude any
theory that may help understand the reality under
investigation, there is the need to take a theoretical
methodologicalepistemological stand, defining,
even if temporarily, a starting point from which to
present our ideas.
In this quest for a theory (or theories) to provide
a foundation for this study, we have had the
opportunity to listen to many voices, re-visit some of
the authors that were part of our professional and
academic journey (e.g., Bakhtin, Freire, Vygotsky,
Piaget, Wiener), to be introduced to many others
(e.g., Morin, Maturana, Haberman, Nietzche), and to
maintain a dialog with them.
The text is organized around five parts. Initially,
the formation of teachers will be addressed. The
following sections will concern language, learning
and development, important aspects both for the
formation of teachers and the teachinglearning
process of the visually impaired. Finally,
conclusions and reflections will be presented.
When we refer to the development of teachers to use
ICT in schools, it is important to describe the
delimitation of the topic in this broad field of
possibilities. We believe it is necessary to choose a
space, a time, and the subjects because it is
impossible to know everything in the world as well
as their transformations (Morin, 2003). We have
opted for a multi-referential epistemological concept
which views all human knowledge as relative,
partial, and incomplete (Froes, 2001). We can thus
see that the topic chosen for this study is like a
hologramatical figure where each part presents
characteristics of the whole, that is, the part
integrates the whole. This delimitation corresponds
CSEDU 2010 - 2nd International Conference on Computer Supported Education
to the study of the construction of a dialogic space as
a methodological proposal for a collaborative
communication network in the continuous
development of teachers, enabling them to use ICT
in education. Given the complex nature of the object
of this study, this topic will allow us to observe the
phenomenon in its continual motion. Vygostky
(1998) states that to study something historically
means to study it during the process of change.
From this perspective, it is necessary to articulate
our understanding of teacher development, since
authors provide various views in this field of
research (Nóvoa 1995, Kincheloe 1997, Pimenta
1999, Macedo 2000 & 2006, Schon 2000, Pimenta
& Anastasiou 2002, Josso 2004). Teacher
development is understood, in this paper, as a
process that views the subject as the constructor of
his/her own history, a development that seeks an
active role for the teacher, one based upon the
experience of living the dialectic tension between
theory and practice (Freire, 1997). It is a
phenomenon which occurs within the subject as
he/she relates to another person. Therefore,
development is experiential, connected to moral,
ethical, and political values, and views the subject as
the learner. We may say that learning is what gives
foundation to teacher development. Araújo and
Moura (2008) state that a qualidade profissional se
assenta não apenas no saber ensinar, mas na
relação entre aprender e ensinar
We understand that teaching is inseparable from
learning, and therefore, teacher development must
be based on the quest for the construction of
knowledge, for continuous learning, for creativity,
and for collaborative production, stemming from the
challenges presented in our daily lives, from the
contact with the object of the work, and from the
reflections about one’s own experience
It is observed in the available literature on
teacher development that much research and teacher
development projects are impregnated with the
empirical concept that knowing how to do
something is enough for the configuration of
formative processes. However,
... o resultado da formação não se produz na forma de
uma finalidade técnica, mas nasce do processo interno
de constituição e de formação e, por isso, permanece
em constante evolução e aperfeiçoamento [...] Nesse
sentido, tudo que ela assimila, nela desabrocha. Mas
na formação, aquilo que foi assimilado não é como
um meio que perdeu sua função. Antes, nada
desaparece na formação adquirida, mas tudo é
Author’s translation: “…professional quality is consolidated
not only in knowing how to teach, but in the relationship
between learning and teaching.”
preservado. A formação é um conceito genuinamente
histórico [...] (Gadamer 1997).
If we consider a teacher’s practice as a
historically constructed social practice, it will be
realized as praxis, in a dialectic process, becoming
different from the merely technicist process
composed of a succession of methodological
procedures (Franco, 2008).
Teacher development in the perspective of this
study, in relation to the interconnectedness of theory
and practice, points to language as the essential tool
through which individuals constitute themselves as
historical and cultural subjects. Through language,
several senses are put into play. For Bakhtin (2000),
the conflicting and therefore ideological aspect of
language highlights the importance of the process of
understanding meanings which takes place
dialogically, in a plot that presupposes the
simultaneous existence of reflection and refraction
of multiple social voices.
Habermas (1982 apud Franco 2008) says that
there is no possibility of individualization without
socialization, as well as no socialization is possible
without individualization. In this sense, the voices,
the interactions, what is said or left unsaid, the
meeting with the other in the dialogic space, may
favor the development of teachers and the
assignment of new meanings to their practices,
because the subjects of the dialog construct each
other and, together, construct the text and its
Based on the theoretical concepts of Mikhail
Bakhtin and Lev Vygotsky, we can broaden our
horizons and create new methodological, analytical,
and study paths, starting from language and the
context lived by teachers in virtual learning
environments (the dialogic space).
Human sciences study people in the process of
expression and creation. Studying people
independently of texts, that is, of the language they
create, means to locate them outside the sphere of
Author’s translation: …the result of (teacher) development is
not produced in the form of a technical end, but springs from
the internal process of constitution and development and, thus,
remains in constant evolution and improvement […]. In this
sense, all that is assimilated, blossoms. Yet, in development,
that which was assimilated is not a means that has lost its
function. On the contrary, nothing disappears in the acquired
development; everything is preserved. Development is a
genuinely historical concept [...] (Gadamer 1997)
human sciences. For Bakhtin (2000), it is not
possible to understand people, their lives, their work,
their struggles, except through the use of sign-texts
already created or to be created.
From a socialhistorical perspective, the
interaction or the relation between subjects is made
possible through language. Although words the
ideological signs by excellence are mediators of
the dialectic process between the individual and the
social (Jobim e Souza & Kramer 2003), language
does not limit itself to and come to an end in words.
Language is tudo o que en-caminha e movimenta
(Heidegger 2003 p. 163) and é antes de tudo um
meio de comunicação social, de enunciação e
compreensão” (Vygotsky, 2000, p. 11)
Vygotsky (2000) defines two processes for how
this language-discourse works: “exterior” as a
process of transformation of thought into words
(materialization of thought) and “interior” as a
process that is realized from outside to inside
(“evaporation of language in thought”).
Language is an integral part of the subjects
themselves as they interact with others during
situations requiring discursive communication, and
their awareness, their knowledge of the world, in
fact their very selves. The subjects complete and
continuously construct each other through their own
and their peers’ discursive practices. Throughout
his/her own history, then, the subject constitutes
him(her)self as s/he hears and takes ownership of
his/her peers’ words and discourses (parents, friends,
classmates, teachers, etc) transforming them, in part,
into his/her own words. In this sense, Bakhtin
(1979) states that it is not words that we pronounce
or hear but rather truths and lies, things that are good
or bad, important or trivial, pleasant or unpleasant.
The word is always loaded with an ideological or
experiential discourse
Bakhtin shares the Marxist principle that people
transform the world and are transformed by it
through the utilization of tools, as in a two-way
street. He attributes to language the role of “essential
tool” in describing its transformational ability and its
function as a psychological tool in the organization
and constitution of subjects. He also points out the
organization of discourse as a determining factor in
the relationships between individuals involved in
any type of interaction.
Author’s translation: “everything that leads and moves”
(Heidegger 2003, p. 163), “it is foremost a means for social
communication, of enunciation and comprehension”
(Vygotsky 2000, p. 11).
In the ideological culture of modern times,
is still present, and dialogism counters it
(Barros, 1999). Dialogism is about the relationships that
are established between the self and the other in discursive
processes constituted historically by the subjects who, in
their turn, constitute themselves or are constituted by these
discourses. Consequently, dialogic and dialectic approach
each other although they can not be confused, since
Bakhtin will discuss the self that is realized in the we,
inserted not in the synthesis, but in the polyphonic nature
of the relationship which comes to light through language
(Brait, 2001)
Dialogism is viewed as the interactional space
between the I and the you or between the self and
the other.
We understand dialog not only in the narrow
sense of face-to-face conversations, but also in the
sense of a broader communication system
connecting subjects to contexts. While dialog is
usually defined as an exchange or discussion of
ideas, in harmony, we must also consider the
dimension of dialog in the territory of conflict and
tension (Bakhtin, 1979). In this way, a dialog can be
defined as a great union of voices and various
intonations dialogs between people, texts, authors,
feelings, lives.
In the dialogic space, it is through interactions
that meeting the other occurs, mediated by language
and, therefore, conflicts may arise as well as the
creation of affective bonds. The affective dimension
takes a central role, both from the point of view of
the construction of the person and of knowledge,
that is, emotion plays a mediating role in the
learning process (Wallom, 1986). Emotions mean
the first recourse in the interaction with the other.
Maturana (2002) says that the fundamental
emotion that makes the history of mankind possible
is love. The word love, according to him, has been
devalued, and the emotion that this word translates
has lost its vitality as a result of overstating it as
something special and difficult. Love is the
foundation of social relations and is part of human
life. When we talk about love, we are talking about
the acceptance of the other as a legitimate partner in
companionship. Human relations are social if they
are born out of love, in the acceptance of the other.
“Therefore, loving is allowing space for the
recurrent interactions with the other, in which
Monologism, based on Bakhtin’s literary theory, is the
opposite of dialogism. “According to Bakhtin, in monologism
the author concentrates in himself all the processes of
creation; he is the only center radiating awareness, voices,
(…). The monologic model does not accept the existence of a
responsive and isonomous response to the other”. (Bezerra
2005, p. 192).
CSEDU 2010 - 2nd International Conference on Computer Supported Education
his/her presence is legitimate, no strings attached”
(Maturana 2002, p. 67).
This notion of love given by Maturana helps us
think about the utilization of ICT as an interaction
tool among teachers, between teachers and students,
and among students. For dialogs to happen, the
presence of the other and his/her acceptance in the
dialog is indispensable. The role of the other is vital
to give meaning to the dialog because, whenever we
speak or write, we do it keeping in mind the other
person in the dialogic chain. The other will interfere,
conditioning the self. It is impossible to have human
development without alterity, without the other
being part of my space in the world, constituting me
ideologically and making me complete.
3.1 Language and Teacher
Teacher development seeks to contribute to the
formation of sensitive people, teachers who can act
as intermediators between theory and practice,
concerned with learning to learn.
In this sense, in the dialogic space created in the
virtual learning environment, dialogs, the verbal
interactions in the discussion forums, in the chat
rooms or via other interfaces, may be seen as the
interactional and dialogic space that can contribute
to the development of teachers. By observing the
in the dialogic space, it is possible to see
that each speech is unique, each utterance is
different from the preceding one or the next one,
creating something new. This allows us to notice the
uniqueness of the dialogic situation. Each testimony
is loaded with emotions, with life experiences,
something that is at the same time individual and
collective/social. According to Monteiro (2008),
inspired by Nietzsche, the exercise of writing has a
formative force. The written texts talk about
overcoming limitations. Therefore, the production of
a text may become a privileged moment of
development. The written text, in the virtual
environment, favors network communication, the
meeting with the other located on the other side of
the dialogic chain, providing the opportunity for a
change of context.
3.2 Language and the Learning Process
based on Problems
The teachinglearning process based on problems
The word “speech” represents, in this text, any and all
expressions of the subject in the virtual environment, whether
it is written or oral.
fosters learning to learn, the continuous quest for
answers to questions that arise during students’
group work. This non-virtual space is a space for
dialogs, for the exchange and discussion of ideas
(brainstorming), for the systematization of facts and
ideas, for new questionings. It is where knowledge is
constructed individually and collectively. Through
the use of ICT, this space can be expanded into a
virtual learning environment, one in which PBL
methodology can also be applied. In any case,
whether it be face-to-face or virtual, it is possible to
talk, to establish peer communication, respecting the
space for the exchange of ideas, respecting
emotions, individualities, abilities, and limitations.
Concepts as well as behaviors are constructed.
Human language (differently from animal language)
can adapt itself, is able to attribute new meanings to
new sounds, images, words, or oral or body
language (Wiener, 1954). Through language, we
intend to establish the relationship between the body
of knowledge generated by the visually impaired in
the tutorial sessions (e.g., meetings scheduled by
PBL where teacher and students meet to discuss a
particular problem). This language, or the
representation given to it, needs to come close to the
logic and comprehension abilities of the visually
impaired, allowing for the exchange of ideas
between those students and the non-visually
According to Vygotsky (1993), learning allows the
awakening of an individual’s internal processes and,
therefore, fosters development. The actual course of
the development of thought does not go from the
individual to the social, but rather from the social
space to the individual. For the Vygotsky, learning
and development are inter-related. Furthermore, it is
believed that the subject, when facing a problem-
situation, already has previous knowledge that can
not be ignored, and that learning must be linked in
some way to each individual’s level of development.
It is in this sense that the concept of Zone of
Proximal Development (ZPD) arises.
The ZPD presented by Vygotsky can also help us
to understand interactions, the mediations and
learning that occur within a virtual or a collaborative
learning space. According to Vygotsky (1998, p.
112), ZPD is the
[...] distância entre o nível de desenvolvimento real,
que se costuma determinar através da solução
independente de problemas, e o nível de
desenvolvimento potencial, determinado através da
solução de problemas sob orientação de um adulto ou
em colaboração com companheiros mais capazes8.
According to Vygotsky (1998, p. 110), the level
of actual development is the level of development of
mental functions that are established as a result of
the completion of certain cycles of development. In this
level, the subject is mature enough to solve problems
independently because the functions involved in the
resolution have matured.
Learning is the relationship between the actual
and the potential level of development; it is the
capacity of the subject, through socialization, to
interact with others, to solve problems which could
not previously be solved individually. The ZPD is
characterized, therefore, as the path the individual
will travel on to develop functions that are in the
process of becoming mature and which will become
consolidated functions, established in the actual
level of development. This zone is characterized as
being in a psychological domain in constant
transformation, explained by the fact that the human
being is constantly learning, therefore in constant
change. The possibility of change in the
performance of an individual through the
interference of another is fundamental to Vygotsky’s
theory. Social interactions are extremely important
for the process of construction of human
psychological functions (Soares, 2005).
The study of teacher development starting from
the interactions in the dialogic space, as well and the
study of the teachinglearning process (PBL) for
visually-impaired students, presupposes the study of
the subject in his/her daily relationships, in his/her
dialog with his/her peers and with him/(her)self, a
subject whose cognitive processes are also focused
on his/her professional and personal development.
This is the reason that the study of learning (the
construction of knowledge in the formation of
adults) requires the consideration of aspects such as
subjectivity, intuition, and affectivity as important
factors in the development process.
4.1 Learning and Development in the
Formation of Teachers
Teacher development deals with the learning pro-
Author’s translation: […] distance between the actual
development level, which is usually determined through the
independent solution of problems, and the potential
development level, determined through the solution of
problems with the guidance of an adult or in collaboration
with more capable partners.
cesses of adults, workers, educators, and teachers. In
this way, the interactions that occur in the virtual
space created to make possible the dialog among
teachers constitute a social space for learning, and
consequently, for development. In this space,
teachers are given the opportunity to see and feel
like learners because, as we mentioned before,
development is experiential and, although it happens
in the subject, it arises from his/her relationship with
the other in a historicalcultural process.
In the case of teachers, we may consider that the
actual level of development corresponds to the body
of knowledge consolidated during their professional
trajectory, while the potential level of development
corresponds to the body of knowledge that can be
acquired (or not) with their peers. And it is in the
ZPD that the actions for their development should
occur. The virtual learning environment as a dialogic
space may become a space that maximizes ZPD by
allowing teachers through language the sign by
excellence to discuss and share their dilemmas,
problems, solutions, achievements, and
subjectivities, all through the network, favoring the
construction of knowledge and the reassignment of
meanings for pedagogic knowledge. This will
consequently foster their development, with their
own needs and perspectives as the starting point.
Teacher development, in this concept, makes us
consider the teacher as a subject who constructs
knowledge historically, starting from their presence
in socialcultural groups and spaces, contributing
with their learnings from the academic world or
from their day-to-day experiences, learning through
their interactions with the other, in the inter-
connection of contexts, of languages and of
constructed knowledge about and for their
4.2 Learning and Development in PBL
PBL has been used as an educational strategy for all
age groups, from children to adults. The central
element in PBL is the problem (Mamede &
Penaforte, 2001). In order to solve it, group learning
is encouraged, although time is provided for
individual learning, for internalization, for
reflections about the concepts and ideas approached.
In this sense, internal dialogs are encouraged, in
special dialogs with peers, with the teacher (who
plays the role of counselor) or with classmates. This
learning space, face-to-face or virtual, generator of
collaborative work, allows the students to assign
meanings, contextualize learned points, experiment
with the exchange and sharing of information, leave
CSEDU 2010 - 2nd International Conference on Computer Supported Education
the area of comfort (actual development level or
what is already known) towards what can be learned
and known with the other (potential development
Similarly to that described in above in Section
4.1, the actual level of development corresponds to
the body of knowledge that has been consolidated by
the student during the course of his life, while the
potential level of development corresponds to the
knowledge that can be acquired (or not) with peers.
And it is in the ZPD that the planned PBL actions
should occur. A noção de zona de desenvolvimento
proximal favorece as interações… e fundamenta
uma proposta de educação para a diversidade
(Hernández & Ventura, 1998)
In this sense, diversity and interaction can be
given preference by PBL with the support of ICT,
broadening the possibilities of exchange between the
subjects (the visually impaired) and extending their
skills. An environment where they can experience
the PBL methodology and construct a representation
of the knowledge generated may favor this dialogic
space and potentialize the ZPD.
In this proposal, the teacher is not at the center of
the process. The dynamics of the method occur
through the roles played by the students in the
tutorial sessions or outside them and in their
interactions. The teacher becomes the mediator in
the process. This dialogic space may happen in face-
to-face meetings or with the support of ICT in a
virtual learning environment.
At each new session (meeting with peers),
students are at a new level of actual development
(Zone of Actual Development), facing again a space
that fosters exchanges, fresh points of view, and new
perspectives about the problem addressed. It is a
continuous cycle in which the acting upon the ZPD
in each session is never the same because new
knowledge and different questions arise
continuously. This constant evolution is the result of
the previous dialogic process in the ZDP and the
process involved in individual searches and
From the interactions, the exchange, and the meeting
of the self and the other in the dialogic space, several
meanings can be constructed and reconstructed
Author’s translation: “the concept of zone of proximal
development favors interactions and provides a foundation
for an educational project geared towards diversity”.
because the construction of meanings is, by
definition, endless (Bakhtin, 2000).
The theoretical discussions and the
epistemological options described here point to
language as an essential tool through which the
individual constitutes him/(her)self as a historical
and cultural subject.
We consider a network dialogic and
collaborative communication, supported by a virtual
learning environment, a proposal that may favor the
construction of knowledge in the teacher
development process.
Group sharing (also dialogic and collaborative),
whether or not supported by a virtual environment,
fosters the development of logical reasoning,
positive attitudes related to diversity and
heterogeneity, commitment to group work, to the
self and to the other, bringing people closer both as
professionals and ordinary people.
These are some of the initial reflections to think
about the possibility of developing teachers through
the utilization of a dialogic space that works as a
resource capable (or not) of constituting itself as a
collaborative and significant environment for the
construction of knowledge by using the “voices” of
the subjects language as indicators of possible
changes in the context. It is also an opportunity to
consider the inclusion of the visually impaired
through educational strategies that favor their
learning capacities as well as their digital inclusion
through the use of virtual learning environments that
broaden their capabilities, allow for mutual
understanding, fosters dialog and the construction
and diffusion of knowledge.
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