Saturday, December 22, 2012

Montessori Distance Learning - Comprehensive Training for Teachers of the Young

 By: See Author Box

Montessori distance learning courses are designed for continuing education in the field of child education. These programs help to develop excellent teaching credentials and provide extensive practical training in Montessori education. These days, most comprehensive distance learning programs are available for aspiring Montessori teachers worldwide.

Montessori distance learning programs include Montessori methodology and practice, five of the most important ideas in Montessori education, how to prepare the Montessori environment, how to prepare yourself as a Montessori caregiver, communicating with young children the Montessori way. Some programs also offer contemporary ideas to supplement Montessori methodology. The combination of the ideas past and present can truly enrich a child's educational and social experiences.

Montessori Education Overview

Distance education allows you the freedom of studying and submitting your course work at your own pace without disrupting your current job, leisure activities or family life. Comprehensive curriculum manuals support distance learning programs. Instructional materials and support systems like CD, DVDs and online access to educational video presentations guide you step-by-step through each and every lesson.

Generally, Montessori distance learning programs are divided into different levels. Infant or Toddler Program is for the children under 3 years of age. Pre-school or Kindergarten is for the children in 3 to 6 years age group. Elementary or Diploma program is designed for the children in the 6 to 9 years age bracket. These programs cover all the critical stages of development. Some institutions offer Elementary Montessori Environments programs for 9 to 12 years old children.

Institutions Offering Montessori Programs

Professional Career Development Institute is a nationally accredited distance learning school founded in 1987. They have enrolled over 1,200,000 students in the US and in 100 countries worldwide. They offer affordable, no-interest monthly tuition plans. They regularly update their course materials to reflect new technical advances and research.

The United Montessori Association offers a 9 to 12 month, comprehensive on-line Montessori Teacher Training Program. The Montessori teacher training program is an exclusive distance-learning email based program. Students receive the lesson responses in the form of Microsoft Word attachments. Teaching manuals, CDs and DVDs are mailed via the postal service and are inclusive in the tuition fees. Reference books required for reading assignments may be purchased separately and are not included in tuition fees.

Montessori Teacher Preparation of Washington offers four self-paced videotape courses covering all the levels of Montessori education.

Montessori distance learning programs provide a thorough understanding of the adult-child relationship as well as a complete knowledge of the physical layout and operation of a Montessori classroom.

A Mother's Reasons For Choosing Montessori

 By: See Author Box

This is the time of year when the parents of many preschoolers must decide where their child will attend school in the fall. I wanted to take this opportunity to share my experience with Montessori preschool education.

My son is completing his second year in a Montessori preschool program and attended from the age of 3 1/2.

I chose Montessori for several reasons. First, my son is a bright, inquisitive child who already had a sound grounding in recognition of his alphabet, numbers, shapes, and colors before he started preschool. I was worried that he might be bored in a more traditional preschool. Montessori's highly individual program means he is always challenged and interested. In addition, my son is a very active child and the Montessori program gives him lots of opportunity for free play outdoors and indoors as well as more freedom to move about, stand, or even lie on the ground while working on his lessons in the classroom.

In my opinion one of Montessori's great advantages is the fact that the child drives the educational experience. My son's interests and abilities determine his unique educational program and so his lessons may overlap but are not identical to those of his classmates. This makes him an eager and motivated student.

The education program offered by Montessori also includes many advantages. My son's experience includes the arts, math and science, language, and life skills. He regularly impresses our friends and family with his knowledge of science, sign language, and other areas not traditionally included in preschool programs.

I also like the fact that his classroom includes a wider range of ages so he has friends who are both younger and older. In addition, he really enjoys having regular contact with the elementary-age students who serve as both role models and friends.

Finally, as a parent, I cannot stress enough the benefits that a program like Montessori offers in terms of life skills. All students are expected to be responsible for their own personal hygiene as well as maintenance and cleaning of the classroom and food areas. While support is offered by adults and older children, even young children can learn to clean up after themselves. It has certainly had an impact on my son's willingness and ability to help out at home.

Recently I compared preschool experiences with a friend whose child is completing her second year in what most people consider to be the top preschool program in our community. We compared our children's skills to the checklist provided by our school district of 60 skills (including cognitive skills, listening and sequencing skills, language skills, fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and social/emotional skills) that will help children transition into kindergarten. My son has all 60 skills while her daughter lacked skills in each of the areas.

I recommend every parent at least consider Montessori for their child as it is a child-centered learning approach that can provide an excellent foundation for a child's future growth and learning.

MARIA MONTESSORI vs JOHN DEWEY (The Fight of The Century)

  By: BruceDPrice

I’ve been studying Rudolph Flesch, the reading wars, the ed wars, John Dewey, and all points in between. Along the way I learned a lot about Montessori, and her losing, bruising battle with America's top educators. Mainly, I learned that she deserved to win.

Montessori was the first female doctor in Italy, graduating in 1896. You know she was extremely smart and determined; you know she thought for herself.

She got into education along an odd tangent. She wanted to help retarded children (at a clinic in Rome). She devised her own techniques and was soon producing miracles: these retarded children were beating the so-called normal kids! Now, that right there is an amazing and wonderful story. But it gets better.

Montessori next asked the very questions that would obsess me: what the heck were the public schools doing to Italy’s children that they lagged behind her retarded children? How could she, a medical doctor, come along and beat those schools at their own game?

Long story short: she applied her techniques to ordinary kids and, soon, she was the talk of Europe and then the world. Her ideas swept through enlightened circles in the USA. She came here to speak in 1913.  

And then comes one of the most shameful moments in American education. John Heard Kilpatrick, a crony of John Dewey, wrote a piece in the New York Times (1914) that devastated Montessori. Her reputation in the USA collapsed. Montessori schools closed. Her name disappeared until the 1960s. (Both she and Dewey died in 1952.)

Now, if you want to study the differences between Dewey and Montessori, here’s a long and thorough article: “The Egg Man and the Empress,” on But I warn you, you might study the material for a semester, and still be confused. So many platitudes, abstractions, details, generalizations. Finally, it comes down to what an educator is REALLY trying to do.

Maria Montessori was trying to set kids loose, make them smart, tap into all their resources, explore (and explode) their potential. That’s what I believe in. 

John Dewey and his gang were all too willing to settle for mediocrity. They were Socialists and they believed that too much learning and knowledge got in the way of producing the cooperative, interdependent children they wanted. John Dewey specifically says in “My Pedagogic Creed” (1897) that he didn’t believe in too much history, science, math, geography, literature, and so on in the early grades. That is, ages 6 to 9 when, according to Montessori and common sense, kids are on fire, eager to learn, growing every day. No, John Dewey says that he wants to emphasize social activities, including “cooking, sewing, manual training, etc.” (his words). He wants to slow kids down, to retard them. The pay-off is supposed to be that they will grow up to become good little Socialists. (Even Antonio Gramsci, a real Communist, said that if you want to help poor kids, you had better give them lots of basic academic skills.)

Here's what I've figured out: you have to look at motives. Montessori was obsessed with making slow children fast. That's a pedigree I can trust. Dewey was obsessed with making all kids Socialists. So, from day one, Dewey was not an educator in the traditional sense. He believed in conditioning. He was a social engineer, trying to build the Brave New World he saw in his head.

A century later, we are still paying for Dewey’s bad ideas. Dewey, I submit, is the Father of Dumbing Down. He and his gang specifically did not like too much literacy. That is, they were comfortable with more illiteracy. And they got it. By promoting whole word, which does not work, they made sure that this country’s literacy rate would steadily drop. This pedagogy is also, I believe, responsible for all the dyslexia and reading problems we hear about. (Want to eliminate dyslexia? My guess is that the simplest way is to eliminate sight words. Every last one. Once children start to see word-shapes, they become doomed, no longer able to perceive sounds in print.)

The problem with Dewey and Kilpatrick is that they were trying to pull off a silent coup. They wanted a Socialist America. You think they can speak candidly about their goals or strategies? Never. That’s why anything Kilpatrick, Dewey or their allies say about Montessori will be bull and balderdash. It will, more formally, be disingenuous.

Bottom line: Let's don’t get stuck in the details. Montessori was a real educator. She always INTENDS to educate. Dewey was a real Socialist. He always intends to create Socialists. As most people understand the term "education," Dewey was actually anti-education. Or, to be charitable, he was remarkably cavalier about it!

CODA: Well, I confess I’ve had a good time trying to figure out why our educators hated Flesch so much, and why they hated Montessori, and why we have 40,000,000 functional illiterates and a national scandal called dyslexia. All these problems are beautifully linked to each other and to John Dewey, America’s Most Famous Educator. (Intellectual history, I find, is the most interesting history; and it teaches this: garbage in, garbage out.) If you would enjoy further analysis along this line, please see “A Tribute to Rudolph Flesch” and “Phooey on John Dewey,” both on

Shop for Kids: A builder learns to work with kids.

 By: bboards18

I didn’t start building till I was 25 years old.  Well that isn’t quite true. Some of my fondest childhood memories are of my sister, myself,  and neighborhood friends building soap box derby cars, forts and kites. The technology was crude,  wheels fell off, steering failed, but we had great times. We also had a great time building forts in the woods. When I was in middle school I remember another neighborhood project where we built a giant kite. It was made from dowels, duct tape and heavy paper and practically took a hurricane to get off the ground. But once it was up it would break 100 lb test fishing line and burn your hands trying to hold down.

     I’m not sure why, perhaps because it wasn’t cool, but all through high school, college and the military and college again (didn’t finish) I didn’t built anything. It was only after my second stint in college that I rediscovered building. It was little jobs at first, helping to remodel a room, some construction, a temporary diversion to VW mechanics and then I built a canoe which got me interested in building boats. I added a room to our house and built equipment for handicapped children.  

    After my kids were born I spent a lot of time trying to figure out things they could do by themselves so I could have time to work on our house. I was amazed at my son Ben and his friends who spent hours (with Dad’s help) taking apart old radios and record players and making things with the parts. When Andrew was five he saw the curls come off a board I was hand planing and started to play with them. Soon he wanted to make his own. I cut a curve in a piece of cedar so he could plane it flat. Of course, he had to try every plane I had. He worked with my planes for four hours one day and two the next (all the while being very careful) making a collection of curls and wood pieces all planed and sanded. These and other experiences with my own children taught me an appreciation for the enthusiasm of children for real work they can do themselves.

    When my oldest son started school I had a vague notion of helping out in his classroom. Little did I realize that this vague notion would evolve into woodworking, take things apart, designing educational equipment and writing

    My younger son’s daycare center needed playground equipment so I built a small climbing dome from electrical conduit. It was  like I had built the Eiffel tower. I knew then I wanted to work with kids.          

    Another time I offered to take some my son’s classmates to the cafeteria and have them take things apart and experiment with electricity. It turned out much better that I expected. The kids loved it.  We took apart radios, worked with lights, batteries, bells and switches and they learned about tools. Many didn’t know the difference between a Phillips and a slotted screw driver, but they caught on quickly. They learned it wasn’t easy to take something apart, that you had to find that hidden screw holding the whole thing together. Most important, they had fun.

       As my son grew older I kept volunteering and ended up helping with science experiments. At first it was hard even to walk down the halls because I felt like I shouldn’t be there. Old childhood fears I guess. But most teachers were grateful for any help they could get, especially with science. So I gradually felt welcome. And built more things

    While doing those first science experiments I noticed kids often don’t look at details so I started designing things that would entice them to look at details yet be self-correcting. One result was a marble roll. It was made from a refrigerator door and magnet backed troughs (plastic plumbing pipe split in half) that could be placed anywhere on the door. Children enjoyed creating their own marble roll by moving the troughs around. From Lincoln Logs I got the idea for a playhouse children could take apart and put together themselves. Using notched plywood boards they could construct all sorts of creative “houses” and climb inside. Sometimes the playhouse would remain in the back of a classroom as a reading or quiet place.

    Woodworking also evolved. Little tops, boxes, candle and pencil holders the yahoo stick, and do-nothing machine, kids loved to build projects. My role became to find interesting projects, break them down so kids could do them and to present them in a non-threating way. I was amazed at children’s competence. These volunteer efforts at school lead to teaching summer woodworking and science classes for the local park department and teaching “shop” for 3-6 year olds one day a week at the local Montessori school.

    The reaction to all of this from both the parents and the kids was surprising. I expected them to like it, but was quite unprepared for the level of excitement and enthusiasm these activities and approach produced. For my part, I was just elaborating on those projects out in the “shop” that my father and grandfather had done with me. I went to the library, looked in the science, magic and craft books for things I thought would appeal to children, and then did them. I’d test projects and activities on my own children then in my class. I didn’t invent much, merely borrowed from the past and applied my own twist. But to the kids and their parents I was Mr. Gadget.  

      It struck me how separated designing and building has become from kids, schools and teachers. As builders, (electricians, carpenters, mechanics, plumbers) we may know how to repair a car, build a house, boats, or fine furniture for a “market”, but we have forgotten to build the simple, fun and magical things from our childhood and present them to our families, neighbors and schools.

Neural Trapping: A Brief Remedial Technique for Students with Memory and Attention-related Learning Disorders

 By: rdepaolo

Neural Trapping

A Brief Remedial Technique for Students with Memory

and Attention-related Learning Disorders.

By Robert DePaolo


This article discusses a remedial method applicable primarily to students with Attention Deficit, but also to students with learning disabilities, autism and other disorders that feature attention and memory deficiencies. It focuses on a fundamental neurological process referred to here as neural trapping.

In describing this process it might help to discuss what happens in the brain when a learner attempts to memorize a cluster of information.

When presented with a task or stimulus, the brain tends to be globally activated (Toshikazu, Aichihisa et al 1995). Mass mobilization - often referred to as the principle of mass action - enables the brain to consider inputs from central sources and also from the periphery. In effect, its default position is not to focus, but to scan the environment broadly. This is a highly adaptive brain strategy that prepares the individual for “what if” contingencies (Pulvermuller, Birnbaumer 1997).

That suggests concentration is not reflexive or “natural“, but must be summoned (Hedlin (2002). In order for it to emerge requires a recruitment process. That process consists of several steps.

The first step is for the brain to decide on the importance of a particular stimulus to “justify” excluding all but the relevant stimulus.

The second step involves and requires an emotional pre-decision, a sense of urgency, registered within the brain, signifying that the relevant stimulus could have a potential impact on the learner.

The third step involves praxis - or coordination. Once urgency and relevance are registered, the brain must alternate and apportion excitatory and inhibitory neuronal activity fluidly and with precise timing so that irrelevant inputs can be blocked while relevant inputs can pass through and in sync with one another to avoid neural spillover, or spiking. That requires a degree of pre-knowledge as well as neural timing.

The final step involves stamina, that is, a capacity to sustain focus for the entirety of the task.

In that context disorders along the “attention spectrum” could be described in a way slightly different from the traditional ADHD subcategories of Inattention, Hyperactivity and Impulsivity to augment rather than replace those categories. The diagnostic revisions would include:

Recruitment - mass action

Relevance/Recognition - narrowing of circuits based on a perception of task relevance

Urgency registration - an emotional determination of potential impact

Praxis… or neural timing - to coordinate the above narrowing/selection process and preclude spiking.

Stamina - which involves continued maintenance of the above functions for the duration of the task

The fact that the human brain appears to operate in a manner consistent with the above model, has implications for diagnosis and remediation.

On the other hand this neural process doesn’t necessarily coincide with the milieu of the typical classroom, which tends to be passive rather than urgent, and deliberate rather than rapid.

This is not a critique of either educators or of the education system. It would be difficult to insert emotion and urgency into each and every classroom (though not impossible). I’ve seen some very creative (dare I say wonderfully theatrical) instructors do this occasion. Yet it does present an awkward mis-match between brain function and traditional teaching methods and raises the question of how slight modifications in teaching practices can bridge that gap.

Mind and Memory

In constructing the bridge, we can begin by asking… what process enables learners to attend, and …what prevents learners from attending to and memorizing information?

The answer is fairly clear. Learning and memory are registered in the brain when neural fibers extend outward and attach to other neurons. In other words, learning is a result of neural growth and post-synaptic innervations (Horridge, 1968). The facilitator of that growth and innervation is feedback, or reinforcement, signifying that a behavior has been successful.

In that context, studies by Sluvidis, Koten et. Al (2008) have shown that when a behavior is followed by feedback ( which could be negative - indicating a lack of error, which is a good thing) or positive (indicating the attainment of a specific goal, also a good thing) neural fibers extenuate and connect to other networks In that way, short term memories are established.

Long term memories develop when these fundamental connections reverberate throughout the brain so that the memory trace is multiply registered in various sites. This provides redundancy, which any good information system must have (Dukas 1999).

As to the question of what prevents ADHD, autistic and learning disabled students from learning efficaciously in the classroom, one possible answer is something called “interference,” and it can pertain to lapsed time between stimulus, response, feedback and memorization

As discussed earlier, the brain operates in part according to a mass action principle and as a result harbors competing impulses. The fact that the brain reacts globally, leads to systemic noise, which allows interfering stimuli to intrude on the associative memory process. Noise in the brain equates with arousal and irresolution - which in turn create discomfort for the learner. It also creates interference patterns arising from pre-existing memories and percepts that compete with the initial perception. That too can block the forming of associative connections.

There are two types of interference; external and internal. Both are more likely to arise with longer intervals between cues, responses and feedback and less likely to arise when the intervals are compressed.

Resolution and de-arousal typically result in a pleasurable feeling. (Vitouch (2004), thus has implications for the urgency-emotion factor. More specifically, narrowing down the global brain activation into greater specificity reduces noise in the brain, which leads to a positive affective state. That, in concert with the structure and rapidity of the teacher’s presentation fulfills the urgency requirement for soliciting attention and memory.

The unpleasant aspect of mass action is nonetheless necessary. One of its benefits pertains to the fact that global activation allows for greater potential response access, which increases options in decision making. Another benefit is that mass action forces a higher level of brain arousal, which provides the energy for recruitment, attention and memory.

On the other hand, a noisy brain with a penchant for mass action increases the potential for interference. As a studies by Barrouilet and Camas (2009) and Winocur (1988) have shown, memories fade and/or are prohibited when intruding thoughts, experiences and inputs interrupt the trace input that would otherwise be the main focus. Thus whenever classroom teachers try to impart facts to their students (especially with time gaps between presentation and memorization) they must be aware of this implicit and natural drift toward noise, confusion and interference.

Since mental activity is ongoing, and other than in extraordinarily isolated circumstances. perceptions impinge continually on the brain, interference is a function of time. Therefore, the more time elapses between the stimulus, the behavior and the feedback the more likely it is that an interference pattern arising from an internal or external intervening stimulus event will interrupt the process, and that neural-growth extensions, reinforcement and memory will be blocked.

This can happen for a variety of reasons. For example a student with an auditory processing problem might not interpret a teacher’s instructions accurately, leading the student to seek out more comprehensible, competing stimuli in the classroom. Or the student might have an attention problem characterized primarily by an “urgency-deficit,” so that absent a sense of personal impact, he might seek out more intense stimuli in class - or create that intensity through his own behavior. In addition, a student might be so self conscious that “escapist” mental activities like rumination and day dreaming can interfere with memory consolidation.

That‘s where the concept of neural trapping comes into play. It is a method that can be used in either remedial or regular classroom settings. It features a rapid sequence of cues, student responses and positive feedback. Its rapid delivery creates a sense of urgency and interference-proof resolution by providing immediacy and reducing the timing…or praxis requirements in the brain. It can therefore maximize the student’s attending and memorizing capabilities.


With regard to teaching method style is obviously important. Firing rapid cues at a student, and asking him to respond as quickly as possible can be intimidating. Yet with the provision of immediate positive feedback and a soft and encouraging tone, an interference-free method can be implemented effectively. With respect to brain function, such rapid presentations would tend to create a neural trap, and override noise and interference, while establishing clear, uncontaminated short term memories, which can then be disseminated in the brain for long term consolidation. It is a method supported by the research of Kogan, Frankland et. Al (2003) who demonstrated that shorter intervals between stimuli, responses and feedback do enhance learning and memory.

In terms of application, the method would remain essentially the same for all students. albeit with some modifications, depending on the nature and severity of the learning disorder. In each instance the instructor’s and student’s sequence of cues, responses and reinforcers would be separated by short intervals.

Since the greater the impairment in terms of attentive focus, memory and integrative capacities, the greater the potential for interference, the intervals for significantly impaired students might have to be shorter. For instance, with severely impaired autistic students the intervals might have to be narrowed considerably. That is because autistic students often exhibit a “one track-mindedness” (also referred to as a vertical learning style), and if they are not initially locked on to the task, their integrative deficits will make recruitment and shifting over to the correct task focus more difficult.

In such cases, not only is it important to shorten the intervals, but also to swamp the brain with multi-sensory cues, so as to preclude interference from other sensory inputs. This would feature a rapid presentation of tactile, language and visual cues, followed by the student’s response, followed in turn by tactile, language and visual feedback.

Methodological Limitations

One potential drawback of this approach is that it might be difficult to apply to conceptual tasks, which by definition, draw on multiple memories to facilitate a convergent response. Yet it is not impossible. For example a student can learn anagrams and cue phrases such as i after e except after c or in math…right column first, left column next. In other words rote-rule learning can be created through the neural trapping process, enabling the student to summon conceptual and operational responses to enhance academic growth. In some ways this is obvious. For example Piaget determined that teaching involves first establishing schemes, then presenting inputs that by virtue of their divergence from those schemes force thought, deliberation and intellectual growth. (1978).

Another potential limitation on this method is that it might be more useful in one-to-one or small group settings than in a larger classroom. However, drilling exercises - still used by many teachers for spelling and foreign language declension lessons - are an example of how this principle can be applied in the classroom - with one important difference.

The key to the method lies in the word behavior. There is no evidence to suggest that neural growth and extension (thus memorization) occur through mere drill recitation or by listening to instruction. The student must respond in a way that leads to reinforcement. Thus the drill method used in classrooms for spelling and other subjects might be a less than optimal way to establish memories. To reiterate, neural growth, thus learning and memory depend on a behavior-feedback sequence. With regard to details, an illustration of the neural tracking method is as follows.

(Teacher): “Let’s run through this quickly. Two times three is“….

(Student): “Six”

(Teacher): “Excellent”

(Teacher): Three time three is…”

(Student): ”Nine”

(Teacher): ”Fantastic”

(Teacher): “Four times three is…”

(Student): “Twelve”

(Teacher): “Superb”

The Learning Curve

The above illustration obviously applies to instances in which the student knows but has not thoroughly committed to memory the facts or rules inherent in the lesson. With regard to a student’s first exposure to a lesson the dynamic would deviate a bit from that format but the key elements of short time intervals, interference-prevention and neural connectivity through a behavior-reinforcement sequence would still prevail. For example, once students are informed generally about the subject matter, use of the neural trapping method could occur immediately - in fact that might be an ideal scenario.

Another important question has to do with the interval between the teacher’s cues/questions etc. and the students’ responses. In the best of circumstances, (eg. a low interference, optimal learning/memory paradigm) the intervals would be short. Yet one could ask justifiably, whether that might preclude the student from thinking his way to a solution, and detract from the development of problem solving skills.

The answer to that question is twofold. First, this article does not argue for neural trapping as a prime or exclusive teaching approach. It is geared more toward specific students who, despite having adequate cognitive abilities, or some predetermined capacity to learn a given task, just can’t demonstrate consistently, their knowledge, recall and competence with regard to that task.

The second answer is more to the point. With a longer interval between teacher’s cue and students’ response, there is an increased likelihood of interference. However perhaps more important is the interval between the students’ response and the reinforcer. That is what produces the neural growth and connectivity.

A reasonable way around the problem of longer cue-to- response intervals would be for the teacher to provide intermittent of “filler” cues to prevent interference and keep the relevant stimulus trace in play for the student. Without filler-cues and intermittent comments, the stimulus vacuum that would prevail between cue and response would open the door to interference and possibly hinder memorization.

In some ways this runs contrary, not just to simple drill exercises, which have been used by educators for decades, but also to more modern teaching approaches, which emphasize deliberation, comparisons, and concepts over rote memorization of facts and rules - arguably in some instances before the student is mature enough to employ conceptual thinking. Some research indicates that the concept method works with select students, for example Okaya, Musa et al (2006). Other studies, for instance, Hansen (1985) suggest it does not work for all.

The fact that conceptual learning as an early foundation in elementary grades might be somewhat brain-unfriendly could explain why students diagnosed with learning, memory and attention-related disabilities not only don’t progress adequately, but also seem unable to consolidate what they have learned from one day to the next. An example of this is the so-called “multiple ceiling/multiple basal” phenomenon that keeps educators from determining the actual skill levels of learning disabled students and gauging their progress over time. It is possible that a neural trapping approach could ameliorate that problem, help solidify learning and improve the consistency in student performance.


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