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Online Education – An option for some! Debate #8

This is it! Debate #8! The final debate! It’s also my final class of my Masters! Thanks to Kim for inspiring me to try something new. So here goes. My first and last (at least for now) Podcast! Featuring myself Tracy Krenbrink and my daughter Addy!

If you don’t have time to give it a listen I will include my stance below! Debate #8 – Online education is detrimental to the social and academic development of children.

Created with Anchor

Chris from the agree team said that that Online Learning is a Good Option….key word “Option” for some students and I have to agree! Is it for everyone? No, but it can it be a good option for some students. While I didn’t love pandemic teaching or learning I need to remind myself that wasn’t a true online education experience. Online education teachers are aware of issues such as screen time and they are able to balance activities online and off. They also know to balance assignments done on the computer versus paper and pencil. Online Education is more than sitting in front of a computer 6 hours a days. Personally I think there is a place for both online education and in person education. Online education may not be the best option for everyone and that’s okay! 

Tracy

Who’s Responsible? Debate #7

This semester has flown by! It doesn’t feel like it should be our last round of debates but here we are! Monday’s first debate was whether Educators and Schools have a responsibility to help their students develop a digital footprint. On the Agree side Rae & Funmiloa and on the Disagree side Gertrude & Kim. Here’s a quick recap of their key points! 

Agree 

The Agree team, Rae & Funmiloa, started off by providing us with information about what a digital footprint is and why it is so important. A digital footprint is the trail of information about a particular person that exists on the internet as a result of their online activity. A positive/negative digital footprint can have future implications for students as they enter the workforce and future schooling. The online world has become an extension of the real world. The agree team explained that educators/schools can not leave the responsibility to teach students about their digital footprint solely to parents, as not all parents have the education or access to do so. If educators leave parents soley responsible it may widen the digital gap. The agree team also noted that schools and educators have a responsibility to help keep students safe, which includes teaching students about their digital footprint.

Disagree

The Disagree team, Kim and Gertrude, didn’t deny the importance of a digital footprint. Instead they focussed on responsibility! Who is responsible for helping students develop their digital footprint? Big Tech? Parents? Educators? A high percentage of students, 84%, are entering schools already having a digital footprint, which are highly influenced by parents. If educators are responsible, are they prepared and do they feel comfortable to take on the role? The disagree team provided a survey that showed that many teachers do not feel they have the education, or resources to be responsible for helping students develop their digital footprint. What about big tech? Big tech creates many of the issues but then expects parents/educators to do the work to ensure students understand/build their digital footprint. 

My Thoughts

I still feel a bit lost on which side I agree with. I am not a classroom teacher but I am always trying to place myself in their shoes. I think there is a responsibility for educators to help students become “aware” of their digital footprint and understand its importance but are they responsible for helping students develop their footprint? I’m on the fence. Teachers can help educate and guide students but ultimatley they can not control the choices students make outside of school hours. I think it would be helpful for educators to have a specific curriculum/outcomes related to digital citizenship and digital footprint. This has been discussed in other debates but I really think this course has highlighted the importance of the curriculum being updated to include content that reflects the digital age we are living in. 

In terms of making students aware of their digital footprint and the implications it has, I thought the article “Teaching Students about Their Digital Footprints” had some useful suggestions for educators. It included lesson ideas to help students become aware of their own footprint. One idea was having students google themselves and reflect on what their digtal footprint revealed. It also provided ideas of how to teach students the implications (positive & negative) of their digital footprint. This included information about situations where Canadians have lost their job or title due to inappropriate social media posts. 

Since the deabte I have been reflecting on the disagree teams caution about posting student pictures online. I manage most of my school’s social media and I am pretty cautious. I try to only include pictures that a student could not be identified by but I notice other schools are posting a significant amount of pictures of students on their social media that end up being tagged by parents. In the article “It’s Not Ok to Share Student Photos Online. And Here’s Why” they share some of the risks to this common practice. Risks related to student safety, privacy and student data. The article aslo noted the importance of getting parental permission and ensuring parents understand what they are signing up for. A few years ago I was flipping through a Prarie Valley Kindergarten Orientation package and noticed a picture of my daughter was used. A picture that was taken years ago when she was in Kindergarten. I’m sure I had signed the media form but I hadn’t considered that pictures could be used years down the road and for any purpose. After reading the article I am feeling even more cautious about my role posting on social media.

Tracy

A Few Final Questions:

Does your school share student photos on their social media?

Who do you think is responsible to help students develop their digital footprint? Parents? Educators? Shared Responsibility?

Do cellphones have a place in Schools?

Another great debate! Both the agree team Echo, Lovepreet & Amanpreet and the disagree team Leona, Reid & Bret made solid arguments for why cellphones should or should not be banned in schools! Here’s a few of the Key Points!

Agree

Cellphones are addictive and distracting

Cellphones are currently being banned in many places around the world

Nomophobia (fear of being away from your phone)

Cellphones can be used for cheating

Cellphones are a target of theft

Disagree

Cellphones can increase student engagement 

Cellphones can increase accessibility 

Cellphones can increase student/device ratio

Cellphone Features/Apps can be useful in the classroom (calculator/alarms/calendar)

Cellphones can allow for new ways of learning (Virtual Reality)


To preface, I am not a classroom teacher. I have been a learning resource teacher for 15 years and the past year a VP/LRT. Maybe I would feel more strongly about banning cellphones if I was a classroom teacher dealing with them day in and out. While I don’t think cellphones should be banned; I also don’t think students should have all day access to them. I think there can be a happy medium, with limited access. The distractions cellphones cause it a big concern for me. Even as an adult I struggle with being distracted by my cell phone. In Breanna Carels article “Changing our Mindset in Regards to Cell Phones in the Classroom” she noted that adolescents are spending approximately 8 hours a day on devices with access to media. That’s a lot of screen time and distraction!  Another scary stat was the closer the proximity of a cellphone to a student, the poorer their cognitive functioning was. Again pretty concerning. On the flip side I have seen cellphones increase student engagement, and accessibility as well as increase the ratio of devices. At my current school we do not have 1:1 access and cellphones are often used so all students have a device.

Limited Access with Rules & Expectations

The adults who work with these students need to change their mindset on cellphones, and look at ways to incorporate these phones in class, rather than banning them. 

Changing our Mindset in Regards to Cellphones in the Classroom – Breanna Carels

I thought Breanna Carel’s article aligned well with my own beliefs. She believes teachers should find ways to incorporate cell phones but also stresses the importance of policies & expectations. Teachers should have clear rules and policies set at the start of the school year. A suggestion from the article that I liked was involving students in the creation of the policies and expectations. Has anyone tried this?

Within my current school our students have limited access. One middle years classroom has a cell phone hotel and the other classroom is allowed cellphones at their desk (off) and they are only to have them on when the teacher has given them permission. Both seem to work pretty well. We also do not allow cellphones out with students at recess for a number of reasons. We want to encourage our students to be active and or socializing during recess. Students are more likely to make poor choices (taking videos/inappropriate messages) during unstructured times. Yes there are always going to be students who make poor choices. As a school we have a two strike rule and then the admin hold on to the cell phone and students pick them up when they are leaving for the day. We also have one repeat offender who checks his phone in every am at the office and picks it up when he leaves.

Cellphone Hotels & Contracts

Teaching students to be good digital citizens is important with all forms of technology, cell phones included. I think with education and clear expectations cellphones can be an effective tool in the classroom.

Final Thoughts/Questions

At what ages are your students coming to school with cell phones? – Grade 5/6 seems to be the age at my school.

Does your school have a school wide cell phone policy or is it classroom teacher drive? – Ours is teacher driven but I wonder if it would be more beneficial to have a school wide policy.

Tracy

Proceed with Caution – Debate #5

Is Social Media ruining childhood? Here’s a quick recap of the main points discussed in Debate #5. The Agree Team, Fasiha, Gunpreesh, and Dami discussed a lot of valid concerns about children using social media which are included in the picture to the right. In addition to concerns around addiction, distraction, and mental health, the agree team discussed how children who use social media are missing out on the joys of childhood including playing outside, connecting with friends, and using their imagination. The Disagree Team, Jennifer O, Shivali, and Mike, argued that social media, with safe guards in place, can be used for good and therefor is not ruining childhood. They discussed how social media allows children to connect online and find peers with common interests (especially beneficial for marginalized children), provides accessibility to support groups, and allows children to share their voices.

Personally I think not allowing children any access to social media is likely to backfire. In Matt Walsh’s video “The Very Real Damage That Social Media Does to Kids” he takes the stance that social media should be an absolute no go for children! He goes at far to say he would rather his children spoke cigarettes than have unsupervised access to social media. While everyone is entitled to their own opinion I found his stance extreme. Matt Walsh says he wants his children to have a real childhood but what is a real childhood and who decides? My children play outside, they use their imagination and they also use (I think) age appropriate social media! For us it’s a balance. What happens when his children reach an age where they can make choices for themselves and they have had no exposure to social media?  They haven’t had to learn how to find a balance between screen and non screen time.

As a parent & educator I do have concerns with social media. In my admin role I deal with a lot of classroom/playground issues in the middle years, many of which stem from social media. I’ve fielded many phone calls from parents related to cyberbullying on popular social media platforms. Even though I have reservations, I don’t think social media is ruining childhood! I DO think it needs to be used cautiously and at an appropriate age (depending on the platform).

Social Media & Parenting

I really enjoyed Jennifer’s swimming – social media analogy.  We wouldn’t drop a child into a pool and expect them to swim; just like we shouldn’t give students access to social media and expect them to use it appropriately.  It takes significant supervision and practice before children are ready to swim alone and the same can be said for social media. We know children need education and supervision before and while using social media but whose responsible for it? Many of our classmates agreed their should be a shared responsibility between parents, students, social media platforms and educators. I think responsibility shifts as children age. At my children’s age (10, 8 & 5) I think a lot of the responsibility lies with parents.

Matt (I think it was Matt) bought up a valid point about parental responsibility; there is an assumption that parents have the skills to teach their children how to use social media. Our children are growing up with social media, but for most parents social media didn’t exist when they were children. The social media platforms students are using are also always changing as platforms gain/loose popularity. Not only have I been reflecting on Matt’s point but I have been questioning how I educate/prepare my own children for social media. At this time, my 10, 8 & 5 year old don’t use a lot of social media. YAY! My oldest two watch YouTube and have kids messenger and my little guy watches Kids YouTube. With 3 kids in multiple sports our evenings are pretty busy so we don’t have to enforce a lot of limits on screen time. We do monitor kids messenger (we can see their messages on our phones) and we’ve spoken to our children about online safety (only messaging with people they know, not giving out personal information). What am I missing? What else are people doing to prepare their children to use social media? When does the responsibility start shifting to educators & parents? At what age do you think it is appropriate for children/youth to use the popular platforms like SnapChat & Instagram?

Tracy

Social Media & Social Activism

I went into Monday’s debate confident in my agree stance….Of course teachers have a responsibility to use technology and social media to promote social justice but after the debate I changed my vote and this is why!

“Participating in social activism is, first and foremost, the right thing to do!” 

Ashley Reid & Katie Sehl – Genuine Social Media Activism: A Guide for Going Beyond the Hashtag

First to be clear, I think social activism is extremly important, but is it a teacher’s responsibility to use social media to promote it? 


If a teacher feels comfortable using social media to promote social justice that’s great but after the debates I realized there are a number of reasons a teacher may be reluctant. As Dalton and Brook mentioned, teachers may be concerned with repercussions or job security. Other concerns mentioned in the article  “Should Educators include Political Opinions in Classroom Discusssions” were fear of parent and/or colleague pushback and unintentionally swaying student perspectives. We also discussed in our break out room the fear of sharing something and it being taken out of context. I think we need to be respectful of a teacher’s comfort level related to social media and support their chose to use it or not.

Genuine Activism versus Slaktivism? 

Social media has become a popular tool for activism. Social media has a large audience and can encourage mass participation. As Kari, Jessica, and Jenny discussed movements such as BLM and Idle No More gained significant momentum through social media. They also shared articles with examples of student led social activist groups that have used social media to create change. Within the article “Using Social Media to Engage Youth: Education, Social Justice, & Humanitarianism” a group of students, Generation Pulse, used social media as a platform to connect with youth affected by Hurriane Katrina. These were great examples of social media activism but as Brook & Dalton discussed social media activism is not always genuine. Supporting a cause online with no additional support, known as Slaktivism, is not genuine social media activism. According to “Genuine Social Media Activism: A Guide for Going Beyond the Hashtag” genuine social media activism is “supported by concrete actions, donations, and measurable commitments to change” (Reid & Sehl).

Social Media is not the only way to promote Social Activism! 

As we enter Pride Week, I have been reflecting on all of the ways that our school division and staff are promoting social activism. At the division level, RBE, has created a diversity committee which is providing ongoing professional development for all employees. They have also been promoting Pride Week/Month through social media, as well as highlihting many of the activities/events at individual schools! RPS will also be participating in the Pride Parade next Saturday! Within my own school there are a number of activities/lessons planned by staff and our GSA and the Pride flag will be raised Monday. Our TL has also invested in a number of resources for the school and staff. While we have some staff that are very comfortable using social media to promote social activism, we also have staff doing incredible things that have no ties to social media.

Again I want to highlight the importance of social activism but after the debates and reflection I do not think teacher’s have a responsibility to use social media as a means to promote it. If they choose to….Great but there are many other ways to promote social activism that teachers may feel more comfortable with!

Tracy

Reinventing Education or Status Quo? Debate 3

A quick recap of Monday night’s heated debate on Schools should no longer teach skills that can be easily carried out by technology (e.g., cursive writing, multiplication tables, spelling). The agree team, Sushmeet and Leah, argued that we should eliminate teaching skills such as cursive writing, spelling and multiplication facts that can be done easily with technology. Some of their key points included: it is convenient to use technology to complete these skills, technology improves accuracy (spell check/calculator) and by eliminating teaching skills such as spelling, cursive writing and multiplication, it would allow teachers additional time to focus on higher level thinking/problem solving. The disagree team, Alyssa, Kelly, and Durston, argued that we need to continue to teach these skills as not everyone has access to technology and students require an understanding of basic skills to scaffold learning. They also provide a number of specific examples that I will discuss in more detail below. 

Similar to previous debates, I can see valid points on both sides of the argument. I think there is value in teaching students multiplication facts and spelling patterns but I also see a value in teaching and encouraging students to use technology, such as spell check and calculators.

Cursive Writing 

This may be an unpopular opinion but I do NOT see the need to teach cursive writing in schools today. I tried to keep an open mind while reading the article “What We Lose with the Decline of Cursive” by Tom Berger but it wasn’t enough to sway my opinion. The article discussed how cursive writing can improve fine motor skills, but I would argue fine motor skills can be improved in a number of different ways (painting, playdough, puzzles ect). The article also noted that cursive writing may be beneficial for students who are dyslexic. While I can’t argue if it is or isn’t beneficial, I can say that in my 15 years an an LRT, I have worked with many students with learning disabilities in writing and using technology is always recommended. We know our students futures will include technology and I think time is better spent teaching students typing skills rather than cursive writing.

Multiplication Facts

Unlike cursive writing I do think teachers should spend time teaching students their multiplication facts. As the disagree team mentioned, knowing multiplication facts is helpful for students as they progress to more advanced math. Having an understanding of multiplication facts is also an important life skill. As adults we use our knowledge of multiplication facts while cooking, shopping, budgeting, often without even thinking about it. While I think it is important to teach basic multiplication facts I also think calculators have a time and place. In my role as an LRT I have worked with many students who despite instruction and even intervention are unable to memorize their multiplication facts and require a calculator to be successful. As Stephen mentioned during our class discussion (he works at an adult campus) when adults are struggling with math, providing them or encouraging them to use a calculator is often the best course of action. Honestly if I have a multiplication question over 12 I am probably going to double check it on a calculator. Why? Because it’s convenient and accurate (two points the “agree” team made). 

Spelling

I have mixed feelings on spelling. The agree team and the article “Does Spelling Still Matter – and If So, How Should it Be Taught” highlighted the importance of spelling on resumes and for businesses. Both noted how a resume with poor spelling may be automatically rejected and how spelling errors can be costly for companies. The article also mentioned that spell check software is far from perfect. Personally I think spelling words or spelling patterns should be taught but I am not fussy about the traditional weekly spelling tests. I also don’t agree with using grades from spelling tests towards a student’s literacy grade, a debate I’ve had more than once with colleagues. Weekly spelling tests are a better reflection of a student’s ability to memorize, than their ability to spell. Spelling is not my strong suit but I have a great memory. I aced spelling tests as a kid but if I was asked to spell the same words a week or two later….not a chance. Okay back to my stance on spelling! While I think spelling or better yet word work should be incorporated into a teacher’s literacy program but I also think we should be teaching students how to use technology as a tool to assist with spelling. One thing I used to do in my LRT role “pre-covid”and hope to get back into, is going into classrooms teaching all students how to use Google Read Write. Often tools like “talk to text” or “prediction” are only taught to our LD kiddos when in reality they may benefit many students. I know I use “talk to text” all the time!!

There are loads of great tutorial videos on Google Read Write

Within David Middelbeck’s Ted Talk “Re-Inventing Education for the Digital Age” he discussed how education hasn’t kept up with technology, which is completly true. Technology is changing rapidly and change in schools & curriculums happens at a much slower pace. David Middlebeck stressed that we need to re-invent education for the digital age and while I do agree, I also think there is value in teaching students skills that technology may be able to replace, including spelling & multiplication. Another great debate! Another indecisive blog!

Tracy – Team Agree & Disagree

The most dangerous phrase in our language is, “we’ve always done it this way.”

Grace Hopper

Equity or Divide?

Okay let’s be honest, Stephen, Nicole and I were hoping to argue the disagree side of “Technology has created a more equitable society” but apparently our internet speed was lacking, as it had already been scooped up by Christina, Amaya, and Matthew. In hindsight, arguing the agree side turned out to be a great learning opportunity. 

Assistive Technology

As an Learning Resource Teacher I truly have seen assistive technology create more equitable opportunities/education for students. One of my roles as a LRT is trialing assistive technology, completing SETT applications (ordering equipment) and helping teachers implement AT. Being an LRT for 15 years I have witnessed many AT successes. I have also seen a major shift in the students who are able to access education in mainstream classes and I would say advancements in technology have played a major role. Kymberly Deloatche’s Ted Talk How Technology has Leveled the Playing Field in the Workplace also provides real life examples of how AT/Technology has been a difference maker for many individuals & families. While my experiences with AT may be the norm at a local level, I know that access to assistive technology is not universal.

The Digital Divide

We knew the digital divide would be addressed in the argument for the disagree team and we couldn’t argue that it doesn’t exist. We did however argue that technology isn’t solely to blame for achievement gaps. It was interesting to read that achievement gaps existed long before technology and that technology is one of sixty two variables that contributes to educational equity. 

As our classmates discussed during the debate discussions, we had extremely different online learning experiences even within the same city. During the first two years of the pandemic I worked at a Regina Public School where families had access to internet and devices. 95% of our families opted into optional learning and our daily attendance was comparable to our usual attendance. This was not the case across the city. Many of my colleagues across the city were printing workbooks and dropping off packages as families did not have access to technology and/or access to the internet. The pandemic certainly shone a light on the digital divide and the consequences it has created.

“We know the pandemic has had highly uneven consequences for Black Canadians, Indigenous people and people of colour, as well as for unhoused people, precariously employed, rural and otherwise marginalized people. And the costs of being on the wrong side of the digital divide are disproportionately borne by these same communities.”

Weeden & Kelly “The Digital Divide Has Become a Chasm: Here’s How We Bridge the Gap”
World Education Rates

While the digital divide was tough to argue we did find a lot of research on how technology has improved and increased access to education globally. Technology has allowed many of us the opportunity to further our education, with students taking classes from all over the world. Literacy rates have also drastically improved across the globe. In addition technology has allowed for increased communication, collaboration, and updated resources.

I do think with improved access (devices/internet/education/training) technology does have the potential to create more equality. Now that there is more awareness of the digital divide, hopefully we start to see changes to bridge the gap.

Tracy

Balance & Purpose

Last Monday was the start of the Great Debate and the opening debate “Technology in the Classroom Enhances Learning” did not disappoint!  Doing the pre-vote I was pretty confident siding with the “agree” team but I have to say I found myself swaying between agree and disagree throughout the hour debate. 

The agree team, Megan & Brittney, provided a lot of reasons why technology in the classroom enhances learning including:

  • Access to information 
  • Information is updated & relevant
  • Offer different perspectives
  • Online tools to facilitate sharing of information that is not always written

McKnight et al.’s article “Teaching in a Digital Age: How Educators Use Technology to Improve Student Learning” provided some additional food for thought. McKnight et al. discussed how technology enhances communication and feedback. Technology allows students with the ability to collaborate with peers on their assignments. I can’t imagine completing group projects without the use of technology. They also discussed how technology extends purpose and audience. The point that resonated with me most though, was how technology has shifted the role of the teacher and student. Students are less reliant on teacher for the answers and technology has allowed students more opportunities to be the expert and choose topics that interest them. As an educator I can think of many ways that technology has enhanced my teaching and my own learning.

Even though the disagree side may have been more challenging to argue, I thought Nicole & Daryl provided a lot of thoughtful points on why technology in the classroom does not increase engagement including:

  • Distraction – I think most teachers would agree that with technology comes distraction
  • Decease in Real Connections (people & environment)
  • Technology is Isolating Students – students struggling with social skills
  • Physical Health & Mental Health Issues on the Rise
  • Lack of Improvement in Achievement & Graduation Rates – If technology enhances learning why haven’t we seen more improvements?

Niel Patel’s article “The Positive & Negative Effects of Technology on Education and In Classroom in 2022 ” reiterated many of Daryl and Nicole’s key points but also had a few additional negative effects of technology in the classroom. A few were the rise in misinformation online (inaccurate information), the cost of technology in the classroom, and how technology has created opportunities to cheat. Within the elementary school I work in we are certainly seeing more students struggling with social skills, fine motor, and mental health but I am not sure we can place all of the blame on technology. I think the pandemic and the lack of socialization for many students has played a big role too. Another challenge with technology that our school is facing is issues/bullying related to social media.

Although both sides of the debate provided a lot to think about, I think the biggest takeaway for me came from the discussion about Balance.

As mentioned in Richard Chamber’s Ted Talk we are living in a society that is overloaded with technology and we need to find a balance. Students also need balance. In order to create a balanced approach in the classroom I think teacher’s need to consider the purpose of the technology they are using. The SARM approach, which was discussed in the resources, can help educators think about the role of technology in supporting students & learning. Is the technology allowing students opportunities to create something new? If technology is being used at the substitution level, maybe its a time that technology really isn’t necessary.

While I know I could keep going on this topic, I need to find my own balance! It’s time to shut off my computer and enjoy the semi decent May long weather!

Tracy

App City

It blew my mind when I started to reflect on all of the technology I use and rely on every single day. From the moment I wake up, thanks to my alarm on my Iphone, I am pretty much connected to one device or another. As a vice-principal one of my roles is to manage supervision; so before I even start getting ready for the day, I check my texts and Atrieve (an online portal for staff) to see if anyone is away and what roles/supervisions need to be covered. 

Once I have my three kids up and off to daycare/school I am off to work. Prior to the school day starting I check my email, EDSBY and our school’s shared google calendar. In my current role as a vice-principal and learning resource teacher I primarily do small group interventions, generally literacy based, so I don’t use a lot of technology within my everyday teaching. That being said, I always have my phone on me. Gone are the days of buzzing the office if you need admin. I am always a text away. I also communicate with parents daily using technology. This year Regina Public Schools moved to EDSBY (an online platform for families). I use EDSBY daily to send communication to families, broadcast school events and news, monitor student’s attendance and log any phone calls with families. 

Learning a new platform this year was tricky but worth it. EDSBY allows staff access to attendance, grades, report cards, contacts, messages, the ability to share students work – all on one site.

As a mom of three my phone is app city! I have a sports folder of apps, which I check multiple times a day to plan our evenings and who’s going where. To keep things interesting it seems all of the kids’ sports use different apps. TeamLinkt, Sports Engine & WhatsApp to name a few. I also have a folder dedicated to Education apps which I check daily. All three of my kiddos teachers use Seesaw daily to send pictures, homework, and reminders. I check these apps daily….you don’t want to be the mom who forgets show and tell or a “theme” day (been there – done that).

In my free time, which is limited, I am checking out my social media accounts…Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram. I am definitely more of a follower than a contributor. I am also checking in on U of R courses and always seem to have a few google docs on the go. On the rare nights we are not at sports, someone is watching Netflix, Disney Plus, or Prime. I am sure I am forgetting many of the ways we use technology but its Sunday afternoon and I need to check my apps and make sure I am ready for the week!

Until Next Time!

Tracy