Things My Mobile Saw This Year

It happened almost imperceptibly. But there it is. I seem to have started using my phone to take pictures. Initially, I did not see the point of having a camera on my phone. After all, I did have a real camera and I hardly used it.

But as I was looking through my phone gallery just now I found I have loads of visual reminders of moments that have turned into nice memories – and that I somehow caught with my phone.

Below you can see a short impression of Things My Mobile Saw This Year, made with PhotoSnack. You can also view 2013 in mobile photos here.

Of course this is just fooling around and a major way of procrastinating online. After all, who apart from myself would care what things my phone caught in pictures.

However, this very easy way of collecting photos into a slide show with the option of adding text and descriptions – I did this in 10 minutes tops – can be a powerful tool when used for educational purposes. Why not ask your participants to make a PhotoSnack of their impressions of your training or workshop? Why not ask them to prepare for their learning process by showing you as trainer their day-to-day environment in which they will have to apply their new knowledge or skills? Why not ask them to show some of their routines, annoyances, or challenges? Why not ask them to show you their highlights and moments of glory after the training?

Why not, indeed. No reason why they cannot spend for instance half an hour reflecting on what they need to change or what they have learned. Such investment of time and attention is peanuts compared to whatever it is they will have to do to integrate their new knowledge and skills and insights into their daily practice. And it may well make that bumpy road ahead of them easier: it can help them focus and it can help them stay motivated if they can look back at their own visual reminders of what it is they wanted to tackle and what tools they got from the training to deal with those challenges.

As for me, it feels good to see some of the things I did and experienced so far this year. There have been a lot of good moments and I feel good to have captured them. If nothing else, that fact shows me I am still developing myself and that I am still building new habits. It is really inspirational to realise that there are always new things to be learned and applied – and this is so easily done!

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Playful Visualisation Tools

If you want to spend 5 minutes and have some fun with a twist, then you should try BigHugeLabs, ReciteThis or Picture2Life. All you need is a picture or a quote. And a plan. And in a few minutes you will have an inspiring poster or a picture with a caption.

BigHugeLabs: Captioner

BigHugeLabs: Captioner

If you haven’t got inspiration, ReciteThis has a wide range of quotes you can choose from and make a nice poster-type picture of.

Uplifting! ReciteThis

Uplifting! ReciteThis

All this is of course a nice break away from work.

But you could also use these tools for work-related messages.

You could make a ReciteThis out of a quote of one of your participants.

Participants defining the aim of a shadow report. ReciteThis

Participants defining the aim of a shadow report. ReciteThis

Or you could use the Motivator tool of BigHugeLabs to add a message to a photo of an activity.

BigHugeLabs: Motivator

BigHugeLabs: Motivator

Or you could personalise a message to someone using Captioner in BigHugeLabs.

Or, if you want others to do the dirty work, you could invite your participants to share a picture with a quote or message by way of introduction or as an assignment related to the topic of your workshop.

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So even a bit of fooling around with tools like these can give you tons of ideas for your work – justifying those 5 minutes break in a heartbeat! Have fun!

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Pinterest

Finally, I can say I started using Pinterest. Obviously, I had been reading about it, and had looked at other people’s pin boards and made good use of them. I also set up an account months ago and dabbled a bit. But I have to admit I was still more hooked to Delicious as a tool to create online libraries and was uncertain whether Pinterest would provide me with real added value. Especially now that Delicious has become much more visual as well.  Now I can say I got it.

Organise saved links in pin boards (Eric Sheninger)

Organise saved links in pin boards (Eric Sheninger)

Like in Delicious, you can save links in an organised way. In Pinterest this organisation is called a pin board, in Delicious it is a stack. Like in Delicious nowadays, these links are shown in a visual way: you get a one picture preview. The difference is, that you can save all links in Delicious whereas Pinterest needs a “pinnable” element on the location you want to link to. Not all sites have such elements, but there is a way around that, see below.

Example of a pin (Eric Sheninger)

Example of a pin (Eric Sheninger)

Both tools allow you to add a short description of the link, so that other people are able to see if this link may be interesting for them before clicking on it. In Delicious you can also tag your saved links, making it easier for visitors and yourself to select even within a stack which links might be useful. As far as I can see, this is not yet possible in Pinterest.

Like Delicious, Pinterest is a social media tool. Meaning that you can make your own profile and follow what other people do. You can re-pin pins saved by others. And you can comment and discuss.

Both tools allow for very easy saving of links, by adding an element to your bookmarking menu (“Save on Delicious” or “Pin It”.)

Both tools can be used in class and for trainings; sharing background materials in one location, collaborating in a group on this collection, etc.

So what is the added value of Pinterest that I truly realised only just now?

Go to the Add button on the top and upload a pin!

Go to the Add button on the top and upload a pin!

Easy! Pinterest allows you to upload your own content, too.  Content that is not online and thus does not have a link to bookmark. You can make pins out of your pictures, infographics and screenshots.  That way, your pin board can become a collection of links and photos, instead of just a library of links. This aspect is also the key to including links without so-called pinnable elements. You can make a screenshot of part of the page, upload it as a pin, and add the link afterwards.

Add a link to a screenshot of a site with unpinnable elements

Add a link to a screenshot of a site with unpinnable elements

This combination of links and own materials makes it, for example, possible to create a pin board relating to a certain event or activity that you have organised. You could collect all press releases, media clippings, photos and videos about the event in one pin board. That way, both people who were there and people who weren’t can easily see what went on and find all related materials in one publicly accessible place.

But, like Eric Sheninger, you can also create a pin board sharing methodsWeb2.0 Tools for Educators.

Possibilities are endless. And although I am sure I will continue using Delicious, I will definitely start using Pinterest more actively than I have.

So, just get started like I finally did and see how you like it!

Example of a pin board about an event

Example of a pin board about an event

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On Safari With Social Media Tools

At the IAF the Netherlands annual conference in June this year, Simon Koolwijk, Gerdi Keeler and I conducted the workshop On Safari with Social Media Tools – how to embed lessons learned in your learning process. In two hours we tried to share experiences of using social media in learning processes and communities as well as to give the group an idea of some of the tools we referred to. To start up the conversation we introduced a social media bingo with a variety of questions, like “Find a person in this room who has made 10 or more tweets“, “Find someone who knows possible uses of QR codes” and “Do you have 3 or more apps on your smart phone; which ones?“.

During this short exercise it became clear that we had quite a diverse group on our hands. Several participants already were quite experienced but were looking for more in-depth insights into best practices, while others were not so experienced and wanted to practise.

After a short Prezi presentation we therefore decided to split up and work in 3 smaller groups, in order to meet the different needs.

To check to what extent we had succeeded, we invited participants to share their opinions by answering 3 questions on Polleverywhere.

The main insights and ideas participants gained were:

  • There is much more possible than I thought!
  • Possibility to create a community for small groups in a learning process
  • Importance of blended learning & change (mix of online and offline learning)
  • More online meetings!
  • I want to get to know Yammer
  • To plan for use of social media tools in learning processes
  • Ideas for online and offline activities before and after face-to-face events
  • I will need to practise – I am lagging behind in the field of social media
  • Better to be proficient in a few tools, and to use them well than to try to use them all at once
  • Variety of social media tools available that can help embed results of my workshops

Tools that participants were interested in using were:

In order to start using these tools most participants indicated they would need time and patience. A few participants mentioned that they would search for more information online and just try out the selected tools. Overall, participants were satisfied with the workshop and felt they gained new ideas and inspiration to use social media in their work.

And what did I learn? It became clear to me that while there are many tools out there not that many facilitators are familiar with them or are using them in their work. Some are making use of the possibilities social media offer, but are not always satisfied with the return on their time investment in this. This may be caused by the learning process involved in getting to know tools and discovering their possible uses. But it may also be caused by a feeling that dabbling with social media is taking away precious time from the real work – and the fact that social media use is not perceived as a genuine part of that work, yet.

This attitude will change only as and when professionals will see concrete examples and best practices of how social media can actually facilitate their work and how social media make them more effective on the job. Though it is relatively easy to try out different tools on your own, it is not as easy to successfully deploy them within your organisation or learning processes. Exchanging experiences, ideas and fears in combination with practical tips on how to use certain tools, tailor-made advice regarding suitable tools for your specific situation and practising in a small (online/offline) group over a period of time, may help bridge the gap between knowing about a tool and effectively applying it. With our workshop we wanted to give a peek preview into what social media can do for your work and how useful further “training” in this area can be, also for facilitators. Looking at the positive reactions, I think we succeeded in this first step. So now – on to the next!

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Online Polling

Whether you are working online or face-to-face with a group it is useful to know what is going on with the people in your group. Are they getting new insights? Are they satisfied? Are they still engaged?

If you are working face-to-face you can of course easily check by taking a look at the group. However, we all know that there are always some people that are hard to read or that hardly speak up. With an online tool you might get them to talk and express themselves.

View only the mood of those you are following

View only the mood of those you are following

A funny tool you can use during a (face-to-face) meeting or workshop is Moodpanda. Participants can rate their mood and provide a “reason” for the grade. It’s easy to change your mood status, so participants can easily keep their status up-to-date.

 

The downside is that you need an account to use Moodpanda and that you will need to follow the people in the group if you want to keep track of the group only. Otherwise you get a feed of everyone using Moodpanda at that moment of which your group is a difficult to discern part only. If you follow others you can choose to have a feed of people you follow only.

Once set up, you can react to other people’s status or simply “hug” a person in need of some TLC  (If in real need, the Moodpanda comes to the rescue, too!, see picture below). Moodpanda can provide insight into what your participants are willing to share regarding their current mood and can add a new level of interaction to your activity. It can show you relations and interactions within the group, as well as the relation between a mood rating and the activity you are doing with the group at a certain moment. Thus it can be a powerful tool to check if you are still on track or if you need to make changes in your plan.

Moodpanda to the Rescue

Moodpanda to the Rescue

Another tool you can use for getting a grasp of participants’ opinions during an event or afterwards is Polleverywhere.

Poll in Polleverywhere

Poll in Polleverywhere

You can start a poll with or without having an account. If you do not create an account your poll will be saved for 2 weeks. People can reply online (phone, computer) or via sms. A poll can consist of one or more grouped questions, and questions can be open or multiple choice. It is possible to post replies more than once from the same computer, which can be practical if not all participants have their own device with them.

Overview of responses

Overview of responses

Results can be shown in different ways, and if you take out a paid plan you can even export the results.

More visual ways of sharing the results with your group are the live text wall and a word cloud.

Live text wall showing replies

Live text wall showing replies

 

Results in a word cloud

Results in a word cloud

Polleverywhere is different from Moodpanda in that you can prepare a poll beforehand, there is no live interaction between participants (although you could show the results as a moving, live text wall) and participants answer anonymously. Results are kept, and not lost in a feed that you would need to scroll through.

Polleverywhere is a bit easier to set up than SurveyMonkey or FluidSurveys, but the type of questions and answers is more limited, too.

The possibility of showing a live text wall of results of Polleverywhere during an event can be a very nice way of sharing inputs and using these as a basis for further discussion, same as the word cloud way of presenting feedback that makes very visual which are the main key words used by the group.

I used both Moodpanda and Polleverywhere for the first time last week and found both of them useful – and easy to use. Try them and see for yourself how interaction with your group may change!

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What I Learned from Trying to Introduce Social Media in 2 Organisations

In the last 6 months I have been busy with 2 failed attempts to help 2 organisations work with social media. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Well, if you like to learn, then it was!

So why did I fail?

Basically – who knows! But I have a few ideas that I would like to share.

Again Yammer!

Again Yammer!

What I tried to do was to introduce different social media tools that would help these organisations to share information, ideas and experiences, to collect documentation in one place, and to collaborate on joint strategies and plans. In both cases there was a genuine task to be carried out, which could benefit from using these tools and which had a limited time frame with an upcoming deadline. Really a hot idea. Or so I thought. And at the start, they liked it, too.

But then – nothing further happened. In one case, the task was postponed to some future date as yet unknown, and in the other case a Yammer network was set up which was used by only few people who used it only to send out ideas and information but were not really aimed at two-way communication, collaboration or engagement. The task did not get done.

Very rough "assessment" of the two organisations

Very rough “assessment” of the two organisations

What I found interesting when I started to identify reasons why was that both organisations had quite a lot in common. They both consist of  “loose parts” that work independently based on a clear task division and very clear “stay out” signs for others, with only one of the parts being focused on the organisation as such. The part having the organisation itself as a main task is working on things like strategies, policies, fundraising and the like, whereas the other parts implement activities and do not commit a whole lot of attention to strategising and such.

Within the organisations there is limited informal communication and limited personal contact between people, especially between people from the different sections. Perhaps as a result of that, there is a limited connection between both people and the functions being carried out by the different sections, and it looks like people do not feel safe enough to share freely. They may feel judged by others, they may feel that others cannot be trusted with certain information, they may be afraid of meddling by others.

In short, internally all signs for open communication through social media or otherwise are a fiery red.

No wonder nothing happened!

Hand Heart Head

Hand Heart Head

So what did I learn from all this? A lot! And probably more than if everything would have worked out perfectly!

  • Whether you can successfully complete a joint task using social media depends a lot on to what extent you can complete the task without social media – social media can make your life easier, certainly, but if it is impossible to get people to work together offline or via e-mail, then social media may not do the trick.
  • Collaborative capability depends on the level of development of an organisation, network or community and on its internal organisation and culture. The fact that there are common tasks does not necessarily mean that such capability exists.
  • The role of a facilitator is limited – a facilitator can definitely smooth the path but cannot from the outside in “enforce” a collaborative environment, especially not within a very limited time frame.
  • That is not to say that a facilitator needs to be completely helpless in the face of such a situation. A facilitator can perhaps more easily than the organisation itself notice what is going on and can re-group; try to find another angle and another path to achieve the learning, change or strategic objectives set by the organisation or individual.
  • A facilitator needs to keep his or her cool at all times! Patience is key to getting there. And getting there is key. All the rest is just what happens on the way.
  • It helps a lot if a facilitator can stay enthusiastic and motivated, even if a new path needs to be cut out through the jungle.

Thankfully I found that I was able to remain enthusiastic and optimistic and that in the few moments that I was not, I had a variety of social media networks and tools available to me through which I could share my experiences and questions. Or through which I could play my way back to optimism!

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Online Learning and Focus

For almost a year I have taken part in the Curriculum Social Media for Learning & Change. It’s been a wonderful ride and I am sorry to see it end next week with a final face to face workshop and closing presentations of all participants, sharing their lessons learned in applying social media in learning and change processes.

While I think I managed to get in much of the planned learning, I also learned from being a part of the curriculum and observing what happened in the internal learning environment and within the group. What I noticed is that keeping engagement and focus of participants is not easy, even if they are all highly motivated individuals and even if the three facilitators are extremely committed and observant.

Presentation of Group Assignment

Presentation of Group Assignment

It seems that 8 months is a long period to keep hard working professionals engaged, even though

  • This long period was cleverly broken down in 4 learning blocks of two weeks online learning plus one face-to-face workshop and one webinar each;
  • Learning was connected to the participants’ day to day jobs through work and reporting on real life cases in which newly acquired knowledge was applied;
  • Each of the learning blocks consisted of a variety of questions or assignments, ranging from testing a tool to sharing your ideas and experience to analysing different examples;
  • Some tasks were assigned to small sub-groups of participants leading to an online or offline presentation of results and findings.
Online Individual Assignment

Online Individual Assignment

It also seems to me that individual online learning requires a level of focus and discipline that is not easy to steer as educator, even though

  • The course facilitators used different communication tools to check up on and motivate absent participants;
  • Each block provided a variety of assignments, paying attention to different learner types;
  • The course facilitators provided rapid, constructive and positive feedback;
  • All assignments were carefully phrased and well-focused, with clear links to day to day work of different participants.

What struck me was that especially in the two final blocks not all assignments were addressed, not even by one participant. A common feature of these assignments was that they required more reading, thinking and combining of knowledge and skills than the other assignments which focused more on testing a few tools or answering a question related to your own case. In other words, these assignments required more action as well as more reflection, and in the end more time and energy of the learners. Precious time, that may be harder to assign to yourself if no-one else depends on it.

In addition, these assignments may also have been perceived as “more risky”. Learners were asked to make an analysis and propose conclusions or steps to be taken – basically for steps in the process of designing and implementing an online learning or change process. Things most or all of them do regularly, even if subconsciously. It may thus have been perceived that “getting it wrong” would reflect more negatively on the learners in their professional capacity. This perception may subconsciously have reinforced the idea that these assignments would need more thorough attention and thus more time than others.

The conclusion might be that if you want to include such more analytical and design-oriented assignments in your online course you would do well either to allocate them to one or more individual learners who then post their findings and elicit reflections and reactions from other learners, or to assign them to small sub-groups.

In all, observing the structure and implementation of the course has provided me with at least 8 lessons learned (see the bullet points above) that were implemented and one that was not. Not a bad score if you take into consideration that as active participant I learned loads of other stuff, too. Some of these other things I have shared in previous posts, and some I will still share later on this year. However, don’t think that reading my posts will get you there – if there is one lesson I learned most of all it is that you should go out there, try and err, reflect, get yourself back on your feet and continue!

Having 3 marvellous facilitators and a few active other learners around you certainly helps to stay motivated and optimistic and to get the most out of both failure and success. So if you can follow a course, you should take that opportunity. And I warmly recommend the one organised by Joitske Hulsebosch, Simon Koolwijk and Sibrenne Wagenaar of En nu online.

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Webinar Tools

Yesterday evening a threesome of which I was part facilitated a webinar in the frame of the Curriculum Social Media for Learning & Change in which we all participate. Since we had used BigMarker a few times already (as participants, not as facilitators though) we decided to try something else for a change. We came up with a combination of Skype and SynchTube, since we wanted to watch videos together, do two quick polls, have a discussion, share a document and have a chat. With these two tools, all of that was possible.

SynchTube
(please note that SynchTube is now out of use. TogetherTube could be an alternative).

In SynchTubeyou can create a room to watch videos, chat and do polls. You can do this, without having an account! Once you’ve created the room, you can share the link and everyone who gets the link can enter the room. The room looks like this:

SynchTube: overview of a room

SynchTube: overview of a room

On the left hand side you will find the video. On the right hand side there is a space to chat. It is important to first type your name in the box “Enter a name” and then click “Join chat”. Otherwise you will remain “unnamed” as is shown at the top right hand side.

SynchTube: poll

SynchTube: poll

The arrow at the bottom right hand side points to where polls can be added. A poll needs to have at least 2 possible answers. Participants can click on the number in front of the answer of their choice and vote. Everyone can vote only once. The scores are immediately updated. The leader can close the poll and start a new one.

Polls can be created only by the “leader” of the room. Initially, this is the person who created the room, but this person can give others the leaders role by clicking on a name and choosing to make them leader. If you want to remove someone from the room, you can click on their name and choose “kick”.

SynchTube: chat space

SynchTube: chat space

While you’re watching a video or taking a poll, you can share thoughts in the chat space. In the picture you can see that I managed to name myself and joined the chat. Below the chat space there is a small bar to type your chat contributions.

Some tips

  • You need at least 2, preferably 3, facilitators, even if you work with a small group only. The reason is that you need at least one person that will take care of all tech issues – like mishaps with SynchTube, people who have problems with Skype, etc etc – and one person that will do the actual facilitation of the discussion and work. If people are chatting and talking at the same time, it is practical to have a third person who will bring up issues from the chat into the discussion. So while you can save on time and expenses for travelling by working online, you may need more persons for facilitation than if you would have organised a face-to-face event.
  • The tech person should (try to) deal with the tech problems without interfering in the session itself, to the extent this is possible. This means that the tech person may need to set up separate connections (phone, Skype, etc) with people that are experiencing problems, and that way may miss out on some of the content being shared.
  • Be prepared for technical problems messing up your session especially at the start of the webinar. Meaning: allow space in the agenda for delays. And: be cool about it if and when it happens. Don’t panic the participants with your own panic!
  • Try out the tech tools at least twice yourself and check the possibilities of the tools you’ve chosen to work with. For instance in this case we had originally thought to use GoogleHangout (via Google+). We tried it twice – the first time it worked excellently and the second time it did not work nearly as well without us having a clear clue as to the why. Also, we found out in the nick of time that GoogleHangout allows for maximum 10 people to join at any given time. And as we invited more than 10 participants and could not be sure enough of them would cancel to stay within the limit of 10, we decided to look for another tool that would allow for over 10 participants at the same time.
  • Send participants clear instructions beforehand. If you will use a tool that you are not sure they have used before, send them a short guide of the tool. You can make screen shots from your test sessions to visualise certain elements of the tools and insert them in a written text if you cannot find a clear guide online.
  • Let participants do some of the thinking before the webinar. In this case, we sent participants a link to a Prezi highlighting some of the questions to be tackled in the webinar as well as a link to an online survey (via FluidSurveys) through which we collected certain information already. We presented the results of the survey during the webinar and used this as a starting point for further exchange.
  • Be clear on the order of things: we will start in Skype, then we will share a link to a SynchTube room and we will watch videos there, for instance. Let people know what to expect and give clear instructions: “Now we will go to SynchTube. Don’t forget to enter your name for the chat.”
  • Be clear on the rules: once we move to SynchTube, mute your skype to avoid hearing echos. And make sure that everyone does this, too!
  • During a Skype discussion, be sure to address certain questions to a specific person, and use their name. In a face-to-face event it is much easier to look at someone while addressing a question to the group. Obviously, this does not work on Skype.
  • Be sure to check a chat, if you have any, regularly and refer to remarks made there.
  • Create atmosphere in the beginning: do not start rightaway with going from one tool to the next. First establish that everyone is there and make sure that everyone knows what will happen, how and when.

An evaluation was conducted in Wallwisher (now: Padlet) and generated positive feedback:

Wallwisher Evaluation (in NL)

Wallwisher Evaluation (in NL)

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Book: Social Media for Trainers

Book Cover Social Media for Trainers

Book Cover Social Media for Trainers

I recently had the pleasure of reading the book “Social Media for Trainers – Techniques for Enhancing and Extending Learning” by Jane Bozarth (published by Pfeiffer in 2010). It is a wonderfully practical and concrete book that I can warmly recommend to anyone working with groups in the capacity of a trainer, coordinator or leader. The main tools presented in the book are Twitter, Facebook, blogs and wikis. All of these I know by experience, and still the book provided me with new ideas and insights.

 

Structured Content Social Media for Trainers

Structured Content Social Media for Trainers

Bozarth goes through the 4 main tools in a structured way: explaining the basics, paying attention to advantages and disadvantages, and showing when and how it can be used. All chapters contain clear examples of questions and exercises that can be used with the tool, as well as real life examples of use of the tool in a bigger organisation or company. If you’re still not convinced: there are screen shots, too, so you can actually visualise what she is describing even if you do not have any personal experience with the tool.

While I have come to see Twitter definitely as a tool for learning I so far was focused more on how it is a tremendous source of information validated by people whose judgement I trust or whose perspective interests me (the people I am following). Bozarth showed me a new perspective: how to engage learners or a community through Twitter. You can ask them to introduce themselves on Twitter, they can answer start up questions or receive reading or other assignments. But you can also organise role plays, or use Twitter as a back channel for engaging learners or community members in a conversation in parallel to a class or webinar. And you could even schedule tweets asking evaluation questions one or more weeks after an event, and get feedback on how people are using newly gained knowledge and ideas in practice. For all these ideas, Bozarth lists clear sample questions suitable for the Twitter environment.

Similarly, she presents clear examples for use of Facebook (groups or pages), blogs and wikis in learning and community environments. As well as a few ideas concerning a small selection of other social media tools like SlideShare, Youtube, TeacherTube and Delicious.Through this all, she shows keen understanding of needs of learners and community members and shares her experiences with communities of practice and in the (virtual) class room.

In all, a valuable and inspirational resource for all of us interested in engaging people in processes – whether they be for learning or otherwise.  I wish you happy reading!

Find Jane Bozarth

Jane Bozarth on blogspot

Jane Bozarth on Twitter

Jane Bozarth on Facebook

Jane Bozarth on Google+

Short description of Jane Bozarth on Learning Solutions Mag

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