creative commons licensed ( BY-NC ) flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs

Creative Commons is one of those topics which everyone knows about and when question say that they understand, but can’t really explain what it is and how it works with very much clarity. For some it is seen as a nuisance, while others see little point or purpose to it, but in regards to working within the world wide web, it matters a lot.

Basically, Creative Commons is a set of licenses that allows you to give permissions for others to use and modify your content. As is explained on the main website:

The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web.

In total, there are six different licenses made up of three different variables: attribution, modification and commercialisation. These are best summed up by the poster designed by Piotrek Chuchla, graphic designer and poster artist which can be found here. While for a more detailed explanation, watch the following video:

The question that so often remains unanswered is how does it work in practise and why is it important?


Often when we consider Creative Commons it is automatically linked with copyright and the legality of using someone else’s work. A prime example of this is outlined in Chris Betcher’s experience of using Creative Commons music on Youtube. In a series of posts he describes his battle with an artist about using a piece of music in a video he made. Even though he had seemingly sort the music out fairly through Jamendo with the best intentions, the algorithms in Youtube flagged his work and marked it as a breach of copyright. After much digging around, Betcher discovered that ‘no derivatives’ does not have to include cutting up an item, it can also mean combining it or mashing it up with something else.

This view of Creative Commons relates to appropriate use of content. This is contrast to discussion around copyright. Everything has copyright – at least in Australia – from the time that it is written down or recorded. Often conversations though end up in debates about fair use, educational purposes and substantial parts. In contrast, Creative Commons adds to this predefined right by applying to your work a license which allows you to clearly permit how you wish your work to be used. For example, if you are wanting to remix an image, then you would search for something that does not have ‘ND’ attached to it. Betcher makes the pertinent point that Creative Commons “removes the barrier created by traditional copyright.” However, to see Creative Commons only for its legal benefits misses out on its real benefit to support a community of sharing.

In an interesting post, Alan Levine laments how so much of our conversation around copyright stems from the argument “don’t break the rules.” He suggests that it is not much different to all those piracy fear campaigns. Instead of getting caught up in the ‘what’ of it all, Levine wonders where the conversations about the positive reasons as to why we do it, that is, feeding content back into the community, paying it forward and attributing where things comes from. Paul Klimpel sums it up best when he states that the main purpose behind Creative Commons is about making content more shareable. It is at its heart about creating culutre.

The next step then is how do we actually create an open culture of sharing and collaboration which allows for a greater flow of ideas and expression. For as Doug Belshaw states, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” Maybe it all starts with modelling the change through our own practise. This could include not retweeting images without attribution as Chris Wejr suggests or developing a school wide policy as Richard Wells has done. One thing is guaranteed, ignorance and naivety will no longer good enough, especially as algorithms become more and more complicated.

So what are you doing? What have I missed? I would love to know. Feel free to share.


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Some Aus

The Australian Institute of Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) recently sent out an email celebrating the end of term. In it they shared some ideas for some professional learning over the holidays, ranging from the most popular AITSL reports to suggestions for education videos. One of the things that stood out though was the list of ‘best blogs’ provided.

  1. Learning Deeply by Education Week
  2. Mindshift
  3. Edutopia blogs
  4. Teacher Toolkit
  5. Mr Kemp

Now I don’t wish to questions the quality of any of the blogs, but for an ‘Australian’ institute it was strange that of the five blogs included, none of them were actually Australian? This subsequently got me thinking about which blogs are missing from the list, which ‘local’ bloggers I would recommend dipping into over the holiday period:

  • What Ed Said – Along with Kath Murdoch’s Just Wondering, I love delving into Edna Sackson’s own inquiry into inquiry. Always open, always sharing, I feel I come away from each post with a different perspective of my own practises.
  • My Mind’s Museum – A little bit practical, a little bit personal, the one thing that is guaranteed in reading Matt Esterman’s blog is that I always leave thinking a little bit more deeply about things. Along with Cameron Paterson’s It’s About Learning, Esterman’s blog provides a great mixture of practical examples and personal musings, covering everything from educational spaces to digital identity to what constitutes history.
  • About Teaching – I think that the title sums it up best, Corinne Campbell’s blog reflects on everything relating to teaching from managing stress to engaging learners through project based learning. What I like is that she not only offers a honest and personal insight into things, but she also tackles topics that others often overlook.
  • Dan Haesler – This is another one of those blogs that is hard to categorise. It is a little bit about wellbeing, a little bit about engagement, a little bit about leadership, but a lot bit about improving education across the board. Haesler provides commentary on all things, from class sizes to interviewing prospective staff to gifted and talented programs.
  • On an e-Journey with Generation Y – Every time I start making excuses about why I can’t do something, I remind myself of Anne Mirtchen. She seems to manage so much with her students that goes far beyond the traditional classroom.
  • ReconfigurED – Along with Ross Halliday’s Making Learning Fizz, Anthony Speranza touches on all things learning to drive innovation in education. Whether it be introducing Genius Hour or implementing Chromebooks, Speranza’s continual push to disrupt the traditional learning space is always both interesting and inspiring.
  • Miss Spink on Tech – From using Twitter to connect beyond the classroom to publishing student work through iTunes, Spink is always writing something about how technology can make learning more meaningful. In addition to this, if there is anything to know about Evernote, she has spoken about it.
  • Transformative Learning – The strength of Steve Brophy’s blog is that it is usually purposeful and practical. Like Corrie Barclay’s Learn + Lead + Inspire, Brophy provides endless reflections on the way in which technology can and is already improving learning.
  • Bianca Hewes – I initially came upon Hewes’ blog looking for more information and ideas associated with Project Based Learning, but what I found was so much more. Whether it be the highs or lows, Hewes is always honest about all things life’s learning journey.
  • Betchablog – It would be easy to label Chris Betcher’s blog as ‘just another tech’ blog, but to do so really misses the strength of it. Betcher not only writes about all things technological, like Hewes, he does it in such an open manner that it forces you to confront many challenges that we more often than not choose to ignore.

It seems wrong to have only included ten as there are so many other great blogs out there. There are some who I love to read – such as Richard Olsen, Jason BortonRichard Lambert and Mel Cashen – who just do not write often enough for my own liking. While there are some that I feel bad about missing, such as those by Eric Jensen and Dale Pearce. All in all, there are just so many great blogs out there jam packed with great ideas and resources. This is exemplified by Corrine Campbell’s fantastic list of Australian blogs that she has started curating: http://list.ly/list/WsG-australian-education-blogs-worth-reading.

At the end of the day though, it is not the ‘ideas’ the necessarily keep me coming back, although they are important, but the connections that I feel that I have engaging in an online environment. So what are the connections that you have formed, those blogs that you go back to continuously? I would love to you.


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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by szeke: http://flickr.com/photos/pedrosz/2115782565
Everyone has a book that epitomizes their upbringing. For me it was My Place by Sally Morgan. Not only did it provide an insight into the way people lived over time, but also how places change. I was reminded of this recently as my wife and I strolled around Circular Quay in Sydney. Littered on the pavement are a series of markers indicating where the shore line was in the past and how people have progressively extended this overtime. Looking at the markers and boardwalk, it was hard to imagine the shore as it was when the first fleet landed and how different things must have been different. This attempt to empathise with the past got me wondering whether there will ever come a day when augmented reality could provide us with such an insight or if this was beyond the realm of possibility.
 
Last year, I remember stumbling on a virtual tour made with Google Earth Tour by +Lee Burns looking at the different places in Raimond Gaita‘s autobiography, Romulas, My Father. Although this located the places in space, it did not necessarily locate them in time. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could not only explore place, but also time? If we could go back and walk the streets of Melbourne and Baringhup in the 1950’s?
 

 

 
This got me thinking about the notion of augmented reality and the idea of a physical tour where you could choose which time you were walking through. Imagine that instead of having to go to somewhere like Sovereign Hill or the Pioneer Settlement to step back in time, we could instead look out across the city skyline of a place like Sydney and call up a vision of what it might have been like in the past or even better Machu Pichu when the Inca empire was at its height. I saw something similar imagined in Corning’s A Day Made of Glass series where students are shown how dinosaurs existed in the past, without visiting Jurassic Park. However, what I felt was missing in this vision is a personalised experience. I wonder then if this is the potential of Occulas Rift to bring such experiences to us. Google offer a lot of alternatives to being there, as outlined by +Chris Betcher, providing a means for visiting virtual galleries or exploring the Great Barrier Reef. However, maybe the next best thing to being there is imagining it and reconstructing it.
 

 
I guess though once this is all said and done, we still arrive at the age old problem, what story is being told and who is telling it? This is something continually grappled with other forms of fiction, such as film and novels. For whether we like it or not, history is always a question of perspective and this must never be forgotten.

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creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by Billy Rowlinson: http://flickr.com/photos/billyrowlinson/3515157369
 
I was talking with a coordinator yesterday and I heard a word that I hadn’t heard in quite a long time – proxies. A few years ago, around the same time as the introduction of 1:1 devices in the school, there was a spait of incidents involving students using proxies to access websites that would normally be blocked. The answer then was two fold: 
  1. It was explained to students the dangers of using such means in regards to viruses.
  2. Students caught lost their laptops for an extended period of time.
As time passed, it stopped being an such an issue. Less and less people were being caught out. However, what this recent situation highlights is that maybe it stopped being an issue for teachers, while for students the practise simply went underground. 
 
Whatever the exact state of play maybe, it left me searching for a better solution. For the case in question involved a student naively sharing with a new teacher how to access YouTube at school via proxies. What is interesting is that in some schools YouTube is open to students. However, there is a fair fear amongst staff that allowing students to access YouTube opens up a whole new can of worms. Like email, such applications and websites like YouTube add a level of responsibility that not all teachers are willing to accept. The irony though is that we end up dealing with such incidents online whether we chose to ‘accept’ them or not. 
 
For example, if a student was caught by another student watching an inappropriate clip at school and reported to a teacher, surely the answer given I’d not ‘that clip is not supposed to be accessed at school.’ Instead I would imagine that there would be discussions about why it maybe inappropriate to watch the video at school, whether this be because it may make others feel unsafe and is too often unrelated to what tasks are meant to be completed.
 
This is no different to when students bring issues associated with inappropriate online activity into the classroom. For although such incidents do not directly occur in the classroom, the fact that they inadvertently impact learning in the classroom means that we do need to deal with them. 
 
The question then that comes to mind is whether blocking access is the best solution? In an interesting interview that I seem to come back to again and again, +Alec Couros spoke about the importance of bringing social media into the classroom. He suggested that we need to be modelling with students everyday appropriate actions online. Yet, as I have discussed before in regards to taboos, for too many schools it is easier to ignore such issues as if doing so both absolves them of responsibility and means that they don’t exist.
 
I am not sure of the perfect answer, but I would like to say that simply blocking every program is not it. I would love to know your thoughts. Are websites like YouTube, Twitter and Slideshare blocked in your school? If not, what are the consequences, both good and bad, of allowing students open access? Please share below.

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creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by brizzle born and bred: http://flickr.com/photos/brizzlebornandbred/4934882110
 
In a recent ICT committee meeting, one of the participants made the remark that the digital revolution has failed to deliver all that it supposedly promised. Having been a part of the YVeLC pilot program almost ten years ago which focused on the potential of 2:1 laptops, it has been interesting seeing the changes that have occurred since that time. In a conversation with +Catherine Gatt, this is the list of reasons that we came up with as to why the digital revolution has failed to be the saviour that so many said it would be.
 

Failure to Invest

The government, both state and federal, has invested a lot over the last ten years. Whether it be providing Internet for students, WiFi access in schools, support in regards to servers and switches, as well as devices for students. In addition to this, the state government Victoria made a big investment with the now defunct Ultranet, a learning platform that was supposed to be the intermediary between staff, students and parents. The big question however is whether it has been enough?
 
For even though the government has provided Internet access, it cannot always be trusted due to insufficient bandwidth and tendency to drop-out. This has led to some schools investing in their own lines, creating a new culture of equity surrounding access. In addition to this, even though the government provides state schools with WAPs and other such infrastructure support, there are schools who find this hardware insufficient for their needs. Therefore, although the government has made significant investments, the question is whether it could have been done better?
 
I will never forget sitting in the meetings in regards to the Ultranet being told how many thousands of dollars that it would cost to make even the most minuscule of changes. Maybe instead of investing so much money developing a new product, the government could have invested more in regards to support and infrastructure, letting schools choose their own solutions, whether that be Google Apps for Education and Edmodo or some other combo and simply providing support in the form of coaches with the implementation.
 

Lack of Leadership and Guidance

Another point of confusion relates to the leadership and guidance surrounding the support of ICT in schools. I cannot think of another area in education with so many competing positions and job titles. One school has an ICT Co-ordinator, another has an eLearning Coach, while another a 21st Century Learning Coach. Then you have some schools who have nothing? You just need to look at the various posts on the matter to get a feel for the matter:
Each post encompasses the topic in its own way, but never completely, for how can it when the area itself is still largely undefined.
 
Whereas in the past the person in the ‘role’ might have worked with a technician to manage the moderate school network and maintain a few computer rooms, now it has expanded to include anything and everything. Spanning pedagogical practice to administering various systems to exploring areas of technological innovation.
 
Unlike other areas, such as literacy and numeracy, which are relatively settled or at least people feel that they can comfortably define them, ‘technology’ offers something that some just aren’t sure about. For how do you really measure the success of technology in schools? Instead, the management and leadership in this area is at times left to those with a passion and interest, therefore sometimes limiting the scope to change possible in some educational settings.
 

Fear of the Unknown

Attached to the confusion over leadership is the culture of fear often associated with technology. One of the biggest changes to education, I would argue, in the 21st century has been the attempt to reposition the place of the teacher away from being the one at the front of the room, to becoming a facilitator whose prime focus is to amplify the thoughts and ideas of the other learners in the classroom. With this comes the move from teacher-as-authoritarian to teacher-as-lifelong learner. For some, this shift is easier than others.
 
In the heyday of technology in school, the message preached was that students knew more, therefore let them run the show. The problem with this is that instead of being a facilitator, the teacher became a ghost in the room, someone largely absent, unsure about exactly what was going on, living in good faith. 
 
To me, palming responsibility off to students is not stepping to the side, this is stepping out of the classroom. What eventuates in this environment is a culture of fear where because you never really know what the students are doing, you jump at every flash and bleep that may occur.
 
I understand that as a teacher you will never always ‘know’, but to me teachers have a duty of care unto themselves, to lifelong learning – to at least try and understand in order to support students as they come up against issues, rather than curse that technology will be the death of us all.
 
With this, teachers need to embrace the unknown and with the students in mind, model how the solve problems. Sometimes it is through such moments of honesty that everyone learns the most.
 

Technology as the Answer

One of the things associated with technological fear is the expectation that somehow technology will be the panacea to all of the modern ills. Too often teachers expect technology to somehow change what they do without them changing any point of their own practise.
 
I have seen too many examples where teachers have introduced technology into the classroom as if it were a solution in itself. Then as soon as there is a hiccup, they baulk and revert to what John Goh describes as our default position. The problem with this is that technology is always doomed to fail if it is not linked to pedagogy and purpose.
 
In the end, technology is not the magic cure, rather it is how it is used that has the potential to have meaningful change. It is one cog in the complex construct that is 21st century learning. For it is through the sum of many parts that students learn. (See my post ‘Sum of the Parts Different to the Whole‘ for a better explanation.) The reality is, you just need to look at the work of John Hattie and you soon realise that the biggest point of influence in the classroom is the teacher themselves. That does not mean that we should simply rid ourselves of technology and focus on the teacher, instead the focus should be on how technology can be used to further practises, such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking
 

Another Thing to Fit

One of the big changes in regards to curriculum over the last few years has been the advent of interdisciplinary strands, such as thinking and interpersonal learning. In addition to this, the curriculum has been made even more explicit, especially for primary school. For example, whereas in the past students in Early Years had to assess against ‘the Humanities’. this has been split up within the National Curriculum and made more explicit. In this environment, ICT and technology becomes another thing to consider in an already cluttered curriculum.
 

ICT as a Subject

Seeing ICT as another thing ‘to do’ misunderstands its place and purpose. Instead of seeing it as an integral part of every lesson, ICT is too often seen as something done with the ICT teacher. Sadly, what should be done in ‘ICT’ is something more akin to computer science. However, it has sadly come to be seen as the time when students get their dose of technology for the week, therefore absolving any requirement to report against it elsewhere. For as we all know, students only engage with literacy in English classes, don’t they?
 
As +George Couros has stated, something is missing when we treat technology as an event. To achieve meaningful change, technology needs to be at the point of instruction. It is then that the potential to redefine the way students learn can truly occur.
 
In his book, ‘The Five Minute Teacher’, +Mark Barnes suggests introducing different applications and tools on a regular basis to help student build up a toolkit of possibilities. In this scenario, students then build up an array of possibilities so that when they are given choice in regards to working in a collaborative manner or communicating an idea they can make an informed choice. ICT is then an aide to learning, not the actual focus.
 

Outdated

Whether it be the choice of tools, applications and programs or operating systems themselves, the world does not stand still. Things are always evolving. Ten years ago the school I had kept a small collection of cameras in the library,  now just about every teacher let alone student has one embedded in some sort of device, whether it be a tablet, smart phone or laptop. With this change means that devices like Flipcams have become obsolete. Although the hardware may still function and would probably have cost quite a bit to buy, their quality and ease of use has become superseded.
 
One of the traps that teachers often get caught teaching the tool as opposed to emphasizing on the purpose. In focusing on skills, it no longer matters what tool or application is used, instead the focus becomes on why it is being used.
 

Change as a Mindset

Education has evolved during the last few years, sometimes though we just don’t recognize all the subtle changes. Maybe what we have is the revolution that we were promised and instead the problem is our inability to see it. I am reminded of +Chris Betcher‘s closing keynote at Melbourne Google in Education Summit 2013 where he explained that in many respects what happens in schools has not necessarily changed. Instead, the friction has been taken away, meaning that what may have taken hours in the past, can now be done in seconds.
As I stated in a previous post ‘Looking Back to Look Forward‘, it is easy to identify our failings, to think that nothing has changed, but if we stop and reflect for a moment we often find that a lot has changed. The challenge then is to change the way we look at such things, rather than change the things themselves.
 
What About You?
These are my reflections, what about you? Have I missed something? Do you disagree? Is your system of education different to the one I have portrayed? Is this specific to Australia or are these issues global? What do you think needs to happen now? I would love to know. Please leave a comment below.

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‘Your Association Needs You’ by Aaron Davis (Flickr)
While attending the recent Teachmeet at Lt Markov, +Roland Gesthuizen posed the question, what do you expect from +Digital Learning and Teaching Victoria? It is a part of a bigger question that I don’t believe we ask very often, what we actually expect from an educational association? It got me thinking about how these expectations have changed in the last few years. I remember when I started teaching over ten years ago, the association was the first place you went to for information and resources. However, in the last few years this pride of place has gradually been dissolved with the development of various sites and spaces. So here then are my thoughts about the place of associations today.
 
I remember as a graduate being inundated by my subject association with an array of sessions for this and that, I thought that every event was worth going to, probably because that was all that was on offer. The problem with this though was that schools never allow you to go to ever event due to the disruption to class and the cost to the school, this was exacerbated when I moved to the country, which also added the issue of travel to the equation.
 
Since then, I rarely look at those sheets and links, while the ones that I do wish to go to are often cancelled due to lack of interest. For me, much of this professional learning has been replaced by what could be deemed as ‘personal learning’, that is, learning that is driven by the learner, rather than the presenter. This can come in many shapes and not always in the physical form. This can include sharing ideas through social media or engaging with different resources through various social bookmarking. I think then that the place of associations in this environment is to not only to add to, but help manage and curate the dearth of information out there.
 
One of the interesting innovations of late in regards to professional development has been the rise of webinars and other such platforms as an alternative to tradition professional learning. Although I have not actually been a part of one of these sessions, I have watched many at a later date. What is great about this is that you can dip in when you want, taking away as much as you want. The problem is that traditionally the success of professional development is measured by numbers through the door. I think though that it can be a misnomer to simply measure such mediums by their take-up. For in the digital age, this take up can be spread over weeks, month and years. In some respect it is important to provide such ideas and information and let it have its own existence.
 
The biggest challenge to associations is that many of those tried and trusted methods and mediums are continuing to come under scrutiny in the world of open learning. I’ve read two interesting posts in the last few months in regards to the continuing currency. One from +Chris Betcher and the other from +Tom Whitby. What was interesting about both pieces was that they both highlighted sharing and networking as one of the essential elements to conferences. For Betcher, conferences need to be offer an experience, not just the same old stand and deliver, rather “moments that could not have happened any other way.” While for Whitby, his concern is about the currency of ideas and information presented at conferences. When sessions often need to be submitted 8 to 12 months in advance, how can what is presented be the ‘latest and greatest’? He gives reference to the move to the more informal style of conference perpetuated by the Edcamp movement and questions what value formal conferences have over such mediums. What is interesting is the move of some conferences now to offer elements of the more informal, running there Teachmeet events at the end of the day when the space which is often hired for the whole day is left dormant. The question then remains, what is the future of conferences? Will they continue to be the staple of the association? How will they change in order to offer experiences rather than content? To these questions, I am not really sure.
 
Associated with conferences is another stalwart, the journal. I remember cleaning out resource cupboard at my old school and finding hundreds to journals stashed away in the corner.  Often a collection of academic papers, detailed case studies and literature, I am sure they will always be a place for journals, because, for some, they provide the legitimacy to move ahead with an initiative or to try something new. However, with the rise of blogging, podcasts and new aggregation applications, the primacy of the old-fashioned journal as the place to find out about ideas and initiatives has seemingly been displaced for some. I think that the challenge that associations now have is how to manage both formal and informal mediums. Just as it is the job of associations to facilitate a wide range of professional learning, so to is it the job of the association to publish across a variety of forms. Coupled with the traditional, there is a place for associations to also promote what is out there. Whether this be a group blog or aggregated zine like Flipboard. However, the issue that exists is what should exist behind a paywall and what should be made public for the greater good of all? Again, like the conference, I am stumped on this one.

This then links to the biggest question that many have in regards to associations, what do you pay for? In some respect I think that this question would be better put as what should you pay for? Clearly associations do not run by themselves and aspects such as books and resources only bring in so much. However, not many people are going to pay as a part of some sort of moral obligation, well not enough to keep the association running. What is worse is that with the tightening of budgets, often it is the school association subscription that is often the first thing to be questioned, especially when there are so many. What then should be included? Traditionally, subscriptions have included discounts to events, various subscriptions, newsletters and access to support. With much of this becoming available elsewhere, is it enough now? On top of that, +Jenny Ashby raised an interesting point during the Teachmeet about whether country educators should get a subsidised rate as the tyranny of distance often prevents them from being able to get the same benefit. Clearly, associations have to charge a subscription. However, at the end of the day, what this cost should include is unknown. At the very least, it means you are supporting a professional group and for some that is all that matters.
 
The reality is, associations are there for their members. Just as social media would be nothing without people sharing and interacting, so to with an association. For without members to support and represent, an association is nothing. Really, the association is there to be whatever you want it to be. Whether it be solving a problem or answering a difficult question, there are often people working there with a wealth of knowledge and experience who can help out with. In addition to this, associations offer a united voice to curriculum submissions and other such educational initiatives. 


In the end, I am not sure what the future of the association is. I asked a few colleagues about what they thought. Some spoke about the opportunity to network, while others questioned whether there was a need at all. What I found interesting was that many of the perceived ‘benefits’ of an association are now things that we can find elsewhere. After reflecting on everything, I think that the future of the association is somewhat linked with the future of the teacher. Although there will always be a need and a place for the role of the ‘teacher’ in the future to support the human side of learning. This role is becoming more and more that of a supporter and facilitator, rather than the old-fashioned instigator of learning.

So then, what do you think? Do you see a place for associations in the future? What is that place? Is it the same as now or are there things that you think will change? Have I simply missed a large chuck of what an association is? Leave your thoughts below. Would love to know.


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