Gavin Dudeney’s Six Attitudes to Technology

technology attitudes

Hello again! Grab a coffee for this post, as there is plenty to read but I’m sure it won’t leave you indifferent! Six Things is joined by Gavin Dudeney, whose name will already be very well-known to many of you out there in cyberspace. Gavin’s a teacher trainer, award-winning author and edu-technologist. When he’s not travelling the world giving workshops and sessions on integrating technology into teaching he can be found in Barcelona. He has also been quite active in quite a few heavy discussions online about all of this. How heavy? Well, see below to be up on the debate!

Gavin Dudeney’s Six Attitudes to Technology  [ And Why They’re Tosh ]

There’s a battle going on out there: on blogs, on Twitter, in Yahoo Groups, on sites like the British Council Teaching English site and elsewhere… a battle for our hearts and minds, a battle between the technophiles and the technophobes (or, sometimes techno-sceptics). It’s the battle for your time, your teaching approach, for your commitment to a cause… it’s the “is technology good or bad?’ battle.

People who know me will be no stranger to my views, but since I was so kindly invited by Lindsay to contribute to SixThings, here is my cogent, extremely intellectual and totally correct view on the other side…

1. It Breaks All The Time

A popular one, this – as if that were true, or indeed a reason for not using it.

One of ELT’s greatest writers refers to technology all the time with the use of the word ‘faff’. As far as he’s concerned, there’s just too much faffing – you spend more time trying to get it to work than it does actually working and enhancing your teaching. Take a look for the word ‘faff’ on Wikipedia.

“to dither, futz, diddle, ‘I spent the day faffing about in my room’.”

Does that suggest to you a problem with the tool or approach, or a problem with the person? My father used to say ‘a bad workman blames his tools’ and I think this is a clear case of that happening (though I should probably replace ‘workman’ with ‘workperson’)  …

You can minimise the faff by learning a bit about computers and other peripherals and how they work. We do the same with plenty of other things – few of us would dream of going to class and helping a learner with, say, the present perfect, without knowing something about it. It’s called preparation.

Make sure your own computer is well-looked-after and protected against viruses, etc. Make sure you have the right adaptors and cables. Check with event or class organisers what kind of projector, sound system they have. Arrive early to try things out. If you do all that then things should be fine.

I have over six computers running at home – they work fine. I have a web server that has not been rebooted for months – it works fine. I’ve over twenty installations of Moodle running globally – they work fine.

In Greece last week and in Cork the week before I had no Net connection for talks I was giving. I had planned for that, and had an offline version of my talk which was just as creative and engaging, even for the audience – the feedback was grand (and people have been in touch since then to show me examples of work they have done with learners as a result of tools and approaches we examined in the sessions). Is it too much to ask people to be prepared, adaptable and professional? I don’t faff – why do you?

2. It’s Unproven Pedagogically

Detractors go to extraordinary lengths to dig up research that appears to give weight to their argument that there is no real bulk of evidence that supports any significant advantage to using technology. Of course, this is a mug’s game – for every report someone can dig out that says ‘X had no significant impact on Y’, one can dig out a report that says the opposite.

There’s plenty of evidence that technology works in certain situations when used well, etc., etc. but of course you can find the opposite too. There’s little evidence to suggest that many approaches or ‘states of mind’ in teaching significantly enhance the learning – but it beggars belief that we are seriously invited to take some ideas on faith but not apply the same leeway to technology. You can’t have it all your own way, people.

If you want evidence to counteract that old report from 1994 that concluded that doing T/F exercises on a BBC Micro had no great impact on teenage learners of Russian in Dalston (sample of four over ten days) and on which you base your theories that ‘it really isn’t much good, you know’ then why not search the archives of EuroCALL or similar organisations, ones that actually do the relevant research. Of course, you should expect the same rigourous appraisal of any approach, method, etc. that you espouse…

3. It’s Boring And Not Interactive

One of the greatest myths is that technologies in class are not very interactive, that really it’s like doing exercises on the screen. And of course it can be. People who have this opinion are usually people who haven’t been teaching for a decade or so, who last used a computer in class when they had sixteen colours, no sound and the only thing you could do on them was manipulate text, and who haven’t moved beyond that phase.

Just to get them up to speed, perhaps they should consider what computers actually can do these days; sound, animation, video, collaboration, production, conversation, communication… With blogs, wikis, live voice chat (with video) and a whole host of other tools you can actually provide opportunities for learners to speak to people they WANT to speak to, rather than people they’re FORCED to speak to by dint of being in the same room.

If you use technology in the ‘noun’ way described by Prensky then of course a lot of learners are going to find it boring and not very interactive at all. But if you get some training, use some imagination and explore the options, you might get round to using it in a ‘verb’ way and people might actually interact, create, talk, communicate and – yes – learn.

That old Hebrew proverb (don’t confine your children to your own learning, for they were born in different times) should be a pointer here. But I’d change it a little: don’t confine your learners (or trainees) to your memories of what computers used to be like the last time you were a practising teacher or used one in class. Times have changed, have you?

4. It’s All Porn & Paedophilia

Another one that had me laughing recently – another disingenuous attempt at picking away at the value of technologies. The author of this particular post claimed that when he was taking his learners to the ‘Internet Room’ (even the use of the phrase ‘Internet Room’ should date the class) they just spent their time surfing for porn.

And that does raise a lot of questions:

  • Why was your class so boring that they felt a need to do that?
  • Why did you have such little control that they could do it?
  • Didn’t people use to look for rude words in dictionaries?
  • Haven’t kids always looked for pictures of naked people?

The fact is, of course, that if you can’t use technology in a stimulating way – if you can’t engage your learners… if you can’t control their natural urges to ‘bunk off’ then you really shouldn’t be in a classroom, either with or without technology. As I  pointed out in this discussion, when this teacher’s kids were looking at bums and things, mine were involved in email penpal exchanges with kids their age in the US, and regular real-time chats with kids their age in Poland.

Even the most irrationally technology-fearful teacher must surely recognise that the learners resorting to looking for naked body parts is more a reflection of the power of technology to stimulate (!) and the teacher’s inability to use the technology properly, than any actual weakness in the technology itself. We’re back to our bad ‘workperson’ again…

And of course the bad teacher’s experience with technology was also an ideal opportunity to discuss safe surfing, safe online practices and the role of naked body parts in education as well as the dangers of giving away too much personal information online. But I suspect that this didn’t happen either – you have to know the details in order to share them…

5. It’s Bad For People

Another popular meme – this usually means something along the lines of:

  • I read an article in 1997 that said watching telly for seven hours a day is detrimental and that therefore equates perfectly to modern media such as Web 2.0 [ ummm…. ]
  • I just read an informal report on kids’ attention spans and apparently they’re really short and rubbish and this is all down to Twitter. [ watch a kid play a computer game for twelve hours if you wish to see a decent attention span ]
  • I read somewhere that staring at a screen for eight hours a day can have a negative impact on your eyesight [ well duh! ]
  • I think it’s terrible that my child plays on the PSP for four hours a day [ so do I. Do you have a point to make other than something along the lines of how bad a parent you are? ]
  • Kids who grow up using computers can’t hold pens properly because their hands develop differently and bones never grow properly [ I heard this one in Hungary last year…. no comment ]

Of course most things can be bad for people when they’re done to excess. Those of us who espouse technologies are also quite capable of teaching without them, with nothing, with other tools, etc. We are the balanced lot. Teachers who refuse to even consider and try out technologies (where they have them) are actually unbalanced, for all sorts of reasons. Writing technologies off because you know nothing about them, have not experienced them and have never taught with them does not make them bad tools.

6. It’s Not Fair

No, it’s really not – not fair on your learners, some of the time.

Look, it’s a question of respect-  it’s not that people are attacking you for not engaging with technologies, it’s more that people are enquiring where this blind refusal to try them comes from (I suspect it mostly comes from the points and attitudes above)…

It also comes from things which are often out of the control of teachers: lack of equipment, lack of support, lack of training, an inability for curriculum setters, examining board, school owners, teacher trainers, DoSs, etc. to move beyond the 1980s and of course the chalk-face teacher is the greatest victim here.

But what confuses me is that teachers make their own opportunities for development when they’re not getting it instutionally: they read, they pay for their own courses, they travel to conferences (if they can) and they make every effort to keep up-to-date. Why not with technology? The answer’s right here – nobody takes it seriously in our ultra-conservative profession, and that’s why we’re destined to be a few steps behind business, and destined to short-change some of our learners.

And why is it ok for you to use technologies for your professional development and for your teacher training, but it’s no good for the ‘poor teachers’ or their charges. Where did this one rule for you and another for the learners come from? There’s no democracy in some ELTlandias.

If all the detractors who spend so much of their time moaning about how unreliable, porn-laden, boring, troublesome, unfair, blah, blah, blah technologies are spent the same amount of time on their teaching, writing, etc., our profession would be buzzing.

As it is, we’re old hat… moribund…. laughable…. so non-nerd we’re the new nerds that people like to snigger at. I can help – if you faff all the time or can’t think of anything creative to do with technologies or your learners are always looking at naked bodies, please get in touch. No fee…

Gavin Dudeney is the author of the award-winning book How to Teach with Technology (written with Nicky Hockly) and The Internet and the Language Classroom. He is co-founder of The Consultants-E, an online consultancy providing courses and training for teachers. You can read more from Gavin over at his blog, That S’Life.

Published in: on October 26, 2009 at 6:36 pm  Comments (84)  
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Six computer games to use in an English language classroom


halo-2-front-page2Another guest list that I’ve picked up during conference season, this time from language teaching games expert Kyle Mawer. Kyle doesn’t make computer games for language learners (often these aren’t very good), he finds existing games and exploits them with his classes. The result is some serious fun and language learning combined. Here he shows six ways that this is not just child’s play…

1 Reading

You’ve heard of TPR (total physical response), well now comes the new improved TVR (total virtual response) and you can find no better place to see this in action than with the tutorial for the online game Runescape.  Learn how to fish, bake bread, mine for valuable metals, kill mutant rats and give your learners valuable reading skills practice.  Your TVR instructions are provided by written text from an in-world guide who talks you through the wheres, whats and hows of this massively multi-player online role playing game. 

2 Writing

“OK class, today we’re going to do a writing”, not only grammatically incorrect but something that won’t win you a popularity competition with your language learners.  Let’s try again.  “Ok class, we’re going to play a game – (in a quieter and quicker voice) and write about it”.  “Oooh. Yes, teacher. We love you!”  That’s better!  So, why not follow up a narrative tenses presentation and practice with a little production from a game called Grow Cube and be loved and admired by all?  And look, someone’s kindly written down a lesson plan for you here

3 Speaking

Try dictating naturally some of these chunked questions and get your students to discuss them:  What games/ have you got/ on your mobile?  How do you/ play them? How often do you/ play them?  Where do you/ play them?  Are they/ any good?  Do you ever play/ any online games?  What kind of/ games do you play?  How do you think/ you play this one?  What problems about the real world does this game raise?

4 Listening

A half hour language learning class in a computer room can be a walk over with a walkthrough and it’s one of the few tasks my adolescent language learners do where they shut up and listen to me.  They play a fiendishly difficult game and I dictate to them how to beat or solve it.  The classic ‘escape the room game’ called MOTAS is great for prepositions and vocabulary items which, in the game, are nicely annotated when you place your cursor over them.  Find the walkthrough easily via an online search engine typing in “mystery of time and space” + walkthrough.

5 Grammar

If you click on objects in an online computer game, you will see some strange things happen.  If you play the award winning, visually engrossing and engaging Samorost2 with a class, they’ll love it.  If you have a data projector/ IWB in your class, you can use these to show a class the game.  If they call out suggestions on how to play the game, you can all see if the suggestion works.  If the suggestion moves the game forward, they can write it down.  If they finish a few screens they can go to the computer room and they’ll play the game themselves.  If they have forgotten where to click in the game they can look at what they wrote down earlier.  If they race ahead in the game you can interrupt them and get them to help another group.  If you can identify the grammar point here, you’ll be able to get your language learners to produce it too!  If you want to see the game, go here.  If you click on the dog’s house (kennel), the game will start.

6 Vocabulary

Would you believe it but I actually encourage my learners to use foul words?  Damn!  This pun doesn’t work written down!  What does work is the game Fowl Words and for some strange reason any learner at upper intermediate level and above loves it.  I challenge them in pairs to be the highest scoring group and I go round, scan the board and define a word they may not have found.  Great warmer and, er, I think I’ll just go and have a game myself – for lesson planning purposes of course!

kyle-mawerKyle Mawer is a Young Learner Teacher and has been giving presentations and in-house teacher training on adapting online computer games for the TEFL classroom for several years now.  He has his own wikispace dedicated to this.  He also works on the British Council’s ‘Learn English Second Life for Teens’ project.

Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 12:36 am  Comments (5)  
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Six podcasting sites for language learners

Another guest list, this time I am pleased to be joined by Jackie McAvoy a colleague and co-author of mine. Jackie is active in the online ELT world, especially in the area of podcasts (you can see an interview with her here) . I’m happy she has shared her expertise and opinion on the pros and cons of six popular podcasting sites. Twenty-first century teachers and learners, take note! 

The rise in ELT podcasting sites has been a real boon for learners of English (especially for those in non-English speaking countries) providing interesting, fun, appropriate audios which can be listened to wherever, whenever. (Remember that the only difference between a site which has audio files and a podcasting site is that the latter has an RSS feed. Confused? Check out the blog!) There’s a growing range out there so something for everyone. I haven’t included our own (although do have a look!) but here’s a list of six of popular sites which your students may find interesting. Some are certainly better than others.

1 Breaking News English

2 Listen to English – Learn English

I’m lumping these two together as they are very similar. Both sites are run by British men who write articles about topical subjects or recent news events.  These are then read out as broadcasts. The main difference is that the former has a range of activities to do before, while and after listening (suitable for teachers), while the latter sometimes has a quiz or vocabulary note following the podcast.


  • hundreds of up-to-date topics


  • higher levels only
  • same person does the broadcast each time
  • the voices are a touch dull

3 China 232 (informal conversations between 2 Canadian brothers)


  • everyday vocabulary (lots of slang and idioms) and how it’s used
  •  popular topics for younger adults


  • the starting banter is real but the focused conversation is scripted and slowed down so unnatural sounding
  • always the same two guys who sound very similar
  • higher levels only


4 English through football (informal conversations, 2 British guys)


  • packed with resources (suitable for teachers)
  • provides real motivation for students who are lovers of the beautiful game


  • advanced level only
  • it’s just football (but then that’s the point!)

 5 British Council podcasts (British)


  • for different levels plus business English and kids


  • the elementary level is too difficult and very long (over 20 minutes)
  • the elementary ‘conversations’ are scripted and read out by actors trying to sound natural (which personally I find very irritating)
  • the website is difficult to navigate for learners

6 Elllo (informal conversations, various accents)


  • almost a thousand conversations on a variety of everyday topics
  • many different nationalities interviewed (and women too!)
  • a range of interesting interactive activities


  • lower levels only

Definitely one to recommend to students.

Published in: on March 9, 2009 at 12:26 pm  Comments (3)  
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Six weird and wonderful emails to Onestopenglish

It’s time for another guest list, and I’ve managed to get none other than the editors-in-chief  of the biggest resource sites for English teachers in the world to share something! Actually, this came up once in an article I wrote about Onestopenglish for a local newsletter in Canada. I asked them if they ever received any strange requests or emails. “If you only knew…” they told me. Well, now I do and so do you! Read on…



At onestopenglish we get hundreds of emails from teachers all over the world. There are entries for the Methodology and Lesson Share competitions, anecdotes, diaries and letters which we publish in the Magazine, as well as a vast number of questions about grammar, pronunciation and teaching.

We endeavour to answer as many of these as our small team can cope with. Many are published on the site. Some, for reasons which will become apparent, are unpublishable. Here are six of the best:

1. The Lesson Share to teach us all a thing or two

Imagine the source text most likely to lead to eye-watering embarrassment and widespread speechlessness among your students. Well, here’s a good idea: how about a reading comprehension on the Kama Sutra? Yes, we received a totally serious lesson plan detailing the tantric sex preferences of Sting, the history of the G-spot and suggestions for increasing the size of your penis. To the author (you know who you are), thank you. The lesson plan will be published on XXXstopenglish.

2. The (present) perfect Methodology Challenge

One teacher sent us a Methodology Challenge entry to help students unravel the sequence of tenses in English. The story starts simply enough, with Mr Past Tense who lives in the kingdom of Main Clause. However, by the time Prince Future in the Past, Duchess Present and Miss Present Perfect become involved, you’re wondering if you’ll ever find your way out of this nightmare grammar world! Thank you to Claudia, who assures us she has been bringing this fairytale world alive for her students for six years.

3. Interesting ESP requests

We get lots of interesting requests for English for Specific Purposes, some of which we’d love to commission if only we could find the specialist authors to write them. Among the best are: English for health and beauty, make up, manicures and massage (ESOL); English for Tibetan monks; or English for dental hygienists.

4. From the Forum

The onestopenglish Forum is a place where teachers can go to talk about their teaching, air their frustrations and offer advice to fellow teachers. It also provides an opportunity for users to tell us what they think about our content, and we were delighted to read this lovely comment about the onestopenglish soap opera, The Road Less Travelled, in the Forum:

My students in Japan are enjoying this series immensely. They are all adults and mostly very proper middle-aged Japanese ladies. They were shocked at the incident in the car park. We can’t wait for the continuation of the series.

It feels rather naughty to think that we’re providing high drama and scandal to these ladies in Japan!

5. When grammar questions go wrong

We receive a huge number of ‘Ask the experts’ questions from teachers with (sometimes very specific) grammar queries. Some of these leave us completely perplexed. Here are two favourites:

I’m a Communication Coach. However I’m having difficulty if this is correct. You’re very much welcome.

Could you tell me how to use and explain what the meaning of below sentence?

Having + someone + Present Perfect

Having me dumped unexpectedly on her for a while obviously caused logistical problems.

We just wouldn’t know where to start …

6. Our funniest ever anecdote

Every teacher has a funny/embarrassing story to tell and we really do receive some great anecdotes for our Teacher anecdotes competition. It was sent in by a business-English teacher in Paris who had used a clip from the Wallace and Gromit film, The Wrong Trousers, with his class. He’d prepared the room so that only one student could see the television and had to describe what was happening to the other students. We’ll let him take over the story from here …

It was all going really smoothly until we got to the part where Wallace is lying in bed, Gromit pulls a lever, the bed rises up, Wallace slides off the bed through a hole in the floor and into his mechanical trousers.

There’s a lot of describing to do here and my student had a really good stab at it, but said, “The dog pulls the man’s knob and he comes in his trousers”.

Thank you Kevin Faux; we couldn’t publish your anecdote but, rest assured, it had us rolling around for hours …

clairelucyClaire Pye and Lucy Williams, Onestopenglish Editorial Team

Published in: on January 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm  Comments (10)  
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Graham Stanley’s Six Web 2.0 resolutions for teachers

Periodically I will be inviting different teachers, trainers and authors to contribute their own six things as a guests on this blog. My first guest is someone who knows all about blogging – actually he knows about all things Web 2.0 for language teachers. It’s Graham Stanley from the British Council in Barcelona, a teacher and trainer. I’d recommend looking out for him on the conference circuit. In the spirit of the New Year, Graham has agreed to suggest six new year’s resolutions connected to Web 2.0. I’ve seen at least two I’m going to do!

Graham Stanley

So, 2008 might have been when you heard all the hype surrounding the new Web, the so-called Web 2.0, and perhaps you thought it was all a flash in the pan. Well, think again – much of it is here to stay, and can help you if you spend a little time learning how. Why not make looking into these your New Year’s resolutions? Go on! You deserve it!


1) Social Networking. 2008 was the year everyone and his dog joined Facebook – don’t worry if you didn’t, there’s still time. If you don’t, then you’ll surely miss out in 2009 – more and more people have started using this and other social networking sites to organise events (both online and offline) and keep in touch. There’s more to life than Facebook though. Whatever you (and your students) are interested in, there’s a social network for it. Like reading books? Try Shelfari. Travel a lot? Tell people where you’re going with DopplrTop Tip: Be liberal about who you call your ‘friends’ on the social networking sites you join. After all, they make more sense and are more fun when you’re connected to more people. Something else worth trying… Build your own social network for students (over 14) using Ning – you can make it public or keep it totally private, and it’s a great way of organising a class exchange project.


 2) Second Life. 2008 was also the year that this 3D virtual world was discovered by the mainstream media, hyped,  hyped again, and then criticised for not being all they built it up to be. If you created an account in 2008, walked around with a box on your arm and then gave up because you couldn’t find anyone, think about giving it another shot. The people looking for cheap thrills or in search of the fast virtual buck have come and gone, but the educators never went away. With more than 250 universities and educational organisations running projects in-world, there must be something to it. Top Tip: More than anything, Second Life is a social network, so make friends (you can start by adding me!) and attend events.   But there’s more… The third annual SLanguages conference for language educators promises to be very special in 2009. See the Consultants-E edunation link here for more   Something else worth trying… TESOL’s Electronic Village Online session on Virtual Worlds and Language Learning, starts in January 2009. For both beginners and more experienced avatars looking to learn how to teach and learn in SL. Find out more here.


3) Micro-blogging. Can’t find the time to blog? Can’t think of anything to say? Don’t fear, Try Twitter or Plurk which lets you blog but limits what you say to 140 characters.Try using one of these with students and get them to subscribe to or other language services, Subscribe to Twitter using your mobile, and you’ll get the messages (tweets) sent directly as SMS for free. Top Tip… As soon as you join, make sure you add lots of people as friends or you won’t see the point. But there’s more… To really make the most of Twitter, use a desktop client such as to make sure you don’t miss out on what your friends in the Twitosphere are up to. Something else worth trying… Blip works in a similar way but allows you to share music. Stephen Fry is now a BlipFM DJ:


4) Social Bookmarking. Try using Diigo or Delicious to store your favourite website links. They’ll be accessible to you from any computer, and you can also add multiple tags (keywords) to help you find what you’re looking for later. But there’s more… Using a social bookmarking site to search for resources can often be more effective than searching on Google because it’s updated in real time and URLs have been added by real people. Use the built-in social networking facilities of these sites to connect with other teachers from around the world and you’ll soon find you have access to a wealth of new resources. Something else worth trying… With Diigo you can also add your own sticky notes to websites which your contacts can also see when they visit.


5) New Browser. Still using the same old browser you’ve always used? Why not try out another one? There are now lots to choose from, and as each offers a slightly different surfing experience, you may find one that appeals to you more than others. For example, is your browser slow, then try the super-fast Chrome – also best if you use lots of Google applications. If social networking is your thing, then Flock could be the best solution for you – it easily integrates from sites such as and and the social bookmarking software you choose. And if you haven’t tried it yet, check out Mozilla, the open-source browser that has been going since 1998. Top Tip: Whichever browser you choose, try adding toolbars and widgets to make your web surfing experience better. Something else worth trying… If you like the idea of open source software, be sure to give Open Office a whirl – it’s a free and Microsoft-Office-busting software package for word-processing, spreadsheets, presentations, graphics, databases and more.


6) Interactive Homepages.  With iGoogle you can easily add notes, links to blogs, podcasts, and other websites, add interactive content selecting from various widgets. You can organise your content by topics using the tabs feature. Set iGoogle as your browser homepage and you’ll soon be more informed.Top Tip: To add content from blogs you like reading, use the ‘rss widget’ (search for this on iGoogle and you’ll soon find it). But there’s more… Apart from being a great homepage, if you choose ‘share’ from the options, you can send the settings of your iGoogle page to your students – useful  when you are using blogs with them or regularly consulting the same news websites, etc. Something else worth trying… Pageflakes and Netvibes are two other simple and excellent ways of making a dynamic website for yourself or your students. Instead of sharing tabs, with these sites you can make your content publicly available to other teachers – you can also find ready-made tabs that other educators have created. For an example, check out a pageflake that I used on a teacher training course one summer here:



Graham Stanley blogs here, microblogs here and here  and here. He saves his bookmarks here and here. He shares his taste in books here, his photos here and you can see where in the world he’s going to be next here. In fact,you can probably find him on just about every social network worth trying (For some strange reason his cats also have Facebook accounts). He is Baldric Commons in Second Life, where he is project manager of the British Council’s Learn English Second Life for Teens project. In Real Life, he works as a teacher, teacher trainer and materials writer in Barcelona, Spain. He also has found himself at more conferences and doing lots more ICT teacher training than before and thinks this has something to do with Web 2.

Published in: on January 7, 2009 at 2:33 pm  Comments (10)  
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