Posted by: Barinas | December 10, 2012


Alt key - MH900316479

Many of us know the Ctrl shortcuts that allow us to undo, copy, paste, select all, and print (Ctrl + z, c, v, a, and p, respectively).  However, there are many more out there!  A friend asked me to tell him one of these days all the computer shortcuts that I know, so I decided to share here some of the ones I use most often in Windows computers:

(NOTE: When using Alt or Ctrl, you need to hold these keys while pressing the others.  The shortcuts won’t work if you key them in sequence.)

Keyboard Shortcuts

So yeah, as you can see, there is more to keyboard shortcuts than the Esc or Del keys.  Once you become accustomed to all these other shortcuts, you will hardly find any need to use the mouse, and people think you are one of these tech geniouses.  There are also other cool hotkey shortcuts.  Microsoft has a good list of them along with sites like authotkey.  But seriously, don’t over do it, unless you want your fingers to fall off.  I came to realize that the mouse should not be neglected, because it gives your fingers a chance, however brief, to take a break every now and then as you type.  Constantly using shortcuts will wear your fingers out!  Take it from me.  I have come to appreciate using the mouse as a way to pace myself and not overstress my hands.

Posted by: Barinas | December 8, 2012

In a Flash… Not!

Flash drive - MH900433879

One of the pesky side effects of using flash drives (other than losing those tiny little things all the time), is coming across the following error when trying to unplug it:

USB error about not being able to stop the device

I googled around for an answer and found some good suggestions at techdows, tomshardware, troublefixers, pcworld, and gearhack.  I then condensed all that I have read in those pages into the following troubleshooting strategies.  Try the first one and if it doesn’t work, try the second approach.  If the second one fails, try the next one, and so on.

  1. Close all other running programs, then wait about a minute and try again.
  2. Stop the drive.
  3. Use Unlocker.
  4. Try the grandaddy of all troubleshooting strategies: Reboot!

On a side note, all these troubleshooting might have you thinking why is it even necessary to click on the “Safely Remove Hardware” option in Windows or the “Eject” option in Macs.  I wondered the same thing too.  The most informative pages I found regarding this subject were in techguy, pcworld, and tomshardware.  From reading these pages I learned that essentially it is not the end of the world to just simply yank out your flashdrive as long as write caching is disabled.  That is supposedly the default setting (see image below), but if you want to make sure of that, read the steps on how to do it at pcworld.  (And if someone knows how to do the same in Macs, please let me know).

But let me just add that if you are working on a killer project on your flash drive that has taken you forever to make, if I were you I play it safe and do the “Safely Remove Hardware”.  Like the saying goes, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Flash drive write caching and safe removal - windows screenshot - flash

Posted by: Barinas | December 6, 2012

Closing Thoughts about EDTS 523.31

The End - Checkered Flag - MH900430675

This is my final post on the technology in education course that planted the seed for this WordPress blog.  My closing remarks are nothing but a collection of the great experiences and lessons that I learned in this class.  Looking back, my first blog on this post was about learning to dance “techno” in the classroom; that is, to learn about classroom technologies that will get students groovin’ just as learning awesome dance moves can help you bring people off their seats and onto the dance floor.  That is why I am so glad to have learned so many cool dance moves.  Some of them include the…

  • WordPress Bloggie Boogie
  • The Inspiration Shuffle
  • Garageband Rock
  • Wikie Squeakie
  • PowerPoint Hop and Bop
  • Voicethread Rumble
  • … and more!

Oh, and I cannot go without mentioning the “Mac Half-Step”.  For a lifelong Windows user like me who had little exposure to Mac systems, I come away from this course with greater familiarity on how to operate Mac computers.  By working in the Mac lab I learned some cool new steps that had to do with renaming (just click on the title); deleting (drag the file to the Trashcan icon); saving on a subfolder (click on the upside-down triangle of the Save/Save As window); and switching between programs —er, I mean, applications—, which involve clicking on the icons on the right-hand menu.  I can now say that I feel more comfortable with Macs and have a greater appreciation for its user-friendly simplicity and overall intuitiveness.  I think being well versed in both Windows and Macs is of great benefit, because you can be more aware of the strengths and weaknesses that both bring to the table.

Wow, with all these dance moves I could be the king of the dance floor!  Nah, I don’t know if I’ll ever be, say, the Fred Astaire of Educational Technology, but I’m now more confident about busting a move, and tear up the dance floor with all these cool technologies.  However, I appreciate the fact that the class was not just about how to use these tools, but also about why should we use them.  We were taught that technology is only as good as the person who is using it, so its overall effectiveness hinges on how wisely the teacher matches the tool with the lesson he is trying to teach.  Does the technology enhance the learning?  Does it promote project-based, hands-on, and student-centered instruction?  Does it encourage students to use higher-level thinking skills and make students active learners in the classroom?  Those are essential questions that were brought into the conversation, and have broaden my outlook about what it means to be an educator in this digital, Web 2.0 age.

On the other hand, viewing technology as maracas that parents shake to draw their babies’ attention defeats the whole purpose of technology integration.  To borrow (yeah, once again) from the dance metaphor, technology is not about putting a flashy show with Jive, Swing or Cha-Cha-Cha.  We learned that technology is the means, the tool, and the bait, but not the objective of the lesson plan.  The groove, the heartbeat of the lesson, lies inside the teacher, and this is reflected in his ability to regulate and use technology to its maximum potential.  So I am so thankful that this class has not only showed me how to use new technologies, but also inspire me to learn the pros and cons of each tool, so that I can show students the right dance for the song!

Posted by: Barinas | December 6, 2012

No Need to “E-skype” from Technology!

Connect - MH900442018

I spoke with Mr. Derrick Willard, who has worked for more than 16 years in science education.  We tried to Skype-meet before Thanksgiving, but we scheduled for a later time so that I get my Skype to run in my old, beat-up computer, which has seen better days, and has more than enough wrinkles that it would love to botox!  I Skype’d with a friend for practice, and everything went well, so I was ready to go.  We scheduled our meeting for December 3rd.  When we established a connection my buggy computer decided to act up and I couldn’t see him.  Fortunately, he could see me just fine and we could hear each other well, so we moved forward with the Skype conversation.  Moments later, Skype was able to show him on my screen, so we were all set!

Mr. Willard shared with me some great information about how to tap the best in technology to enhance student learning in the classroom.  He has been able to successfully integrate technology into the classroom, and has a blog where he tracks and discusses all the tools that he has at his disposal.  In his Twitter account he describes himself as a “science teacher, web 2.0 enthusiast, blogger, lifelong learner, avid fisherman”.  Honestly, I am a work in progress on all those accounts and, well, the closest I come to fish is when they stare at me right in the face at the Rochester public market!   In the end, I say all this, because it is great to speak with someone who is accomplished in those areas that you are also striving for.  And for that I am so grateful to learn about digital technologies like Skype!

Mr. Willard uses a wide array of technological tools in his classroom, and is well noted for piloting classes that incorporate iPad2 tablets.  We also took the chance to talk about other technologies like probeware, modeling and simulation software, which have become very important tools in the science classroom.   He is also an avid Twitter user, because of its potential for networking and collaboration among peers.  We talked about how important it is to be ahead of the learning curve in the realm of digital technology, so that we can educate our students on how to develop positive digital footprints.

I learned a lot from our conversation, and came away with a better understanding about flipped instruction and Professional Learning Networks (PLNs).  From there I moved on two read about the pros and cons of flipped instruction: one from edutopia and another one from   I also went on to learn more about PLNs as a cost-effective and wide-ranging means for professional development and found great resources on this subject at Pinterest, and Blogpost.  In the end, I came away more cognizant about the power of PLNs, flipped instruction, and other means of educational collaboration and interconnectivity that digital technology has made possible.  And now that I think about it, having this Skype conversation was in and of itself one of my first planted seeds in my path towards PLNs!

Posted by: Barinas | December 3, 2012

The Toolkit

toolkit MH900431613 - Cropped

Thinking about such a powerful educational tool like PowerPoint has made consider what items should be in every educator’s toolkit.  Clearly, there is more to teaching technology than yourself, a textbook, a blackboard, and some chalk.  Nowadays, a tech-savvy instructor should have in his toolkit at least a computer with a word processor, whether from the Microsoft Office Suite (MS Word) or other alternatives like open source (ex. OpenOffice).

Granted, toolkits differ from teacher to teacher depending on subject area, available resources, and technological know-how.  But I am sure we can jot down some toolkit essentials that all teachers must have within their grasp.

I believe that no teacher should be without a:

  • Computer
  • Internet Access
  • Word Processor
  • Internet Browser

I also think that it is highly recommended for teachers to have:

  • Spreadsheet software (I have a soft spot for Excel.  In terms of numbers-crunching, the things you can do with this puppy are amazing!)
  • Additional browsers like Chrome and Firefox (its portable version is highly recommended).
  • Presentation software like PowerPoint.  (Prezi is also an online alternative worth considering).
  • A Flash Drive, a.k.a Thumb Drive, a.k.a Jump Drive.  (However, as we have learned in class, flash drives will become less relevant due to the growth of cloud computing alternatives like Dropbox and GoogleDocs).
  • A Laser Pointer.  I have been thinking that remote clickers/pointers are a great idea, becase they give teachers greater freedom of movement and interaction around the classroom, as opposed to being tied to a keyboard in order to move from one slide to the next.  I have been looking for one and have read good reviews about the Logitech R400.
  • Imaging software freebies like Picasa, Paint.Net, Gimp, EZThumb, and Colorpic.  (Note that a lot of these applications are also portable, and you can download their portable versions at

A professor’s wish list should include:

  • Interactive White Boards like the ones from Smartech.
  • Any ELMO-like Projector
  • VMWare (to run multiple operating systems in one computer)
  • Smartphones like those powered by Apple or Android, since it is good to discover and evaluate the types of educational apps that students can run from their portable devices.

And Lastly, I think that the tool that no teacher should lack is:

  • Ingenuity

Surely, we have talked in class that no matter how modern and advanced is the tool, it is only as powerful as the one who wields it.  Rambo said it best: “I’ve always believed that the mind is the best weapon”.   That is why I also believe that a creative and passionate teacher can do greater things with a chalkboard than any educator who is fitted with the best interactive white board but lacks comparable levels of ingenuity, passion, and overall competence.

We are now at a great moment in history, because our minds have all these technologies that can push our ingenuity and creativity to new heights.  But in these tough economic times we need to decide which software and hardware technologies are more important to have first.  I believe that teachers should help each other by sharing what are the top technologies that enhance student learning.  So do you agree with the lists above?  Is there something I have missed or that you would like to add?  I would love to hear your input!

Posted by: Barinas | November 19, 2012

To IE or not IE?

I was recently observing a class where the instructor was trying to display on the Smartboard projector several interactive slides.  These slides are running from the textbook CD that he inserted on his computer’s CD-ROM drive.  But oddly enough, some slides ran ok while others did not.  The ones that did not work showed an error similar to the one shown below.

So what’s the deal?  He relaunched the system but it made no difference.  He waited to give the computer time to “think” and also went back-and-forward between slides to no avail.  He asked the class what could be the problem and one student said that the red “x” means that the image(s) did not load, and that there is really no quick fix for it.  Basically, it is something that happens at times, and there’s not much one can do about it.

This problem had nothing to do with internet connectivity, because it was an offline webpage from a CD rather than an internet website.  I noticed that hovering the cursor over the red x triggered a Javascript message in the status bar; therefore, this might be a Javascript issue.  (Javascript is a computer language that helps websites launch pop-ups, load forms,  and display dropwdown menus, along with many other interactive functions.

From my experience working in technical support, I thought that this had to do with user permissions in the browser related to Javascript or tools known as ActiveX Controls.  But regardless of the cause, the first thing I’d do to troubleshoot is either (1) reboot the computer, or (2) use another browser.  Unfortunately, the instructor didn’t have enough time left in the class to reboot.  The option to switch browsers was the next alternative, and we have learned in class that when one browser seems to malfunction, the quick fix is to switch to another one.

The computer, however, only had IE installed, because that’s the only browser available on all the school computers.  This makes me wonder whether it is in the best interest of teachers to have a variety of browsers to choose from, such as Firefox, Chrome and Opera.  Like the saying goes, two is better than one, right?  I’ve learned from experience that each browser has its strengths and weaknesses, and having a number of browsers to choose from can help instructors, because they can then decide which one works best for a particular webpage.

What do you think?  Is it better to have multiple browsers available or is it better to have only one for simplicity’s sake?  User rights are generally very tight on school computers and understandably so, but should IT let us launch alternate browsers from flash drives?  Are these matters worth discussing with the school’s IT department?   And if we are to have only one other browser aside from IE, which one should it be?  Firefox, Chrome or Opera?  Similar questions can be made about Macs, which are generally fitted with Safari and IE.  I believe that these are valid questions to consider, especially since pretty much everything we do on a computer revolves around browsers.  I personally prefer Firefox, but that doesn’t mean I am anti-IE .  However, I do think that it is good to have more than one browser available as long as doing so does not compromise the school’s security system or its data integrity.

Posted by: Barinas | November 9, 2012

Comments on My Research Paper

The aim of my research paper was to provide a sound, research-based argument that advocates for the integration of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the science classroom (K-12 life and earth science).  It does so by focusing on the benefits of simulation, probeware, and modeling technology to prove its case.  Writing this paper was more of a challenge than I expected, to say the least.  First of all, I have not written a research paper in years, so there was a lot of rust under the hood.  Second, my topic is perhaps broader than the usual.  In other words, instead of focusing on a narrower point of focus (e.g., “The use of Interactive White Boards in Biology education”), the topic of my research paper covers more ground and, in turn, made it more challenging to find papers that align together to make my case in favor of ICT integration.  But at least this was better than the topic I conceived at first.  Thankfully, my professor helped me narrow my focus from my original topic, which was “What are the best technological tools to teach high school biology”.  Now that would have been much more daunting!  And I probably would not have been able to do it justice in 7-10 pages.

As I began to research reputable literature that would substantiate my claims, I found a lot of interesting journals that covered both the advantages and disadvantages of ICT technology.  The researchers that are skeptical about ICT touched on matters such as age-appropriateness, distraction, health hazards, and the low quality of many ICT programs.   I made sure that I at least made a brief mention of these concerns on my paper, for the sake of having a balanced opinion.  However, I also knew that I couldn’t focus on establishing counter-arguments to these claims against ICTs, because of lack of access to literature that directly rebuked these negatives, and due to the fact that doing so would go beyond my paper’s designated breadth of scope.  I had to make sure that it was centered on the positives of ICT and not make the debate between the negatives vs. the positives the bulk of the paper.

I also deduced that the pros of ICT technology presented on this paper would overweigh the concerns that were posted by other scholars.  The reason behind my confidence was the fact that probeware, simulations and modeling software are examples that are extremely solid and are hardly ever part of negative media fodder as it’s the case for other ICTs like cell phones, iPhones, Youtube, Facebook, and other internet sites.  ICTs like simulators and probeware are generally not used for entertainment purposes.  They are specifically designed for scientific instruction and actual scientific study, so they are clearly a shoe-in for scientific instruction.

Examples of modeling software are Modelingspace, Virtual Water, and Rasmol.  They provide models for abstract scientific concepts as wide ranging as DNA, tertiary protein structures, and antibodies.  Imagine trying to describe something like molecules, which cannot be touched or seen with the naked eye, or coming up with the money to purchase electron microscopes that are worth nothing short of a fortune.  Fortunately, modeling software allows you to visualize concepts like organic compounds in ways that are beyond the capabilities of a simple 2D-representation found in a text book.  Users can make adjustments and alterations to the models in order to observe their effects or prove a hypothesis.  Even spreadsheets can also serve as great modeling tools when it comes to creating and evaluating mathematical formulas or equations that recreate certain environments and the like.

Simulations like Opensim empower students to recreate experiments or create their own experiments in a virtual environment.  Factors like safety concerns, the time of the experiment, and monetary costs are a non-issue in the virtual world.  Students can create an environment where they can experiment at their leisure, and collaborate with their peers.  Without a doubt, simulations lets students do science rather than simply read what other scientists have already done.   They can make observations to generate hypotheses, and then test them out.  That’s what science is all about.  Aside from Opensim, The Biology Animation Library and Struggle for Survival website also offer great animation and simulation tools.

Like Simulators and modeling software, probeware makes scientists out of students by making the lessons more hands-on and student-centered while also promoting the higher-level thinking skills endorsed by the new Common Core standards.  There are many types of probeware.  PASCO, for instance, is one company that sells a varied line of probeware tools.  What all probeware tools have in common is that they help students collect and analyze scientific data with greater ease.  One of the greatest advantages of probeware is that they automate many repetitive tasks, thus freeing students to spend more time interpreting and discussing their findings among each other.

What all these ICT tools show is that science can be more constructivist-based, hands-on, and interactive by empowering students with the right technology.  It is true that some ICTs can be a great form of distraction, can stray the student to focus on the technology rather than on the lesson, or might be too complex for certain youth levels to handle.  Clearly, any tool, much like anything else in life, has its strengths and weaknesses.  But the examples of simulations, probeware, and modeling technology prove that when used appropriately, ICTs can enhance student learning by turning students into scientist themselves.  After all, we want to inspire them to be more engaged with science and be better prepared to form part of this technology-driven, interconnected, and globalized world.  Highlighting lines, flipping through pages, and memorizing by rote do not cut the mustard.  Being computer-literate and comfortable with technology is more important than ever, particularly within the realm of science where technology continues to drive the path towards discovery.

Posted by: Barinas | November 5, 2012

Website Tips from STANYS

Before updating my blog for this week, I decided to first attend yesterday’s STANYS Science Teacher’s Conference, so that I can share any new technological tips from the conference on my next blog post.  Let’s just say that I wasn’t disappointed.   Some of the highlights are Teachertube.  If you happen to work at a school that blocks Youtube, you can go to teachertube to access online video.  Teachertube is great not because it side steps the school firewall, but because it only shows educational material without running the risk of coming across inappropriate content.

Speaking of online video, Zamcur is a website that lets you convert any video you find online into a format that you can play from your computer offline for educational purposes.   This can be very useful if you want to have a backup video in case you face internet connection problems during your presentation.

Another website that I want to highlight is Donorschoose.  If you want to purchase technology that will enhance student learning, gaining funds from cash-strapped school districts will be no easy task.  But at Donorschoose you can create a profile of your classroom, and request donations to fund the purchase of a piece of technology that will really help your students.   Interested donors could then provide the necessary funding to make the purchase.  All the site asks in return is that you send the donors a Thank You card with a photo of the class, and a description of the benefits that such technology has brought to the class.

It is amazing to see how the Internet is opening doors to new ways of accessing educational material and promoting community involvement!

Posted by: Barinas | October 20, 2012

From Tech to STEM

A good friend of mine referred me to a recent article about a nearby elementary school that is embracing the use of technology in the classroom.  Less than four miles north of our Nazareth Campus, Allendale Columbia School partnered with a local private company called Vista Teach to introduce robots that enhance the learning experience in primary school classrooms.

According to this report, children as young as six learn to program a bee-like robot and eventually begin to use more sophisticated robots that you also find in college classrooms.  I honestly did not get the impression that they were introducing technology that was beyond the abilities of these primary school children.  The robots actually look like the cute and Lego-like toys that we come to expect at a toy store.  But they come with the added advantage of exposing children to robotics along with other tools, and devices that will hopefully encourage them to become lifelong learners and explore fields within math and science.

This news report has a video of a six-year-old girl sharing how fun it is to play with the robots.  This made me think about how some older kids enjoy watching robotics competitions and design, but they are intimidated by the math and science that these entail.  But we can turn the tables by exposing kids to robotics at an early age.  That way they would not grow up to see robot operation and assembly as the exclusive realm of a select group of little Einsteins.  Instead, they will see robots as a familiar experience of everyday life, and in turn, be more open towards exploring the math and science that makes them work.  I agree with Ms. Sorrentino from Vista Teach regarding the use of technology in primary schools.  She said that “once they are hooked, they just go for it”.

Instead of unwillingly trying to stay still, I can see active boys and girls working together to assemble robots together, direct the robots to a particular location as if they were control remote cars, and do so much more, all while learning about numbers, the alphabet , and the like.   This turns kids into active participants in the learning process.  They get to move and stay active (something we all know is such a natural part of that stage in life) while “learning through their hands”.   If these robots keep them engaged and foster problem-solving thinking, then we should encourage greater collaboration between the private and public sector to spread these tech-based learning techniques.

I hope that this becomes more of a reality, as college professors and business leaders sound the alarm of students who enter college without honing the critical thinking skills that are required to succeed in higher education, and develop into highly skilled professionals.  I keep hearing about how many students are so used to memorization of terms and facts that when they are asked to share their perspectives in an essay, some find it hard to even put a coherent paragraph together.

This is why I am encouraged to read about this news article about Allendale and about all the other changes being made to equip our future generations in this highly globalized and competitive world.  We can’t pass the opportunity to empower our children, get them excited about STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) education, and prepare them to solve real world problem as future professionals in this Digital Age.  Let’s hope that greater integration of technology in the classroom develops higher-order thinking skills, and that this greater emphasis on STEM-based education inspires more students towards careers in math and science.

Mr. Gee, the head of Allendale, said that he wants this type of technologically rich classrooms to “prepare children for jobs that don’t exist yet”.  That really sounds exciting!  I remember Bud Luckey — one of the lauded cartoonists behind many of our beloved Sesame Street cartoon shorts — succinctly explain the power that evolving education has to train the minds of our young ones .  As an old-guard cartoonist who joined Pixar and helped design computer-animated characters like the famous Woody in Toy Story, he provided some commentary in one of the bonus features from Pixar’s The Incredibles.  With a smile on his face, he said that in the old days of Sesame Street, he used cartoons to teach numbers, and those kids who grew up on his cartoons are now using numbers to make cartoons!

Likewise, I hold onto the hope that if we use robots to teach kids numbers and letters, the sky is the limit with regard to all the great and novel ways in which they’ll use them in the future!

Photo Credit: dcJohn via photopin cc

Posted by: Barinas | October 9, 2012

Since I am a prospective, technophile teacher in New York State, I figured that it was about time I started looking up tech information on the NYS Dept of Education website.  I was really looking forward to what I was about to find.  I mean, we are talking about New York State here people!  We rule!  We got Wall Street, the Statue of Liberty, Niagara Falls, and… uh… I know!… garbage plates!   So as I perused the site, I found some interesting findings that I thought I’d share.

First of all, the site has so much information that it requires a lot of moving around from one page to another.  To make navigation easier, I went through the tech-related pages that I found most interesting, and created the following flow chart:

So by looking at the flow chart above, you can clearly see that we tech fans are going straight to the educational technology page, and then three pages down hop to the juicy stuff:  the Resources page!  Oh yeah…

So here I am at Resources, and I click on Teaching with Technology, where the first link is intended to direct users to the CoSN Compendium, which according to the site, “released its 2007 Compendium, an annual collection of monographs exploring timely issues of importance to K-12 technology decision makers.”  But alas, it is a dead link.

Unfazed, I pressed on, and found two cool websites that I really liked: and  The former has good links to other resourceful websites while the latter, well, I got to say that it is a two-big-thumbs-up for me!  I think it is a sweet mix of fun and learning rolled up into one.   Primary school kids will love it!  I must make special mention to its Jet Ski Addition game.   There you race a jet ski and try to beat other kids to the finish line.  You speed up the jet ski by solving basic arithmetic (4 + 6, 12 – 9, etc).  The faster you solve them, the quicker you go (by the way, not wanting to be cruel, I made sure to take my sweet time answering the math, since after all, I’m online competing with kids half my age).

Another highlight from my search was finding Teacher Centers, which according to its web page, “have led the integration of technology curriculum and instruction in New York State”.  I visited the Teacher Centers’ homepage, and was surprised that it still uses frameset HTML technology.  I don’t want to bother you with technical jargon, so let’s just say that frameset is a way of displaying websites that is no longer in vogue.  One of the cool discoveries from the Teacher Centers website is its link to  This site has an excellent collection of lesson plans and compared to other lesson plan sites, has a great search engine that narrows down your lesson plan search to grade level, content, and other key filters.

The other two NYSED pages that I’d like to point out are known as Multimedia in the Classroom and Homework Resources.  Their titles are pretty much self-explanatory, and they provide links to educational videos, homework aid tools, and other useful online resources.   And as cherry on the top, NYSED also directed me to journeyEd.  Educators can go there to purchase market-leading software at a discount.  It is nice to see that there are opportunities to bring high-end technologies to the classroom at lower rates than through conventional channels.

With that said, I’d like to encourage you all to pay a visit to  Perhaps you could find other technological resources that I might have missed.  The site has so many pages that I am sure that there’s a lot more stuff left in the cookie jar!

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