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School Regrets Swapping Laptops For iPads 504

Posted by Soulskill
from the look-before-you-leap dept.
Barence writes "A school swapped all its staff laptops for iPads — and now wants to switch them back. 'Most staff are IT illiterate and jumped at the chance of exchanging their laptop for an iPad,' a teacher from the school told PC Pro. Now, however: 'the staff room is full of regret.' Difficulties editing old Word and PowerPoint documents, transferring work to and from the device without USB sticks, and problems with projecting the iPad's display to the classroom — bizarrely, using an Apple TV — have led to staff once again reaching for their Windows laptops."
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School Regrets Swapping Laptops For iPads

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  • by thammoud (193905) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:24PM (#41305665)

    I love my iPad for reading and viewing stuff. Editing? Not so much. I dread the moment where I have to hover over, click on the right place and edit. Useless.

    • by Naatach (574111) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:30PM (#41305731)
      Tablets make a great spoon and terrible kitchen tool. They're good for consuming, but not much else.
      • by Naatach (574111) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:33PM (#41305775)

        Tablets make a great spoon and terrible kitchen tool. They're good for consuming, but not much else.

        They do, however, make an excellent cutting board [youtube.com].

      • by Shadow99_1 (86250) <theshadow99@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:52PM (#41306013)

        Don't lump all tablets into that category. My handy Transformer does a solid job of editing documents, more so with the keyboard dock. It's far from the norm for tablets, but MS seems to want to change that with their efforts in the field with Windows 8 (as much as I don't find it appealing on desktops and I don't have any plans to buy a new tablet).

        • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @05:26PM (#41306353) Homepage

          My handy Transformer does a solid job of editing documents, more so with the keyboard dock.

          Isn't there a word [wikipedia.org] for tablets with keyboard docks? ;)

          • by dreamchaser (49529) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @08:18PM (#41307741) Homepage Journal

            My handy Transformer does a solid job of editing documents, more so with the keyboard dock.

            Isn't there a word [wikipedia.org] for tablets with keyboard docks? ;)

            No, there isn't, because with a laptop you can't detach the screen and use the tablet portion. On the Transformer (I have a Prime) *all* of the computing power is in the tablet portion. The dock is handy for when I want to type and edit documents, and serves as a handy extra battery, but it doesn't make it a laptop. It's also nice being able to take the tablet off the dock to use for playing tablet-centric games, reading ebooks, web surfing, etc.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @06:31PM (#41306961)

          And my iPad does a wonderful job of editing .doc documents and .ppt power points in Pages and Keynote. I use a Bluetooth keyboard for anything more than minor edits. AirPlay to a AppleTV connected via HDMI is great for wireless presentations. Dropbox is great for file transfer. The teachers don't need to use USB memory sticks from their home computers on the school network anyways; one less attack vector to worry about. The mistake here wasn't moving to iPad it was getting the teachers tablets without the software or infrastructure to make them work. They didn't have to jailbreak them, but they did have to go a step beyond buying hardware for a new platform and expecting it to work without any transition. It's no different than moving from Windows to a Linux box and then bitching that your antique printers aren't supported, and that you can't run MS proprietary software on it. One doesn't buy a DVD player and complain their VHS tapes won't play on it.

      • Tablets make a great spoon and terrible kitchen tool. They're good for consuming, but not much else.

        Not true. My Xoom has proved to be an excellent communication device: audio, video (Google Talk) and with a bluetooth keyboard, text chat. The only thing holding it back for editing is software. That will change as soon as LibreOffice comes out. The tablet also makes a perfectly usable terminal for remote administration work, which I have done often. Ssh is well supported.

        Remember, the IBM PC was originally intended to be a toy to compete with the Apple II. Transforming it into something useful was purely a

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Tablizer (95088)

      If they had an easy option to plug in a keyboard and a stand to hold the screen up, they would essentially *be* a laptop. I only see that kind of thing in the Android market.

    • Perhaps you're thinking of the iPad too much like a laptop and not enough as a new way of interacting with a machine.

      I've been using the dictation button on the new iPad and it works great. Much better than typing for bulk data input. Then when done, I go back and edit what it couldn't handle (usually not much). Admittedly not a good solution in a noisy classroom or teacher's lounge (background din of people talking), but otherwise, it's good.

      Dictation tips: Say "comma", "period", "left paren", "right
    • by immaterial (1520413) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @05:38PM (#41306491)
      I have one friend who is a 5th grade teacher and has been using his iPad in class for two years now, and another friend who has been a dedicated K-8 grade iPad technology manager (ie. he stands somewhere between the regular IT staff and the teachers; managing tech support for the tablets, researching and testing educational apps, coming up with iPad-based lesson plans, and teaching students and - most importantly - teachers how to integrate use of the tablets into lessons and workflows). I'm basing my opinions here on their experiences.

      There is no question what an awesome tool the iPad can be for education. The ability to instantly interact with information in such a visceral and responsive way can be very powerful for the students. Touch, physical interaction, and instant feedback are fundamental to kids (and everyone else, but particularly to kids since they haven't mastered abstract thought). Live charts/graphs and other graphical representations can help kids better grasp what the numbers they're looking at are actually doing; the ability to explore and interact with a science "textbook" (not a useful word anymore) so the student can follow where her curiosity leads her is amazing. Etc. Etc.

      But as you say, this is mostly reading and viewing; very little heavy editing. Tablets (especially iPads) are not particularly well designed for heavy-duty text editing (basic note taking or numerical input is fine though). Buying a bunch of iPads and attempting to use them as the only tool for the job is just as stupid as buying an awesome chef's knife and then tossing out all your spoons.

      Based on my friends' experiences, the biggest roadblock to proper iPad usage is nobody is around to explain things or set things up. Teachers have a million other things to do in class, and often a school administrator decides "this iPad thing looks neat" and dumps the technology on them with no training whatsoever and zero support from IT, and suddenly the teacher has one more thing to try to figure out. Teachers that are already tech savvy (like my first friend) can do great things with them, but most are not. It takes a properly organized program (like my second friend is involved in) to get it working at a school- or district-wide level.

      As to the nonsensical complaint about the AppleTV: huh? The article complains they could have done it "much cheaper" for ~$30 rather than the $99 cost of an AppleTV, but that small savings requires teachers to be tethered to a cord at the front of the classroom. The ability for the teacher to walk around the classroom and interact with students while streaming information and interactive results wirelessly to the class's screen is a HUGE advantage that is more than worth $69. The issues mentioned in the article are due to inadequate IT support and training.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @06:03PM (#41306721)

        Lack of setup and training seems to be the big issue here. People seem to think they were getting "cool touch-based laptops," they were getting a Tablet. The IT department didn't think about transferring files and the staff seems to have only used sneaker-net to get files from one device to another (dropbox? box.com? district local network storage?).

        It was a poorly implemented mess.

    • The heralded death of the notebook was a bit premature apparently.
      • The heralded death of the notebook was a bit premature apparently.

        It's not very far away. I don't normally even bother to take a laptop with me now when I travel, just a tablet and bluetooth keyboard. Lately, a bluetooth mouse as well which works nearly perfectly (some tablet apps wrongly assume that scrolling will only ever be via the touch screen). Of course there are some things the laptop can do that the tablet can't (yet) but this is more than made up for by the fact that the whole thing weighs half as much and runs on batteries three times as long.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      Currently I'm looking for a new netbook - I regularly find myself having spare time, which I would like to use to do some work, which is mostly e-mail and simple document editing. I know people do that on a tablet, but as many people here will argue it misses a keyboard.

      Now browsing some web sites on info on current netbooks, which by now are far evolved from the underpowered EEPC 701 to include 250GB or more hard disks and high-res screens, I see quite some sites that claim "netbooks are a dying breed". I

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:24PM (#41305669)

    An ipad is a toy. A laptop is a tool. Idiots.

    • by AaronLS (1804210) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:28PM (#41305709)

      This speaks to the fact that every time I hear someone wanting an iPad at the workplace, it is accompanied by a big grin. They want a toy. They are not even thinking through how they would accomplish their day to day work with an iPad instead of a desktop/laptop.

      • by Anne_Nonymous (313852) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:40PM (#41305857) Homepage Journal

        >> ...how they would accomplish their day to day work with an iPad...

        I can browse /. on an iPad just fine, thanks very much.

      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:44PM (#41305907)

        The iPad is GREAT for CONSUMING content.

        It suck for GENERATING content.

        So anyone with an iPad has more status than anyone who does their work on a laptop (which has more status than someone with a desktop).

        And they get to watch movies and stuff on it at home.

        • by jockm (233372) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:54PM (#41306039) Homepage

          Because for about a year now I haven't taken my laptop out of the house, and mostly using it for programming, and photo editing. I have spent all this time writing fiction, poetry, outlines, technical documentation, etc; built websites, created diagrams (I prefer using OmniGraffle on the iPad to the desktop version); doing some light experimenting in Lua; making graphics and other things... all because no one told me it sucked at creating content.

          But now that you told me, it is all ruined. I will have to lug around the laptop, aggravate the bone spurs in my neck and shoulders, have to put up with shorter battery life, and all that.

          Gee thanks

          • by minus9 (106327) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @04:25AM (#41310319) Homepage
            "Because for about a year now I haven't taken my laptop out of the house, and mostly using it for programming, and photo editing. I have spent all this time writing fiction, poetry, outlines, technical documentation, etc;"

            Maybe if you had used a laptop it wouldn't have taken you all year. ;-)
        • by Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @06:08PM (#41306749)

          It suck for GENERATING content.

          You wrote this post on an iPad, didn't you?

      • by peragrin (659227)

        I know dozen of people who use an iPad for 70% of their work.

        of course 70% of their work isn't creating or editing data, but taking random notes, shooting off quick emails so other people can do the work, etc.

        These people are called salesmen (and women). their job is to talk to people and make other people do the real work for them. Teachers don't need ipads(at least until they get the display problems sorted out).

        Teachers need laptops as they create more content than they consume. (at least professional

      • by AK Marc (707885) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @05:47PM (#41306557)
        It's not a replacement, it's an augmentation. Check email anywhere. Have your calendar everywhere. Take e-notes in meetings, directly in the documents in question, rather than scribbling on paper and either editing them into the document later or discarding them after essentially memorizing the content.

        That they'll also be playing Angry Birds on the bus ride is the smile. But there are plenty that use iPads for work. I know one network administrator that swears by his ipad with Ethernet dongle.
      • by oztiks (921504)

        Speaking as an appliance seller iPads can be used as tools, provided the functions are light and not laborious and the interface is built for iPads.

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @05:04PM (#41306129)

      An ipad is a toy. A laptop is a tool. Idiots.

      And as someone at a software consulting company that expanded from offering specialized, one-off Win/Mac applications for multinational engineering firms to also offering specialized iOS apps for those same firms and for many of those same purposes, I cordially disagree with your assertion that the iPad is not a tool. In fact, I'd say that you're very wrong. That said, it is not as general purpose of a tool as a laptop, nor should it be shoehorned into places where it has no business being.

      At home, I'm a big fan of Apple products, and I love using my iPad for reading, e-mail, web browsing, and some light gaming, but when people ask me what to get in regards to any piece of technology, my first question is always, "What will you use it for?" It sounds like the person with the purchasing power in this story didn't start with that vital question, instead getting caught up in the hype. The result is a lot of well-deserved backlash from the end users. In plenty of other situations, however, the iPad can indeed be the correct answer for what tool best fits the situation.

      The key takeaway should be that you should always use the right tool for the job. For what the teachers were doing here, the iPad sounds like it was not the right tool at all. That's not always true, but it oftentimes is, since the iPad has a specific set of limitations and advantages that make it a poor fit for many existing (particularly text entry) workflows, but make it a great fit for others.

    • by Brannon (221550) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @05:41PM (#41306523)

      A desktop is a toy, a workstation is a tool.
      A workstation is a toy, a server is a tool.
      A server is a toy, a mainframe is a tool.
      A mainframe is a toy, a cluster is a tool.
      A cluster is a toy, a supercomputer is a tool.

      Idiots.

    • by Phroggy (441)

      An ipad is a toy. A laptop is a tool. Idiots.

      An iPad can ALSO be a tool, but it's a different tool that is great at different things. To borrow another poster's analogy, a kitchen knife is a great tool, but I'm not gonna use one for eating soup. Conversely, slicing a ham with a spoon is probably about as much fun as writing a paper on an iPad.

  • by bob zee (701656) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:26PM (#41305683)

    you sure don't grab a toy. you grab the tool that works.
    sometimes you have to pay twice to learn this.

  • Stand up a XenApp server and load the Citrix Receiver.
  • by Dracos (107777)

    ... to every organization with staff: tablets are for consumption, not production. If your staff will have the regular need to create or edit anything more complex than an email, it will be a chore on a tablet, if not impossible, regardless of whether the tablet can load files from a thumbdrive or over a network.

    This story supports my position that tablets are stupid except for a very few vertical business markets, and will go away faster than netbooks once people can see past the hype.

    • by Firehed (942385) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:39PM (#41305849) Homepage

      No - tablets just aren't good for long-form writing (which happens to be very common at schools). I use mine for content creation all the time... just not stuff where I'd want a keyboard (anything more than two paragraphs).

    • by Zadaz (950521)

      This story supports my position that tablets are stupid except for a very few vertical business markets, and will go away faster than netbooks once people can see past the hype.

      I think you vastly underestimate the market for pure consumption. The average American family spends over $1500 a year on TV and television subscription fees.

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @05:16PM (#41306271)

      ... to every organization with staff: tablets are for consumption, not production.

      No, that's not where the cut-off is.

      Tablets are not good at text entry and editing. They're great for lots of other things, both consumption and production. Better than a laptop for a lot of them. For example sketching, filling out forms that are mostly checkboxes or multiple choice, grabbing a photograph to go with data, creating music.

    • Tablets are also good for basic diagnostic work. The last AT&T tech I saw do an install used an iPad to VPN home and run a bunch of predefined diagnostics and view the result, finish out the order and other stuff like that instead of the old paper way. No need to pull out a full laptop for no reason. Ironically the iPad was crippled by AT&T's 3G data (lack of) service.

      It sounds like the school with the IT illiterate staff just went for the iPad because it was an iPad. They likely overruled or ignore

    • by Solandri (704621)

      This story supports my position that tablets are stupid except for a very few vertical business markets, and will go away faster than netbooks once people can see past the hype.

      I disagree. Tablets are poised to take over the biggest market in business - eventually they're going to replace clipboards. Why print stuff out and carry it in a clipboard or folder? Why write stuff down on paper, just so you can do double data entry and type it into a computer when you get back at your desk? Just carry a table

  • difficulties (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sez Zero (586611)

    Difficulties editing old Word and PowerPoint documents...

    Their problem is bigger than the iPad in the classroom.

  • Tablets in education (Score:5, Informative)

    by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:30PM (#41305727)
    I've been using tablets in an educational environment since about 2006. I guess today they would be called Tablet PCs, but they were infinitely more useful in an educational setting for one reason, and it's not that they ran standard PC apps (in fact quite the opposite because most apps were no optimized for touch, etc.). It was the stylus, which most "tablets" lack today. Writing on my tablet with a stylus and being able to archive notes, search handwritten notes, reference supplemental materials and paste them into my notes, etc. were killer applications. The fact that my tablet was convertible also meant that when I needed to, I could set up my tablet PC like a regular laptop with a full monitor, mouse, and keyboard, and use it like any other laptop with fully fledged Office. Many here balked at the Tablet PC then, and continue to balk at the tablet PC now, but it was a hell of a lot more useful for me than my iPad ever was, if not only for the ability to support a proper digitized stylus and robust handwriting recognition.

    Tablet PCs today still have major disadvantages, but I'm very intrigued at the new crop of hybrid tablet/laptops coming out from Samsung, Asus, and Microsoft. Transformer prime was half way there, but it still was a very poor laptop substitute in laptop mode (couldn't run full desktop-class apps, mouse support inconsistent across the OS and apps).
  • by Bogtha (906264) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:31PM (#41305741)

    Difficulties editing old Word and PowerPoint documents, transferring work to and from the device without USB sticks, and problems with projecting the iPad's display to the classroom â" bizarrely, using an Apple TV â" have led to staff once again reaching for their Windows laptops.

    The general idea - that you get computer-illiterate staff away from general-purpose computers and onto more appliance-like systems is a good one. More flexibility in the end-users' hands means more difficulties supporting them and more spaghetti work practices.

    The problem though, is that it sounds like they thought they could just dump the product on them and their problems would be solved. These people will have had deeply-ingrained workflows that frequently include all manner of hacks and workarounds that have glommed together over the years. If you're going to move them away from that, you need to move their workflows and content too, otherwise they are stuck trying to do the old thing with products that aren't designed for it.

    I'm not sure what's so bizarre about using an AppleTV in that way though - it's designed for that purpose and it works great in that kind of situation.

    • The problem though, is that it sounds like they thought they could just dump the product on them and their problems would be solved.

      I guess they though it would, you know, just work.

      These people will have had deeply-ingrained workflows that frequently include all manner of hacks and workarounds that have glommed together over the years.

      They were using well established word processing and presentation applications (Word and PowerPoint). More things that one might be forgiven for assuming would just work (at least, with minimal workflow upheaval).

      Bottom line, Apple just didn't work in this case, period.

  • A laptop (of any sort really) would have been a better choice, at least for the higher grades. I could see an ipad or other tablet being useful in K-2 for example, but beyond that where keyboarding, app flexibility, and document exchange become important, a tablet (any tablet) isn't the best tool for the job, unless you intend to have a very specific restricted usage, such as portable textbooks / reference.

    • by xaxa (988988) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:44PM (#41305905)

      My mum's a teacher in a British school (like the article). They've just this month opened a new building, with all-new classrooms and IT equipment. She says the best improvement over what they had before is new (Windows) laptops and correctly set up docking stations on the teacher's desk in every room -- connecting to the projector, a real keyboard/mouse, the interactive whiteboard, and the network, is done instantly. (Most classrooms have had an interactive whiteboard [wikipedia.org] for years now, teachers love them. The main complaint seems to be the usual IT bureaucracy: tiny quota for email, laptop expected to be used while at home not working properly on the home network, etc.)

      She teaches at a secondary school (age 11/12 to 15/16).

  • The problem is that the school forgot to get iPads with the MacBook wheel [theonion.com] option.

  • I'm sure these iPads were touted as the "wave of the future" and that laptops were obsolete. Obsolete until you discover that the iPad is not a like-for-like replacement for said laptops! And in the process I'm sure some consultant handsomely profited on all of this. Like they said on The Simpsons, "Monorail! Monorail! Monorail!".

  • by 0101000001001010 (466440) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:38PM (#41305831)

    iPads in the classroom can be a great tool. But here's the thing. You have to plan for it before adoption.

    Projection: AirPlay, HDMI, or VGA?
    Documents: KeyNote, Quicktime, PDF; or maybe go to something less prepared and more on the fly. It can be neat to have a blackboard in your hand that projects on the screen.
    Storage: Internal cloud, iBooks/iTunes for education where you can create your own courses with files, Moodle.

    etc, etc. And only after you've worked these things out, you then beta-test by having a few tech savvy instructors run courses with them. Collect feedback. Discuss. Revise.

    For the love of gods, don't just buy a bunch of hardware, hand it to people, and tell them to go educate. How's that supposed to work?

  • by wiegeabo (2575169) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:38PM (#41305839)

    So...The staff, a bunch of teachers, are IT illiterate. And, instead of TEACHING them how to actually use a computer, the answer is...to buy them iPads to try and avoid the issue.

    No teacher has a right to complain about students not wanting to learn if they're not willing to learn how to use the tools required by their job.

    And when are school boards and parents going to learn that throwing fancy new tech at a problem doesn't fix the problem...or even the symptoms of the problem? Changing tech doesn't fix things. Changing PROCESSES fixes things.

    • In fact it isn't good for society for everyone to carry the cognitive burden of being an expert in every device they interact with--that's kinda the whole point of technology. Just like not everyone needs to know how their automobile or microwave works. The general direction of appliance computing is a good one for most people--it sounds like in this case they didn't think things through, or maybe they're just having growing pains.

  • by mblase (200735) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:40PM (#41305851)

    Always test a deployment of new hardware within a single department, or smaller group, before implementing it throughout the building.

  • by ad454 (325846) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:40PM (#41305861)

    My biggest gripes with my iPad3 as a work device are:

    One's fingers does not provide fine movement input like a mouse, touchpad, or fine tip pen/stylus (like the Samsung Note/Note2), which is needed for creating decent graphical design work. (It is far easier to move a mouse, touchpad, or pen/stylus by a single pixel, then my finger.)

    Proper unrestricted filesystem that lets you locally share documents easily and securely locally across different applications, without handing over your unencrypted work to untrustworthy 3rd party cloud services. Why could I upload my personal document to Apple's iCloud and download it again, just to open it up in a different app?

    And proper cut-and-paste of graphical (non-text) objects between applications. Why can't I click on an image, powerpoint/keynote diagram, etc, and copies these into the clipboard, and then paste into a word/pages document or e-mail message?

  • by cowtamer (311087) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:44PM (#41305913) Journal

    While I agree that tablets are currently consumption devices, the Pages (MS Word Equivalent) and Keynote (PPT Editor) are actually quite mature and tailored for the tablet. Add GoodReader to that (PDF editor/annotator) and you can do a LOT of day to day viewing and minor editing.

    That being said, I'm typing this on my Windows laptop :)

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:45PM (#41305923)
    Honestly, this is an administration issue. Instead of cutting the entire school over to iPads in the classroom, they should simply have selected a couple of classrooms to try using them for a year. If the issues that crop up are insurmountable, the technology can be abandoned without significant disruption, cost and time wasted. This is the way we usually do things in business, after all.
  • Not computers needed (Score:4, Interesting)

    by slapout (93640) on Tuesday September 11, 2012 @04:48PM (#41305953)

    Just teach the kids reading, writing and arithmetic. You don't need laptops for iPads for that. Use a good ole chalkboard. Then, once the children have mastered these basics, you can move them to computers.

  • by MrKaos (858439) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @07:31AM (#41311249) Journal
    Such an obvious case of non IT staff making IT decisions. People who know nothing about IT decisions, and make them should be made to live with their idiocracy. I have zero sympathy for them because they did not understand their own needs and they still don't want to ask how they go about solving them to save the remains of their budget. They let taxpayers and their students down.

    Idiocracy in action as they all said "shiney, shiney".

  • ok so (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jon3k (691256) on Wednesday September 12, 2012 @09:23AM (#41312171)
    I agree, laptop is way better than an iPad for this use case. But a couple things bugged me. #1 using an AppleTV to send output to a TV is really obvious and nice, it uses a feature called AirPlay that mirrors the iPad or sends video via WiFi to the AppleTV. And #2, USB sticks to move files? Really, in 2012? Who still does this? I use filebrowser [apple.com] for local fileservers and Dropbox for everything else. Filebrowser is actually fantastic for quickly pulling up files.

    Again, I absolutely think they made a poor choice and should stick with laptops, but some of these "problems" are not iPad problems. They are competency problems.

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