Sunday, December 30, 2012

Journal-like feature of the Wall - ensuring privacy of students' posts

I made this one before the New Year deadline. Notch up one more feature for the ever-versatile Wonderwall on the  checklist. I have added a "Moodle Journal"-like Wall feature. This means that there is added level of privacy for students. The Teacher can also ask questions and a student responds without the benefit of seeing/viewing other students' answers/responses. Works like the Moodle 1.9 Journal mod. Sort of.

Using the parameter in the iframe code,

the student only can see messages on the wall that were posted by himself or the Course Administrator. Works pretty much the same as Moodle 1.9's venerable Journal mod. In this manner, the student enjoys a degree of privacy. His or her wall posts are hidden from other student users. Of course the Course Administatrator can view and reply to all wall posts from all students.

Check it out on:
Username: studentscm   -or-  me
Password: studentscm   -or-  me

Attached PNG screenshots hopefullly are self-explanatory.

The Wall with the parameter : &Journal=0
Everyone sees everyone's posts

Summary: now the Wall has Journal feature which hides other students' posts from any student user. The student user only sees Wall updates from himself/herself/Course Administrator/Teacher. Student now enjoys a level of privacy. The teacher can remove  the &Journal=1 parameter, or change it to &Journal=0 to revert the Wall to all-see-all content type of default wall.

What do you think of this feature?

Frankie Kam

P.S., Move your mouse cursor over the grayed-out avatar user account pic to see a nice effect.

Gamification and the Moodle Wonderwall.

I figured out the how to include sentence statistics and have added in a gamification element/dimension to the Wall. It's getting more interesting.

I. Giving feedback with word statistics for a Wall post. 
I thought that it might be useful if the number of words, sentences per post and the average words per sentences might be useful information to be shown after each Wall post.

Try this out:
Username: studentscm
Password: studentscm

My iframe embed code is:

<iframe width="90%" scrolling="auto" height="700px" frameborder="0" align="middle" name="Embedded Frame" src="" marginheight="4px" marginwidth="4px"></iframe>

The interpretation is this: the teacher has told the class that his/her expectation is that every post to the wall must meet a minimum number of 10 words, and must have a minimum number of 3 sentences. Those posts to the Wall that meet these two criteria will be rewarded with an icon each (gamification element here).

 The student is awarded this stamp  If he or she
meets the minimum words per sentence average.

The student is awarded this stamp  If he or she 
meets the minimum number of sentences in the post.

Check it out. I've done it. That's a whole new element to the Wall. Lots of possibilities to create visual cues to the teacher as to who did what and who didn't achieve what. And lots of possibilities for students to be rewarded with stamps and icons and stuff for meeting the teacher's requirements/expectations.

II. Adding a Readability Score to a Wall post.
Every heard of the Flesch-Kincard Readbility score?

I also surfed over to these sites:
and implemented the Flesch-Kincaid Readability score test on the Wall.

(The website uses the PHP code available from specifically from this download link:
So anyway, the readability scores translate as follows:

Flesch Reading Ease ScoreFlesch-Kincaid Grade LevelTypical ageStyle description
Elementary School *
Middle school *
90 to 100510-11very easy
80 to 90611-12easy
70 to 80712-13fairly easy
60 to 70813-14standard
High school *
60 to 70914-15standard
50 to 601015-16fairly difficult
50 to 601116-17fairly difficult
50 to 601217-18fairly difficult
Post-secondary education (College or University) *
30 to 401318-19difficult
30 to 401419-20difficult
30 to 401520-21difficult
30 to 401621-22difficult
Graduate education *
0 to 3022+very difficult
*) Education in the United States. 


Here's a simplified scale of the scores.
   if($n >= 90) return "Very easy";
   else if($n >= 80) return "Easy";
   else if($n >= 70) return "Fairly easy";
   else if($n >= 60) return "Standard";
   else if($n >= 50) return "Fairly difficult";
   else if($n >= 30) return "Difficult";
   else return "Very confusing";

I dumbed it down a bit, since I only have five icons (see attached gifs!), to this
slightly simplified structure:
   80-100 : Very Easy 
   70-89 : Easy  
   50-69 : Standard 
   20-49 : Difficult 
   0-19  : Very Difficult 

I programmed the PHP function from the github link into message_ajax.php of the Wall and you can take a look at the screenshot after a typical post. Mouseover your mouse cursor onto the icons and you have a nice popup text description.

So now, you have not only a numeric Readability score, you also have a set of visual colourful icons to indicate the level of readability of the student's wall post.

BTW, I tried the following speeches on the Wall, and here are the results:
Obama's speech at the memorial wake in Newtown, Connecticut = high 90s
Queen Elisabeth I's speech = low 40s
So the Flesch-Kincaid readability algorithm does seem to work fine.

The php code from the github link also allows me to program these readability scores functionality into the Wall:

          * Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease
          * Flesch Kincaid Grade Level
          * Gunning Fog Score
          * Coleman Liau Index
          * SMOG Index
          * Automated Reability Index

        The same code also can give:
          * String length
          * Letter count
          * Syllable count
          * Sentence count
          * Average words per sentence
          * Average syllables per word

Summary: I've added in visual cues to a student's post so that both the teacher and student will know if the post meets the teacher's expectations. In addition, a readability score is added to the post.

I'm sure that the Gamified Wall can be useful in language classes where feedback is important.

Frankie Kam

Friday, December 21, 2012

Send E-mail notifications with every update to your Moodle Wall

Good news. I managed to get each Wall post to send an automatic E-mail message to the E-mail account of Moodle user N. This feature is useful so that the lecturer or teacher can receive updates of Wall posts from students. Here's a sample use-case.

Step1. The user copies a section of a website and pastes it as a Wall update.

Step2. I check my E-mail account and notice that the user "Mr Student" has posted something on the Moodle Wall. Hmm...let's check it out.

Step 4. Email is opened. Guess what? The E-mail that was sent from the Wall is in HTML format. Oh, wow! Great Scott and great stuff.

I think that this feature is useful for busy lecturers and teachers. The advantage is that one need not surf to the Wall to read the messages. The messages will fly into your E-mail account. The 'drawback' is that you might experience information overload when there are many student posts to the wall.

This E-mail notification only works with message posts, not with comment posts.

Postscript: initially, my Gmail account tagged the E-mail message as spam. So I had to dig into my Gmail's spam folder to mark as "Not Spam" the message.

Happy Moodling
Frankie Kam

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Moodle WonderWall (Facebook-like Wall) with Unicode (UTF-8 Encoding)

With the help of Waldemar Fiszer, the Wall now displays text in Unicode UTF-8. What this means is that I can display other language texts on in posts to the wall. So the Wall now becomes a sort of United Nations.

For example:

UTF-8 unicode encoding is supported. Below I have posted in various languages: Japanese, Russian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, and here's some French:
Bienvenue ! Vous êtes nouveau ? perdu ? Lisez ceci !

Форум "Методика и стратегия дистанционного обучения" на
Phiên bản Moodle 2.4 chính thức được phát hành với một số tính năng mớ:
وايضا اذا كانت لديكم اية تجارب سابقة وتريدون تبدال الخبرات مع المطورين  يمكنكم مناقشتها في منتدى المطورين

מניסיוני יש לא מעט אתגרים בשימוש בעברית בתוכנות שונות, ומודל כמערכת מורכבת במיוחד היא לא יוצאת מהכלל.

Try it out here:

Moodle 1.9 version of the Wall
Username: studentscm
Password: studentscm

And here:

Moodle 2.3.2 version of the Wall
Just use Guest access

Go ahead, give it a try. If you are interested to setup your own "International" Wonderwall on your Moodle 1.9.x or Moodle 2.x production site, please do not hesitate to contact me at:

Until the next time, Happy Moodling!
Frankie Kam

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