In my post on FreeEmbedChat, if you were observant enough, you would have noticed an interesting-looking block on the lower right-hand corner of my Moodle course page. That’s the section with the red border. Today’s post is about that intriguing block with the text “Whisper” inside it.
One the most useful feedback tools on my Moodle site is a little shoutbox by ShoutPro. The standard ShoutPro (version 1.5.2) allows you to create a shoutbox on your website. It just needs PHP and stores the posts in a flat file.
To be honest, ShoutPro was not my first choice of chat widgets for my Moodle site. Moodle’s Shoutbox was the first. Let me enlighten you with a little flashback. Eight months ago I was happily using the Shoutbox block for my Moodle 1.9.7 site.
I loved Shoutbox and it works fine with newly created Moodle 1.9.x sites. But my site was undergoing a state of flux with me installing any mod, block or filter that looked interesting or pedagogically valuable. So the next thing I knew was an install of Shoutbox would elicit lines of cryptic PHP error codes. So for almost a year I was living without my beloved Shoutbox. It was then that I discovered ShoutPro 1.5.2 and I installed it with gusto. With nearly 34,000 downloads of its installation zip file, ShoutPro’s tag line is “the web’s best php shoutbox”. I’m a believer. Here’s a list of its features.
ShoutPro was not only useful, but very popular among my students. In fact it was a little bit too popular. I say “was” because my students were using it to post all kinds of fun (read: meaningless, at times just thrash-talking each other) text posts. The main reason for this was that it allowed them to be anonymous. The interface allowed anyone to create a fictitious username to post a message. Some of the cheekier ones even used variations of my name to post on the shoutbox. It soon became a distraction among my student during my Computer Lab classes. I love my students and want the best for them, but this was too much!
I was in a dilemma. Having lost the ability to add a Shoutbox block eons ago due to some idiosyncrasy with my Moodle site, I had to depend on ShoutPro as a substitute to get text feedback from students who needed help. Never mind that others in the class were abusing it with mindless chatter, unfortunately the standard ShoutPro code allowed them to hide behind make-believe usernames. No way I could get mad at them for something that the technology allowed them to do. Notwithstanding the rule that you were supposed to pay attention to the lecturer in the compute lab, I allowed it and tolerated it simply because its main function was for my students to send feedback to me. Oh how I longed for a way to stop the fictitious usernames hiding.
Then soon came a time that I was determined to modify it – Moodler-ize it actually. So on August 13th 2011, I finally found out how to modify it so that it automatically used your Moodle username. All thanks to this post by Brian Lowe on a Moodle.org forum. Whoa! This was it. I dove head-first into the ShoutPro code and followed Brian’s instructions and code.
Read more at my blog here.