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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Nadav Kavalerchik's Spelling Bee block for your Moodle 1.9.x site

Here's one from the deep recesses of Moodle.org - a very good Spelling Bee block to challenge your English linguistic and spelling prowess.

Nadav Kavalerchik is a brilliant Isreali chap with a penchat for churning out Moodle custom code like the  Spelling Bee. If ever there were a Nobel Prize for Moodle Open Source coding, this Moodler would be a serious contender (amongst others) for the title. He has written a brilliant piece of code that is the Spelling Bee block.  Created in November 2009 and updated in July 2011.

How it works is simple. Students are presented with an English word they should hear (audio using flash) students can choose one of the three difficulty levels for words.


Screen 1: Easy Level


They are then asked to type in the word they heard and check the spelling. Pressing the "new word" button retrieves a new word from the dictionary. The block's code is based on a http://www.thefreedictionary.com/ igoogle free service. Unless your IBM's Watson, I doubt if you could score high in Nadav Kavalerchik's Spelling Bee block for Moodle.



If you click your mouse cursor on the big blue speaker icon, you will be greeted with one of the nicer sounding artificial male voices around. It doesn't sound half-bad. Much better than some of the irritating robotic voices. By the way, the answer is "speaking". I bet you that you would have known the answer, had you heard the human-sounding robot voice say the word.

Let's get this show on the road with the next graphic image!
 
Screen 2: Easy Mode - Aha! I got the word right!


So I just got a score of 100%. Not bad. Now let's crank it up to Suicide...er...I mean, Expert mode. This mode will really give you a workout like no other. In this mode, I bet that you would not know 90% of the words spoken by the robot's voice, which by the way, is a very nice timbre male human voice.


Screen 3: Suicide Level - only for experts like Colonel Pickering
and Professor Henry Higgins types.


What's habergeon? Never heard of that word mann!

Nadav's Spelling Bee block is a welcome addition to any Moodle site. Especially if you are teaching English. You can use it as a game or as a sparring partner of a simulated Spelling Bee competition. You can use it to test your English vocabulary. The score is always displayed, but unfortunately, there is no way, currently, to store your score or to keep track of your progress. For that, you might want to look elsewhere.



Installing the Spelling Bee block.

You can download the original version from here. Be warned that this version has two things about it that need correcting:
  1. The default name of the Block, when it is added to your Moodle site, is "Selling Bee".
    The file responsible for this oversight is:
    YourMoodleSite/blocks/spelling_bee/lang/en_utf8/block_spelling_bee.php.
    Edit this file and you will find the text with the words "Selling Bee". Simply change it to "Spelling Bee".
  2. By default, the definition section text that is so small that it is difficult to make out the letters and words clearly. For example, here's what it looks like originally:

Screen 4: The definition text is way too small to be read


         Try reading the words "The distance from the base of something to the top" from the image!
         If you could read those words then you are either a rabbit who eats carrots often or you cheated.

         The code responsible for this is:
         #tfd_bee_def {direction:ltr;text-align:left;font-size:85%;}
         which by the way, is located inside the file YourMoodleSite/blocks/spelling_bee/spelling-bee.html
        
         The easy and effective remedy is to change the 85% to a larger value, say, 90%.
         This solves the problem immediately! After this, upload the modified file via FTP.


Download the improved version


What? Hacking Moodle PHP code not your cup of tea? What was that? You don't have time to change the code yourself? Oh well, okay, if you insist, if you want the Spelling Bee block as modified by me for my Moodle production site, you may download it from here.

Finally, here's to using the Spelling Bee block to improve your English!

Frankie Kam

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