Sunday, August 28, 2011

What do the words arsenal and class have in common? (Word censorship in Moodle)

Profanity and word censorship. The purpose of today's post is to share with you how I enabled a Year-2008 improved Moodle censorship filter on my Moodle 1.9.7 site. I will let you know how I tweaked it to achieve the desired effect. So at the end of this post, you will know how to enable the 'new' Censorship filter that allows a good word list while censoring bad words. You will also know how to generate a list of good words that contain a swear word. Like the word mishit, or peacock, or Emily Dickinson. Okay, I think you get the picture.

Do you enable the word censorship filter of your Moodle site? I suspect that there is a high chance that you do not. There are many who consider it useless and ethically challenging. Some may have disabled it because it takes up processing time. My guess is that 99% of forum users are well-behaved and post appropriate and politically-correct text in a Moodle forums. After all, forum participants can be identified by their Moodle username. Okay, but what about the renegade 1% for whom profanity may be common-place in their vocabulary? If the technology allows that 1% to post what we would consider as profane words, should we care enough to do something?

Times, they are a-changing. What used to shock us decades ago no longer shocks society at large. Many of our modern movies, if we care to admit it, contain profanity. In the heat of the moment, in his or her excitement or just out of sheer frustration, a forum user might let loose a bomb-word in a forum post. By the time the offense is detected, the damage may have already been done. 

So do we really need to enable this feature? In its native form, I would say "no". The first time I enabled it, I set it to censor the word "ass". I then proceeded to create a forum where I used the words "Class" and "Assignment". Those two benign words, common to education, were filtered and were displayed as "Cl***" and "A**ignment". Oh no! I then disabled the filter.
However, if we could modify and improve the existing standard Moodle censorship filter, and depending on the subject that you teach, I would say that there is a case for it. By the way, the Word Censorship settings can be found at: Site Administration > Plugins > Filters.

Figure 1. Enabling the standard Moodle censorhip filter.

Create a form in a block the easy way with the Form Maker block - no HTML needed

Some of the simplest blocks on are also the most elegant and easy to use. Caio Almeida's Form Maker block for Moodle 1.9 (March 2009) on is one such example. At the end of this post, you will be able to use the Brazillian Moodler's block to create a basic form in a Moodle block. The block will allow you and non-technical teachers to easily capture input from users.

This block allows a site administrator or teacher to setup a form inside a block. Best of all, absolutely no HTML knowledge is needed and the interface is easy to use. I was able to set up a basic form on my main Moodle homepage within minutes.

Figure 1. The block in action.

The block informs me that out of a maximum of 100 submissions, 2 have already been created, leaving 98 more to go.

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