Friday, January 25, 2008

Blogger now supports Arabic, Hebrew, and Persian

Blogger recently announced that they now support these three Asian languages. It's a significant step for an online tool to support right-to-left writing. As Blogger states on their blog:
Supporting these languages is a huge milestone for us because — unlike the other 37 languages Blogger is translated into — Arabic, Persian, and Hebrew are written from right to left. As you can see from the above screenshot (image), we had to flip the whole interface around.

Besides localizing the Blogger interface into these three languages, we have right-to-left templates and have added new toolbar buttons for bi-directional text editing in the post editor.
This is something the learning technology community has been wanting in our learning systems for years. Moodle appears to have the best support currently with their language translation packs. Blackboard 7 also offers numerous language packs (including the highly requested "Pirate Arrrr (High Seas)" language--really?) and both purport to be flexible enough for institutions to modify and develop their own language packs. Desire2Learn is not even close, though it does offer a few options such as French and UK English. I'm somewhat relieved to hear that it took Blogger this long to support bi-directional text editing and localized interfaces. Indeed, it's a complicated but worthy endeavor.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

eLearn Mag's Predictions for 2008

eLearn Magazine has assembled an impressive collection of predictions from many prominent thinkers in the field of learning technology including Stephen Downes, Jay Cross, Michael Feldstein, Patti Shank, Curt Bonk and others. It's worth a look.

A number of similar themes emerged:
  • more attention to serious games and virtual worlds
  • use of social networking for learning (rather than just a trendy thing to do)
  • loosening grip on the market by proprietary vendors
  • warnings about avoiding hype

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Regular Online Quizzing Increases Preparation for Class

This article from the January 2008 edition of the International Journal for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning describes how the use of regular online quizzes can improve class participation and preparation.

Effectiveness of Regular Online Quizzing in Increasing Class Participation and Preparation

Abstract: Research suggests that frequent, regularly scheduled quizzing is associated with pedagogically desirable outcomes such as higher performance on exams. It was hypothesized that requiring students to complete brief scheduled online quizzes on assigned reading material before class would also result in increases in both the number of in-class questions and comments and the number of students who read the material prior to class. For each of 3 semesters, students in 1 section of introductory psychology who took time- limited, out-of-class, “open-book” WebCT quizzes on daily readings were compared to students in another section who did not take quizzes during that unit. Because each section participated in quizzing during 2 units and no quizzing during 2 units, within-section comparisons were also made. Analyses indicated that quizzing was associated with increases in both the number of student questions and comments made at the beginning of class and the number of students who reported that they came to class having read the assigned material. It was suggested that the immediate feedback provided by quizzes is particularly efficient in identifying areas of misunderstanding and in challenging students’ “illusion of knowing” the material. Spontaneous, anonymous comments on end-of-unit surveys also suggested that a primary value of online quizzing is in helping students maintain a regular reading and study schedule.