What I have in mind is a floating block (something similar has been proposed for the navigation menus in Moodle http://moodle.org/mod/forum/discuss.php?d=26619#125648 although I think it makes even more sense for blocks than for navigation). What I mean is simply a block that stays on top of the screen but that could be minimized into a little thin bar that could be dragged to the top of the screen or wherever so that it doesn't interfere. Of course, this block could also be expanded with one click at will so that we are able to use it.
A colleague of mine is working on a new block which we will call the 'language block' which could be especially useful for those involved in language teaching but also for everybody else. The idea is that the user can introduce a word or expression in an available entry form in the block and this word would be searched both in a dictionary, returning a popup up window like the following: serendipity 1, and also on an on-line corpus, returning the following kind of information: serendipity 2 . A simple query on an on-line corpus shows the word used in a number of different contexts. This is extremely useful for second language learners and translators.
The main difficulty we are having is that for this block to be useful in any learning activity, it should be accessible from everywhere in the course. If you are working whithin a module such as forum or HotPot it would be rather inconvenient to have to exit or click on the breadcrumb navigation menu to go to the main course page in order to be able to use this block. Having the possibility of floating blocks would be useful for any other block, actually, not only for the 'language block'. In some cases, it might make it unnecessary to include a particular block in any number of modules since the teacher or course designer might decide that the floating block be available (by definition, the floating block can be accessed from everywhere within a course).
If anybody has any good ideas about what the best way to implement this could be, I would greatly appreciate to know about them.
Thanks in advance.
I'm kind of out of touch with beginner web surfers, but do most people still only use one web page at a time? I've generally got about 20 on the go, several for utility tasks like looking up a word's spelling with Google, or a concept on Wikipedia, so to me the thought of one window doing two separate tasks is almost sacrilegious. On the other hand, I've seen people wide eyed with astonishment when I right click with a mouse, and I generally avoid using pop-up windows whenever possible as I'm told they can confuse people, so maybe the general Moodle user isn't ready for more than one window at a time.
If the audience was sophisticated enough, I'd definitely go with multiple windows as the best solution.
I'd say yes, at least here. A second issue that is going to be increasingly important is that more and more people are browsing the web and using the LMSs on cell phones and pdas.
Here reliance on pop-ups and multiple windows can cause all sorts of problems & I just see this area of use increasing.
I would guess this is going to be a continuing challenge for Moodle: having interface decisions made by experienced programmers and users, that leave beginning users overwhelmed.
An example is 'neato' features like closing blocks and columns that folks who use the system everyday see as a great new toy but cause alot of problems for the avergage user who hits the system once or twice a week (and forgets why some things are not there).
A second, in my opinion related issue is having new interfaces created for core features without giving a chance for community comment and feedback.
- What did you do?
- Where did the Moodle go?
- How did you open another window?
- Why would I want to copy text?
The audience was people who use computers at their work on a daily basis.
In the past I have implemented something that might be used for that purpose. I haven't released the code for exactly the same reason you mention: it should be a block, BUT the block should be accessible in other modules (resource / forum / ...). At the moment it is just a separate resource type together with a couple of hacks. I'd like to put all of it together in one block as this makes it easier to install for others.
Up to now only the Quiz module and chat module allow blocks to be displayed. I have not yet found the time to look at a way to implement blocks in other modules.
I don't understand your request for a floating block. If the block mentions
Doubleclick a word to look it up / to look at the word in different contexts,
I think it is ok if it only shows up at the top of the page, right?
Why should it 'float' together with the text?
Anyway, Jan, I would be very interested in talking to you about this. I've visited your site and I've seen your 'demo popup' resource. What I want to do has a lot of similarities with that. As I said, what would be really useful is to implement it in the form of a block so that you could use these functionalities wherever you were in a course, whether it is in a forum, a quiz, a resource, etc. I like the fact that with your popup resource you don't even need to type the word to search it, but it would be useful to have also some sort of form entry to type in words so that you can look for words that are not even written (imagine you are writing an assignment using the assignment module and you want to know how a particular word is used in context).
In response to David, I agree with Michael Penney, many users feel most comfortable with a page at a time. Independently of that, however, even for users like me who, like you, usually have many web pages (and applications) open at a time, having to find which one of the web pages you have open (which can be more than just Moodle) has the block you want to use is not really convenient. A block must be seen and felt (at least in this case) as a tool connected to the activity you are working on. Following the analogy with Photoshop I used before, it wouldn't make much sense, no matter how used you are to switch between applications or web pages, to have to go to a different application window to use one of the tools I mentioned (layers, channels, history, etc.).
Thank you for beginning this thread. I was going to attempt to code something similar this summer. I believe in options ----> different levels of usability, therefore, I agree with your premise and explanation for a "Floating Block". However, I would suggest thinking more towards some type of "Floating Toolbar". It could be I guess a block, but, I thought a toolbar would take up less space. I was also thinking of trying to do something like that in flash. I know flash is something you like Josep. [Hint ] I am just learning PHP. My flash skills are pitiful to non-existent , but, I thought it would be a cool start in learning the flash programming language.
Take for example the very nice Calculator that Michael P has on one of his sites. It might be nice for Science and Math students if that was in a Floating Toolbar along with some other necessary tools. Possibly the Calculator could be in a Floating Block, but, if the Calculator and other tools are in different blocks couldn't that lead to multiple Floating Blocks being open at one time leading to more and more windows open on the screen so a student could have quicker access for potential use? A Floating Toolbar allows real time quick access when necessary instead of the need of the availability of multiple windows just for potential use.
What if the Floating Toolbar could be docked horizontally at the top or bottom of the screen and/or vertically to the left or right of the screen? Wherever a student would feel more comfortable placing it. It could also be used during online exams and quizzes, when following examples provided in resources and SCORMs or for offline homework. Its configuration and tool content could be done from the admin panel and provide different levels of use authorization, for example
- Course Creator / Teacher
- Teaching Assistant
- Teaching Assistant
- Course Creator / Teacher
Your example of a calculator is a good one to justify the need to have at least a subset of the blocks easily accessible. I think we have been corrected, though, about the terminology we are using. I still don't know what to call this, but as Jan observed, you can only call it 'floating toolbar' if it floats with the text as you scroll. What we mean is something slightly different. It is just a bar or square that can be moved around but stays on the screen and can be expanded with a click. I don't know why (since I admit it is not that different) but I find the 'floating' menus somewhat annoying (too distracting, perhaps). I have no problems with the kind of docked toolbar/dashboard you seem to have in mind, however. That's exactly the idea I have.
OK, keep us posted about what are able to come up with this summer. I think it could be really cool. The only possible problem I see with the tool bar approach is space: would all blocks be in the "toolbar" by default, or only the ones the user chooses? I really like the idea of the toolbar being docked vertically or horizontally.
Well, let's see what comes out of this. I definitely think that being able to have this kind of accessibility for the blocks would be a huge improvement.
I am taking "baby" steps with flash right now as I am working on a CVS tutorial. But I will try to do something with it at least until September when things will probably get crazy again.
I noted your comment about the "bar/square" that can be freely moved about. That concept is included in what I am alluding to. I would think the bar should be able to be movable and dock-able depending on the location need.
My thinking about a "Floating Toolbar" is that it will enable,
- Faster access to some site/course features. [Less clicks.]
- Enable more efficient use of screen space because some Admins/Teachers would be able to place certain features in the "Floating Toolbar" and not on the page. This would allow for,
- The ability to use screen space to layout some blocks in more visible areas. [Less Scrolling.]
- The ability to decrease the use of blocks. [Decrease screen clutter.]
- Allow for the use of two column site/course layouts. [Again, decreasing screen clutter.
I think a menu [dropdown] could also be added to it, along with other things besides the calculator. For example, book-marking, sharable files (MyFiles), IM, E-Mail, Calendar, Chat, Help, Contact etc. All features would be indicated by images.
- Can these connections be made to a "Floating Toolbar" via code?
- Can a "Floating Toolbar" be associated with a user and not just a course so it can be used site wide or on all the student's courses?
- Can a GUI be created to make the configuration of a "Floating Toolbar" intuitive and relatively easy?
I dunno, but, I will try to see if it is possible to do all three.
- Should it be more like a Google Toolbar that is attached to a browser and only works within a Moodle site?
If that is so, I really do not know where to begin.