Happy New Year! 2020 is going to be the year of the Summer Olympics in Japan, as I'm sure you're all aware! For the duration of the games, Japan will throw open its doors to the world and put on the best show it can. I think that those of us who are here teaching English all hope that the country's desire to connect with the international community isn't just temporary. We're all on the forefront of that, so I hope we can all help show communities all around Japan that there's value and joy to be found in English education.

In the public school system, I've found January to be a stressful time of year. Both students and teachers may find themselves in new schools or jobs come April, and entrance exams can loom over everything like a black cloud. With the end of the school year in sight, it can be a rush to fill the year's curriculum into the last two or three months. The weather is also at its bleakest and least accommodating, especially up north. It's up to us to make sure that our classes function smoothly even as the school year is almost over!

At this time last year, we had something like 160 activities. As I write this now, we have almost 900! Every one of those is another option for a teacher who's trying to make English as fun and accessible to their students as they can. This couldn't have happened without a bunch of kind users who signed up and shared their ideas with the world. Thank you all so much!

It was about this time last year that I started writing the code for the Englipedia archive system, and currently we have almost 500 activities from Englipedia stored in ALTopedia, with the tagging system applied to make them easier to search for and the Activity Link system to make it easier to share and find remixed versions. I've been working on converting them since then, but as we come up on 500, I'm thinking that I might try and get some more of the most useful or popular activities and then wind down the process. My code had a few hitches and the actual data on Englipedia's end was stored in a way that made it hard to automatically convert without messing up the formatting or losing files, so every individual activity needed about 15-20 minutes of review before it was ready for ALTopedia. At this point, I think I need to take that time to focus on new things for ALTopedia.

I've been having issues upgrading the site to the newest version of Ruby on Rails (version 6.0). The newest version of Rails incorporates a more advanced text editor which could be really useful for when users are writing up activity descriptions. The site will function just fine until I figure this out, but to make it short, I'm bumping up against the limits of the web server technology I'm using now, and I'm trying to rebuild the site's server system on something that's more flexible but more complex. I haven't been able to update the site's code or layout while I try to figure everything out, but fortunately the content of the site continues to grow.

My current plans for the year are to try out a Patreon drive to help cover the server costs. I was thinking of adding in a few additional systems that would be perks for Patreon subscribers. The first idea I had was a worksheet generator - stuff like traditional word searches, Squares, Hidden Treasure, Snakes and Ladders, Battleship, or any other activity that lends itself well to a lot of different grammar points or usages. This isn't the only site on the internet that you can do this on, of course, but I thought it would be a nice bonus for people who are helping to support the site. What's everyone think?

As for smaller things around the site, you can now view what an activity looks like after you submit it. Before, it would just sort of disappear until a moderator approved it, and if there were any formatting issues, users couldn't see that until afterwards. Now you (and only you!) can see it once you submitted it, and go back in and edit it if you need to change anything. Recently I've been reconsidering the approval process in general. I coded things that way to make sure that spam or other obviously not-good content would get deleted before anyone saw it, but spam hasn't been as big of a problem as I thought it would be. Lots of spam bots sign up every week, but they don't seem to be able to find the comment or activity submission pages, so I just delete them without ceremony. Unless the bots get more advanced, maybe it would be better for users to see their submissions show up on the site right away.

Let's try and finish this year with panache! Stay warm!