Tackling Barriers

In 2017 the University of Edinburgh’s Interactive Content service and Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland (CHSS) will celebrate the 10th anniversary of their collaborative and fruitful partnership – only last month both organisations were highly commended in the BMA Patient Information Awards 2016.

Over this past decade developing innovative e-learning resources together several major changes have taken place. The most impactful decision was hopefully making all content developed in-house available as Open Educational Resources (OERs) and Creative Commons licensed (CC BY-NC-ND as minimum).

Multilingual videos

This year the partnership has decided to support non-English languages and publish videos that cater to a wider, more inclusive, Scottish audience. Within CHSS the ‘Tackling Barriers’ programme has identified several key languages to target: Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Polish, Urdu, Bengali and Lithuanian.

At CHSS we aim to support people in their community. Many with low literacy and English as a second language are not engaging with our services. Through co-production with low literacy and BME organisations and their members we will shape the development of CHSS health information and services. We will do this from inception to conclusion to tackle the barriers to engagement with CHSS services. CHSS will share lessons learnt with other long term condition organisations.

At the time of publication there are now 8 different ‘Tackling Barriers’ videos online and with many more in the production pipeline. Each of these instructional videos show you how to use various inhaler devices (e.g. metered dose inhalers with spacer). They are all available for playback, embedding and download via Media Hopper, Vimeo and YouTube.

Please visit the My Lungs My Life (MLML) resource for more advice, support and information regarding chest illness:

Coding For Diversity

Stemming from our previous blog post Scotland CSS & JS 2016 Stewart Lamb Cromar was kindly invited by Melissa Highton to present a lunchtime talk as part of the PlayFair Steps initiative within ISG.

Stewart’s presentation “Coding For Diversity” covered two key topics – gender and accessibility. His primary aim was to show that equality involves everyone, and web developers in particular can design and build solutions that benefit all of us.

  • šGender
    • šWhen is it ok to ask?
    • šWhen is it not ok?
    • šHow do you ask about gender?
  • šAccessibility
    • šDesigning for diversity helps everyone

Based on the excellent talk Chad Gower gave at Scotland JS 2016, Stewart asked us all to question our existing form design. Do we really need to ask for titles or gender?  If we do, then we should explain why, and give people the flexibility to choose a gender or title that they feel best reflects them.

Gender case studies included the analysis of various user registration forms from Vimeo, Facebook, Scratch and several University of Edinburgh websites maintained by the Interactive Content team. Stewart demonstrated what changes his team made to their websites as a direct result of attending Scotland JS 2016 and in research carried out for this PlayFair Steps talk.

In regards to accessibility, Stewart referenced an excellent Render 2016 video presentation by Robin Christopherson that explained how various situations can temporarily give anyone a visual or motor impairment:

  • šReading glasses or sun glare on screen makes you temporarily visually impaired
  • šHolding coffee in one hand makes you motor impaired
  • šSimilarly, small phone and big fingers makes you temporarily motor impaired

The accessibility case study focused on CAPTCHA and how legacy implementations can negatively affect all users, regardless of any impairment.

Stewart concluded his talk by playing back a recent BBC audio interview with a ten-year-old named Leo.

For most of his life, Leo has lived as a girl, but this summer he began to speak openly about his sense that that gender identity wasn’t quite right. šWith research help for his parents, he’s decided he is non-binary, though for the moment he dresses as a boy and has taken a male name.

The “Coding For Diversity” PowerPoint presentation is CC BY-SA 4.0 licensed and available to download:

N.B. Both the featured image and repeating tile (transparent PNG) used for this article were created by Stewart Lamb Cromar. They are  CC BY-SA 4.0 licensed and can be downloaded from this Flickr album:

Scotland CSS & JS 2016

From 1st-3rd June the Interactive Content team attended Scotland CSS & JS for the first time. The venue was Our Dynamic Earth and the list of presenters/attendees was truly international. Each of us have written a short summary on our favourite speakers.

Stuart Brett’s Notes

#01 – “Let’s Talk About Midi”- Ruth John.
A/V, Dev, Design, Code & Craft, R&D at a big mobile co. (@rumyra)

IMG_2559Ruth John’s talk on MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) was of particular interest to me. I’ve been writing music with MIDI devices since the 1990’s. Back then I was using floppy discs, latency-burdened drum machines and an Atari 1040 STE. Twenty years later and I find myself using the Arturia KeyLab, Korg Electribe and Novation Launchpad – all fancy modern tech but still utilising that age-old protocol, MIDI. MIDI underpins almost all modern electronic music, but I would never have made the connection with how it can work with web browsers. Ruth demonstrated that through using MIDI via your web browser, it could be used to trigger a sound without the need to pre-load files. My team specialise in Interactive game-based learning and we work heavily with animations and sound. Having synchronised audio triggers can be problematic, but Ruth’s suggestion of using web MIDI, Javascript and web Audio solves that. Cool.

Ruth’s notes can be found here – https://midi-talk.herokuapp.com/

#02 – “The VR Web And The Future Of The Browser” – Livi Ericsson.
VR/AR Developer Evangelist, Microsoft (@Misslivirose)

FullSizeRender 3Virtual Reality – an immersive multimedia/computer-based reality – has come and gone over the years. The limitations of technology crippled the advancement of VR in the ‘90s and as a result public interest, investment and research slowly dwindled by the end of the decade. However, thanks to the power of our current technology, Virtual Reality is undergoing a revolution, thanks in part to the huge interest in the Oculus Rift. 2016 marks the commercial release of the Oculus Rift headset , the SONY Playstation VR and the HTC Vive. This growing momentum in game-based VR was bolstered by the advancements in virtual and augmented reality. Our own 2015 Google Glass project http://glass.ed.ac.uk/ hinted at the potential of VR & AR as a teaching and learning tool and Livi’s talk on Web VR focused on the strengths of using VR with browsers mobile deviuces. Web VR currently has an experimental API for browsers to interact with VR hardware, it can identify various headsets and tracking devices and is supported in FireFox Nightly and Chromium. Javascript, C# and Boo can be used to write scripts in the Unity Game engine and can be exported to Web VR. Alternatively, Vizoe Create provides devs with the ability to create visual node-based programming for VR websites.

Livi’s slides and project links – https://livierickson.com/blog/scotlandjs-virtual-reality-in-the-browser-today/

#03 – “Practical Colour Theory For People Who Code” – Natalya Shelburne.
Front end developer, Rooster Teeth. (@natalyathree)

IMG_2534Natalya’s talk on colour theory started with a show of hands to see who was aware of colour theory and the colour wheel. A 3rd of the room put up their hands. I was astonished to see so few coders, content and UI designers say that they are not familiar with colour theory or use it in everyday practice. My background is in Illustration and Graphic Design, all of which were part of my degree. Like Natalya, I’m an Art Student and my university days were not spent as a developer. I still struggle with using that side of my brain that relates to coding! However, I’m surprised that colour theory isn’t part of a modern student programmer’s syllabus. Learning Colour theory is super easy and there are heaps of apps and documents available on the web. Using a colour wheel is something I haven’t done for some time, as it sort of embeds itself into your subconscious. My years working in the design industry helped with that, but I found Natalya’s talk very useful and a timely reminder that it is always good to keep your colour theory up to scratch – and even more so, if you’re currently developing websites and have never worked used colour theory when approaching GUI design.

Natalya has an online demo of her functions for a complementary color scheme – pick any color on the color wheel and the functions will make sure that the scheme will still work! – http://tallys.github.io/color-theory

Jackie Aim’s Notes

#04 – “How Cognitive Psychology can help you write better code” – Sílvia Pina (@smourapina)

c36ccfb2b50b703e86fd676e8f134fd8Sílvia is a polyglot software engineer working at Zalando. She previously studied psychology and neuroscience.

In an ideal world a programmer has:

  • mathematical ability
  • processing capacity
  • analogical reasoning
  • conditional reasoning
  • procedural reasoning
  • temporal reasoning

The Stroop effect

If anyone has ever done Brain training on the Nintendo DS you may have come across the Stroop effect. It consists of words i.e. red, blue, yellow and green and you have to read the colour of the word not what the word spells. So the word may say blue but its colour is red.

Many code text editors use Syntax colouring or highlighting. Software such as Sublime Text or Brackets.

Our thinking

System 1 System 2
  • Fast
  • Unconscious
  • Automatic
  • Everyday decisions
  • Error prone
  • Slow
  • Conscious
  • Effortful
  • Complex decisions
  • Reliable

Cognitive Biases:

  • Representativeness bias – if unfamiliar a tendency to look for similarities
  • Availability bias – reliability on strong or emotional memories
  • Anchoring bias – to rely on one piece of information
  • Confirmation bias – interpretation that confirms your preconceptions


  • Be aware of cognitive biases, >-<
  • Question everything
  • Pro’s and con’s
  • Consider

Sílvia talked about using probability & statistics and frameworks & theory to reduce biases. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of cognitive biases.

#05 – “Creating Accessible Components” – Cat Hawker (@auberdjinn)

5JjlJ7fEHow to avoid the accessibility pitfalls of rich interactions and create a fantastic experience for all your users. Cat is a web developer and accessibility champion for the BBC in Glasgow.

  • Smartphones and watches
  • Screen magnifiers
  • Screen readers
  • Braille displays
  • Haptics

How do people use your app?

  • Mouse
  • Touchscreen
  • Keyboard
  • Switches
  • Voice input

Where to start?

  • Test for visual accessibility
  • Zoom in
  • Use greyscale mode
  • High contrast
  • Font size in browser

Good practices

  • Relative units for text
  • Use SVG’s
  • Avoid text images
  • Choose colours with sufficient contrast


  • Tab
  • Focus

Standard keyboard controls

  • Tab
  • Shift & tab
  • Arrow
  • Enter
  • Space
  • Escape

Screen readers

  • OS X: VoiceOver (cmd + F5)
  • Windows: NVDA (free)
  • iOS: VoiceOver

W3C Recommendation: Accessible Rich Internet Applications (ARIA)
ARIA-live listen out for changes e.g AJAX.

For more on accessibility – BBC: Mobile Accessibility Guidelines

Stewart Cromar’s Notes

#06 – “An A to Z of CSS” – Umar Hansa (@umaar)

  • Kafeel1-1024x691One memorable highlight for me in Umar’s very interesting “A-Z of CSS” presentation was multicolour web fonts such as Painter Kafeel
  • Where you can stack multiple fonts together and apply different colours to various elements of each letter
  • Painter Kafeel is the digitised version of handpainted lettering originally done by signboard painter- Kafeel. It consists of 9 fonts, which when used together recreate the unique multi colored look of Indian Street Lettering
  • Sign up to Umar’s newsletter and receive a developer tip, in the form of a gif, in your inbox each week:

#07 – “How to Ask about Gender” – Chad Gowler (@kitation)

  • IMG_2450One very engaging and recurrent theme during Scotland CSS & JS was gender identity and inclusivity. Several speakers showed how developers could improve both their personal approach and technical solutions towards these subjects
  • Almost every presenter conveniently provided their preferred pronouns in either their PowerPoint slides or Twitter profiles, for example:
    • “She/her pronouns”
  • Chad Gowler gave an extremely interesting and practical talk on “How to Ask about Gender” and what best she considers best practice
  • One interesting takeaway was that a “title is not a legal required part of name”
  • In addition to Mr, Mrs, Ms., consider adding the gender neutral title Mx
    • Mx – pronounced ‘mix’
  • Do not use titles to assume gender
  • Having an ‘other’ option is “othering” and be deemed dehumanising
  • A good example mentioned was the Scratch sign-up form – tells you why their asking for gender and gives a free text option in addition to male/female. Only fault is it’s missing a label for 3rd option for accessibility i.e ARIA. Maybe call it “please specify”?
    • Gender – Why do we ask for this info?
    • This helps the Scratch design team understand who is using Scratch, and provides information that helps us broaden participation.  This information is not visible on your account, and is only used to describe overall participation.
  • Previously highlighted for ‘bad practice’, Vimeo profiles are now updated to include a preferred pronoun selection
    • Help us call you by the proper pronoun:
    • Female / Male / Neutral / Rather not say

Selected Tweets

#OER16 Open Culture

This years OER conference: #OER16 Open Culture was held in Edinburgh, which was great for the Interactive content team. Now in its 7th year the 2 day conference was a very full and diverse one with people attending from all over the world. There were keynote speakers, presentations, lightning talks, Wikipedia sessions and posters. Many of the presentations were live streamed and can be found on the ALT (Association for Learning Technology) YouTube channel.

What do we mean by open?
There were lots of thought provoking topics. From letting students choose how they learn to letting them use their own tools. From research into the effectiveness of OERs, who has heard of OERs, to what are OERs? Different areas of openness, open to whom and how. The area of copyright, creative commons licensing and ownership to archives and collections.

Day 1
Catherine Cronin, University of Galway, “If ‘open’ is the answer, what is the question?” the first keynote speech on day 1.

I am just covering the topics I attended on the day but there were other sessions in parallel to this. My first session was titled ‘Converging or diverging cultures of openness’:

  • Awareness of OER and OEP in Scotland: Survey Findings from the OEPS Project: this covered the findings of the survey which covered higher and further education. Some of the interesting things from this research is the need for staff development and sharing practices.
  • Veethika Mishra a student from India presented: GameEd Archive: OER for tabletop games: for such a large industry she emphasised that the educational value of table top games is underestimated and underutilised.
  • Mosomelt: Mobile Social Media Learning Technologies, NZ
  • Connecting Resources and Users – requirements for a federated cross-sectorial infrastructure for OER: feasibility study based in Germany around repositories, distribution and the needs of different educational sectors.
Doing OER: Stuart Nicol
Doing OER: Stuart Nicol

In the afternoon I attended the ‘Converging or diverging cultures of openness’ again which covered more aspects of OERs:

  • Finding the open in the in-between: changing culture and space in higher education: In-between: Third space, Third place, Liminality. Reuse, Revise, Remix, Redistribute, Retain.
  • Open Educational Resources and Tools for the Digital Student: collaboration between 2 universities one in Romania and the other the US, the students work together and share resources, using open educational tools and social media such as ThingLink, Google hangout, Voicethread and SoundCloud.
  • Doing OER: Developing an institutional OER policy and how that policy might influence practice. Open.ed Stuart Nicol
  • Converging Cultures of Open in Language Resources Development: Mining and data driven learning, linguistic data, FLAX project domain-specific language collections.
  • How to set up an Open Online CPD course: 12 Apps of Christmas. We should try this!

There were 2 keynote speakers following the sessions on day 1: Emma Smith, University of Oxford, “Free Willy: Shakespeare and OER” followed by John Scally, National Library of Scotland, “Postcards from the Open Road” to finish the presentations of the day.

Day 2
Day 2 started with an excellent keynote from Edupunk Jim Groom, Reclaim Hosting “Can we imagine tech Infrastructure as an Open Educational Resource? Or, Clouds, Containers, and APIs, Oh My!”.

My first session was called ‘Innovative approaches to opening up cultural heritage collections for education’:

  • Bastille, a pop group or a French Fort? How the Research and Education Space (RES) is using linked open data to open up cultural heritage collections so they can be used in education: a project funded by Jisc, the British Universities Film & Video Council (BUFVC) and the BBC
  • Learning Effectiveness and Perceived Value of Wikipedia as a Primary Course Resource: research based at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya which compared sets of students using Wikipedia
  • Open education: “Runnin’ with the Devil”: are we critical in our thinking and writing? Paper citation, semantometrics and citation metrics

‘Hacking, making and sharing’

  • Students Success The Toolbox, realistic temptations Dublin
  • Open education on Wikipedia’s sister projects: Wikipedia is well known but there are a number of other equally interesting open projects such as Wikisource, Wikibooks where students can create their own textbooks
  • An Open Ed Tech Collective: looked at a WordPress framework SPLOT, NS Cloner for WordPress, Sandstorm
  • Building a Database of People in Edinburgh Throughout the Early 20th Century: student project, setting up a searchable database using old telephone directories

‘Strategic and reputational advantages of openness’

  • Reflecting back on the diverse innovations and impacts prompted by an OER project: OERhub Bridge to success, Badged open courses, no time constraint, no support
  • Reframing ‘open’ in the context of the Digital University: different levels of open, fuzziness, Third space thinking, ‘The Great Good Place’, Lead Scotland
  • Modern slavery Stolen Lives a project aimed to promote awareness of modern slavery
  • Need for a Culture of Sharing – A case study of Mauritian Educators: in certain schools there is a ‘culture of private tuition and fierce competition which inhibit open collaborative efforts’

Open with care: Melissa Highton
Open with care: Melissa Highton
The day and conference finished with the final keynote “Open with care” from our own Melissa Highton.


Edinburgh University OER website launch

Last week we helped launch Open.Ed, a new website devoted to showcasing Open Educational Resources (OERs) at the University of Edinburgh.

Our Interactive Content service not only designed and built the site, but several of our OER-related projects are featured in the collection:


Related links

FutureMS research website

FutureMS is a Scotland-wide research study for people recently diagnosed with MS. Using clinical exams, brain imaging & genetics to try to predict severity.

Read more about our recent website launch:


ALD15 – Review


Tuesday the 13th of October was the inaugural Ada Lovelace Day (ALD) at the University of Edinburgh. The Interactive Content (IC) team were responsible for the design, development and facilitation of 5 key workshop activities. Not only did registered University students and staff enjoy the day, but so did a significant number of guests from the Edinburgh community.


All the team’s deliverables and handbooks were Creative Commons licensed (CC-BY-SA) for easy distribution and maximum reuse. N.B. This is Free Culture Licence.


In addition to the digital OERs published, the IC team designed a broad-range of ALD themed promotional materials including:

  • pull-up banners
  • tote bags
  • t-shirts
  • posters
  • cardboard cut-out

Social media statistics for the w/c 12OCT2015

  • 1K+ page views on the Ada Lovelace Day WordPress site
  • 1K+ votes and 13k+ page views for the LEGO ‘Lovelace & Babbage‘ project
  • 71 favourites and 48 retweets from the IC @Tweelearning Twitter account alone
    • Impressions: 9,447 (times people saw these Tweets on Twitter)
    • Total engagements: 665 (times people interacted with these Tweets)
  • ~400 unique Tweets using the official event hashtag #ALD15EdUni (via Topsy)

Guest Speaker

Katya Krasnopeeva from Pilizota Lab, within the School of Biological Sciences, very kindly gave an inspirational overview of her current research post. She even had a short video demonstrating how LEGO was used to help them out with a rather repetitive laboratory procedure.

Activity A – ‘Garden of Ada’

  • ‘Garden of Ada’ adult colouring-in illustration (.PDF + Flickr + Wikimedia Commons)
  • In addition to the standard A4 version given away, an A0 version was printed for a collaborative drawing exercise
    • Hand drawn by Interactive Content team member Jackie Aim

Activity B – Sonic Pi music compositions

  • Sonic Pi workshop handbook (.PDF)
    • ‘An introduction to Sonic Pi’ written by Interactive Content team member Stuart Brett

Official tweet


Activity C – LEGO® Raspberry Pi enclosure

  • LEGO Raspberry Pi enclosure workshop handbook (.PDF)
    • Written by Jackie Aim
  • LEGO Raspberry Pi enclosure photographs (Twitter + Flickr)

Activity D – Cardboard Raspberry Pi enclosure

  • Ada Lovelace Raspberry Pi cardboard enclosures (Purple .PDF + Blue .PDF)
    • Designed by Stuart Brett


Official tweet


Activity E – Ada selfies

  • Ada Lovelace cardboard cutout
    • Designed by Stuart Brett

Update 10NOV2015 – Wikipedia Contributions

    • With help from the very generous Sara Thomas (Museums Galleries Scotland – Wikimedia in Residence), one University of Edinburgh student made substantial additions to the Ada Lovelace Wikipedia page (Persian)



LEGO, the LEGO logo and the Minifigure are trademarks of the LEGO Group. ©2015 The LEGO Group.

Ada Lovelace Day 2015

The University of Edinburgh will be hosting its very first Ada Lovelace Day on Tuesday 13th October 2015 – an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).


The Interactive Content Team is playing a leading role in several creative workshops and is responsible for creating all the graphic design for the event; banners, merchandise and visual aids.

Our provisional schedule includes:

  • composing music with algorithms
  • building Raspberry Pi enclosures with LEGO
  • metadata games (University of Edinburgh’s Library and University Collections division)
  • Wikipedia training session and edit-a-thon
  • guest speakers

Please note that booking details will be announced shortly on the following website and Twitter account: