Welcoming our new robot colleagues

A new Twitterbot service, based on the successful ‘Teacherbot‘ used to support distance students taking MOOCs, is to be piloted.

Kate Haag an Informatics PhD intern from our Interactive Content team is the project lead.

More information within this IS news article:

http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/about/news/welcoming-our-new-robot-colleagues

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:

open-ed-001

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:

http://www.ed.ac.uk/information-services/help-consultancy/consultancy-services/interactive-content-service/our-recent-work/futurems-research-website

ALD15 – Review

Summary

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.

OERs

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.

Merchandise

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

purpleblue

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).

ADA_Blog

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:

Creating animation with CSS3, an alternative to Flash (Part 1)

Last month the Interactive Content Team developed the LHSA – HIV/AIDS website and I thought it might be nice to show you how the simple animation of the bus on the home page was created.

Firstly, as the title of this blog post would suggest, it was not created using Adobe Flash (for those of you unfamiliar with this technology read the “brief history of flash” below). This simple animation was created using CSS3, a little HTML code and some jQuery.

It was adapted from an original idea I had to test the capabilities of CSS3 animation, and to see if it could measure up to the capabilities of Flash. I found this really helpful tutorial online by Rachel Nabors (Flashless Animation) and basically took it from there.

This was my starting exercise below:

You can see the idea is pretty simple; I have a bus in the centre of the screen, which gives the impression that it’s moving along the street. However, the bus never moves from its position on the screen. The bus is in fact stationary, only the wheels are moving. The items that are moving are the street scene and background layers. By moving these in the opposite direction to the bus gives the impression that the bus is moving along the street.

I like a bit of variety and as one who is familiar with the ever changeable UK weather, it seemed apt to extend the capabilities further by adding buttons to change the weather conditions and times of day.

I also like to cut corners, so I downloaded this PrefixFree JavaScript file from GitHub and added it to the <head> of my HTML document to save writing CSS prefixes for every browser.

Ok, so how did I do this?

To create this animation I’ve used a combination of;

  1. HTML code
  2. CSS3 animation
  3. Spritesheet for the bus
  4. JavaScript/jQuery code to create the weather conditions and change backgrounds

In this blog post I’ll look at sections 1-3 above and explain how each was achieved. Part 2 of this blog post will deal with the JavaScript/jQuery implementation.

Back to top ^


1. HTML code

First of all, let’s look at the HTML code, and there is not much to it.

<div id="weather"></div>

<div class="foreground" id="fore">
  <ul class="busstops">
    <li id="stop_1">Sunny</li>
    <li id="stop_2">Rainy</li>
    <li id="stop_3">Sunset</li>
    <li id="stop_4">Night</li>
    <li id="stop_5">Snowy</li>
  </ul>
  <button id="buttonStop">Stop the bus</button>
</div>

<div class="midground" id="mid">
  <div class="bus"></div>
</div>

<div class="background" id="back"></div>

You can see that it’s pretty simple – I’ve basically created 4 layers, entitled;

  • Weather – this layer is where the jQuery weather conditions are loaded in.
  • Foreground – this layer contains a UL for the weather buttons as well as a button to “Stop the bus”, which stops the animation. (It is always good practise to provide web users with the option to stop and start animations).
  • Midground – this layer contains the bus and street scene
  • Background – this layer contains the background scenery

These layers are styled and arranged using CSS and z-index layers, which I will discuss further in the next section.

You can see there are no images included in the HTML code, these are all set as background images in the CSS.

Back to top ^


2. CSS3 animation

OK, so now we know what the HTML looks like, and it’s not that scary, let’s have a look at the CSS code. The basic premise is that I have created a scene by layering divs (blocks of content) using the z-index property. (If you are not familiar with the z-index, z-indexes allow you to set the stacking order of html elements. For more information see: W3Schools: z-index).

Lets start with the weather layer.

Weather

This layer is the container for the weather conditions, which are only applied when you select the “Rainy” or “Snowy” buttons at the top of the screen. This layer is positioned at z-index:4 which is the highest layer so this is always on top.

#weather {
  z-index: 4;
}

Foreground

This layer is the container for the buttons and is positioned at z-index:4. This layer is static.

.foreground {
  z-index: 4;
  margin:0 auto;
}

Midground

This layer is positioned at z-index:3 so it appears under both the foreground and weather layers. Midground div layer contains the bus and street scene animation. Here’s the CSS for the street scene animation:

 

.midground {
  animation: parallax_mg linear 20s infinite;
  background: url(edinburgh_ground_normal.png) 0 100% repeat-x;
  z-index: 3;
}
@keyframes parallax_mg {
  0% { background-position: 3000px 100%;}
  100% {background-position: 0 100%; }
}

 

I’m sure most of this CSS looks pretty familiar to those of you who use it. I’ve added a background image (shown below) and set it to repeat it horizontally (repeat-x). The background image is 3000px wide:

edinburgh_ground_normal

It’s the animation: parallax_mg linear 20s infinite line that’s doing the work here, so let’s break it down:

  1. Animation’ is the CSS property, in the same way you would use color.
  2. parallax_mg’ is the animation name, I’ve written this shorthand but it can also be written as animation-name. This name can be anything you want.
  3. linear’ is the timing function of the animation. I’ve used ‘linear’ which means my animation moves with the same speed from start to end. Again, I’ve used shorthand, but written in full it’s animation-timing-function.
  4. 20s’ is the duration of the animation, in my case, I’ve specified it should take 20 seconds to run from start to finish. (animation-duration)
  5. infinite’ is the amount of times the animation should play (animation-iteraction-count), I’ve selected ‘infinite’ to play as a loop, but you can also specify a number if you only want the animation to run a few times.
  6. @keyframes parallax_mg – specifies the animation keyframes. I’m saying move the horizontal or x position of the background image from 3000px (which is the width of the image) to 0px. In other words, from right to left.

(More information on the animation property can be found at W3Schools CSS3 Animations ).

Ok, so if you’ve got this, then the same theory is applied to the background layer, the only difference is that I have used 3 background images rather than 1.

Background

.background {
  background-image:
    url(trees_layer.png),
    url(green_background_2.png),
    url(edinburgh_skyline_1.png);
  background-repeat: repeat-x;
  background-position: 0 100%;
  z-index: 2;
  animation: parallax_bg linear 40s infinite;
  animation-play-state: running;
}

@keyframes parallax_bg {
  0% { background-position: 1800px 100%, 1600px 100%, 1200px 100%;}
  100% { background-position: 0 100%, 0 100%, 0 100%;}
}

I’ve set the trees layer as the top background image (1800px wide)
trees_layer

Then the hill… (1600px wide)
green_background_2
Followed by the Edinburgh skyline image (1200px wide)
edinburgh_skyline_1
You will notice that the background images are not all the same width, this is deliberate; the wider images have more of a distance to move in the animation, so they appear to animate faster. The smaller image of the skyline, which is the furthest away, will move more slowly. This technique is know as parallax scrolling: the background elements move more slowly than the foreground elements creating an illusion of depth. Father Ted viewers may remember him trying to explain a similar concept to Dougal.

You may also notice a new property: animation-play-state: running;

This is where you can specify if the animation is automatically ‘running‘, or ‘paused’ when the page loads. I have toggled this property with JavaScript in section 4.

The HTML layer

Behind all the images I have a static gradient background for the entire page. I have done this by adding a CSS gradient background to the HTML element.

html {
  overflow:hidden;
  height: 100% !important;
  background: rgba(0,176,245,1);
  background: -moz-linear-gradient(top, rgba(0,176,245,1) 0%, rgba(255,255,255,1) 100%);
  background: -webkit-gradient(left top, left bottom, color-stop(0%, rgba(0,176,245,1)), color-stop(100%, rgba(255,255,255,1)));
  background: -webkit-linear-gradient(top, rgba(0,176,245,1) 0%, rgba(255,255,255,1) 100%);
  background: -o-linear-gradient(top, rgba(0,176,245,1) 0%, rgba(255,255,255,1) 100%);
  background: -ms-linear-gradient(top, rgba(0,176,245,1) 0%, rgba(255,255,255,1) 100%);
  background: linear-gradient(to bottom, rgba(0,176,245,1) 0%, rgba(255,255,255,1) 100%);
  filter: progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.gradient( startColorstr='#00b0f5', endColorstr='#ffffff', GradientType=0 );
}

Ok, I hope that makes sense, let’s now look at the bus.

Back to top ^


3. The bus spritesheet

I decided to try out creating a spritesheet within Adobe Flash for the bus. (For more information see this nice online video for an explanation of spritesheets). To do this I created a bus symbol in Flash and then animated the wheels using clockwise motion tweens on a timeline consisting of 16 frames.

I then selected the symbol from the Flash symbol library, (right-clicked) and selected “Generate Sprite Sheet”. I did have to fiddle around with the sprite sheet output options, but by selecting “Custom” for the image dimensions and then setting the output width to match the symbol width and the output height to 16 x the symbol height (= frame number x symbol height) worked for me. Flash provides you with a preview screen and if configured correctly you should see images of your symbol tiled vertically, 1 for each frame used. You can see a smaller version of my bus spritesheet below.
Bus spritesheet
Once the bus spritesheet was created I then used the following CSS to ‘play’ through the spritesheet.

.bus {
  animation: bus-cycle 1s steps(16) infinite;
  animation-play-state: running;
  background: url(animation_spritesheet_ltor.png) 0 0 no-repeat;
  height: 216px;
  width: 384px;
  position: absolute;
  bottom: 60px;
  left: 50%;
  margin-left: -200px;
  transform: translateZ(0); /* offers a bit of a performance boost by pushing some of this processing to the GPU in Safari*/
}

@keyframes bus-cycle {
  0% {background-position: 0 0; }
  100% {background-position: 0 -3472px; } /* Must be full height of sprite or skipping will happen.*/
}

The difference here is that I’ve used the animation-timing-property property ‘steps’ to cycle through the spritesheet in 16 steps from the top of the image to the bottom. Each step lasting 1 second each, the number of steps equalling the number of images in the spritesheet:

animation: bus-cycle 1s steps(16) infinite;

The width and height properties are set to exactly the same width and height of 1 bus in the spritesheet. I did have to tinker with the height settings to make sure this matched exactly 1/16 of the spritesheet. Being out by a few pixels resulted in a rather bumpy rendering of the bus rather than a smooth transition.

The background-position is set to move from 0px to -3472px, this is the full height of the spritesheet image.

Summary

So, if you’ve got this far and you’re still reading, well done, and thanks for staying with it. There are plenty more things I could do with CSS3 animation, and this blog post is only a very brief overview, but hopefully this will have given you some ideas to get started with.

In my next blog post I’ll look at Section 4: JavaScript/jQuery code for the weather generation.

Back to top ^


Useful links and references

Images from:

Brief history of Flash

Brief history of Flash


When I first started working in the web industry Macromedia Flash as it was known then, was considered one of the coolest things around. Macromedia Flash was a program where you could create rich interactive media content with shiny scalable vector graphics that looked the same in all browsers, (providing you had the plugin installed). This might not sound amazing, but this was in the late 1990s and the vastly different webpage rendering of Netscape Communicator and Internet Explorer 5, meant trying to get your website to look the same in both these browsers was a mammoth task; CSS was not supported well, and layout was controlled using tables and the infamous transparent spacer.gif. Flash was great; a flash object looked the same in all browsers, it could scale to fit the screen and the file size was tiny, handy when you were using that dial-up-modem to get online. All you had to do was download the flash plugin to play content in your browser.

Flash was so popular that it soon became the fashion for websites to have a full screen launch page, yep all 480 x 640 pixels of it. Who remembers visiting websites and being asked to choose between the “HTML” or “Flash” version, like who would want to visit the boring HTML version right, when you could experience the fun flash version with animations and games?

However, as web technologies developed Flash found it’s place as the tool of choice for banner ads, games, simulations and e-learning objects. All was good for the next decade or so, and then in 2007 Apple invented the iPhone, the iPad followed in 2010 and mobile and tablet browsing became THE thing. Apple would not allow Flash player on the iPhone and iPad, it made the devices unstable and took up too much processing memory. Due to the rising popularity of mobile and tablet browsing alternatives to Flash had to be sought. This leads me to the start of HTML5 as an alternative to Flash.

For more information please read: Wikipedia: Apple and Adobe Flash controversy

Back to top ^

HIV/AIDS online resources for teachers

Last Friday Lothian Health Services Archive (LHSA) launched a brand new website filled with educational resources, images and audio-visual material based on their UNESCO-awarded HIV/AIDS collections.

Over a 4 month development window, in close collaboration with LHSA Project Conservator Emily Hick, the Interactive Content team developed a showcase website that would house their collection in an attractive, functional and engaging design.

Each member of the team played an important role in different aspects of this multifaceted and exciting project. In a little under 20 total development days the following deliverables were achieved:

  • website design and development
    • WordPress bespoke theme (responsive)
    • parallax scrolling animation (CSS/jQuery)
  • design for print
    • Word/PDF templates
    • postcards (A6)
    • posters (A3)
  • audio/video editing and publishing
    • YouTube, Vimeo and SoundCloud
  • Jorum metadata creation and publishing
    • ~40 OER records shared

SDEO Show and Tell

Thursday afternoon I attended the SDEO (Scottish Dental Education Online) show and tell session at Edinburgh Dental Institute. The SDEO is a group made up of the four Scottish dental schools, Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow and funded by NES (NHS Education Scotland) and has been going since 2009.

Aberdeen
Aberdeen were first to present and Doug Bean began with introducing the SDEO website which was built and implemented by Aberdeen. The site uses Shibboleth login for authentication to access the learning resources. The resources can be accessed in 2 ways, through the ‘Learning Resources’ tab and the ‘Resources for Teachers’ tab.

Doug_Aberdeen

The Learning Resources has 9 subject areas including Anatomy & Physiology and Dental Materials. Within these drop-down subject areas there are various topics. These topics are the courses, each one compiled by experts in those areas from the 4 dental schools. the ‘Resources for Teachers’ holds all the media contained in each of the topics which lecturers can use in their own teaching.

Aberdeen went on to discuss which topics they had been and are currently working on. One of these is ‘Writing Referral Letters’ which feedback can be added, designed for peer review. They also showed a Tooth Preparation topic to which the student can upload their own photographs and critically analyse their own procedures, for example comparing one they did 2 weeks earlier with a current procedure. Another topic Aberdeen have been creating is on Smile analysis and the Golden Ratio.

Dundee
Dundee previously focused on biology but Andrew Mason now mentioned they were moving towards more clinical practice topics. They aim to make their learning resources as interactive as possible including staff and students in content development. They have created a 3D skull from CT scans and data which includes individual bones and teeth. They have topics such as Jaw Reflexes and Electromyography and their upcoming topics will include Facial Fractures. Dundee are currently working on the Temporomandibular Joint and use of an Articulator. They have also been trialling with iBooks and have created a rotatable 3D tooth and quizzes.

Edinburgh
Although Edinburgh are no longer funded by the project they are still included as part of the group. Their last resources were created around 2011 and are all based on restorative dentistry. Oonagh Lawrie showed us topics which include The Gingival Margin, Making a Good Alginate Impression, Matrices and Rubber Dam these are all supported by a large number of photographs and detailed video of the procedures. Edinburgh did a trial on their resources to see if the they improved their students making of casts. Half the students were shown Making a Good Alginate Impression before they made their casts and the other half were not. The group of students who had looked at the resource beforehand were significantly better than those who hadn’t.

Glasgow
Ziad Al-Ani from Glasgow talked about the resources they have created, including Tooth Morphology, Radiographic Techniques, Safe Use of Handpieces and Management of Sharp Injury to name but a few and mentioned where all their resources were being used in their teaching. Their resources are made up of lectures, photographs, video and voice-overs. They have also created a 2D version of Tooth Morphology designed for use on tablets and have received good feedback from students.

DDS
DDS (Digital Design Studio) Glasgow were also demonstrating their 3D Head and Neck also funded by NES. The head and neck are fully interactive with muscle veins and bone which can be removed and added, as well as rotated. They also had an expert assist with building the parts of the inner ear, and also have detailed eyes for potential uses in Ophthalmology.

WhatsApp Dick‽

BBC embrace WhatsApp as a legitimate news service

Launched on February 28th, the BBC have fully engaged with WhatsApp to deliver interactive content around the reburial of Richard III. Stewart Lamb Cromar reviews the quality, diversity and innovation of their instant messaging publications.

1) Fri 13 Mar

After 13 days of radio silence, the BBC published their first piece of interactive content. This BBC News article from September 2012 wasn’t the best of starts in terms of engagement or breaking new ground.

2) Sun 15 Mar

Another archival post from May 2014, this time accompanied with a photograph of Usain Bolt.

3) Mon 16 Mar

This interactive video map represents the first new 100% piece of Richard III content we’ve seen. Whilst the BBC claim this page is best viewed on their desktop site, I found the 8-part video perfectly usable on a mobile device. What I did find disconcerting was the lack of audio, it’s more a slideshow than video to be honest and it would have benefited from someone narrating the on-screen text.

4) Tue 17 Mar

Our third previously published news story (April 2014), this time about Sherlock actor Martin Freeman playing Shakespeare’s doomed king Richard III in the West End.

5) Wed 18 Mar

A second WhatsApp photograph asks us to reconsider our thinking on Richard III’s hair and eye colour.

6) Thu 19 Mar

Did you know Richard III has some deadly connections with both solar and lunar eclipses? #topical

7) Fri 20 Mar

Things start to lighten up, a fun little CBBC video and an emoji opinion poll:

Was the king: SMILING FACE WITH HALO or IMP?

8) Sat 21 Mar

Before King Richard III’s remains are reinterred during a ceremony next Thursday, we’re treated to 6 facts for the remaining 6 days. And finally, the emoji poll results are revealed:

For most of you KRIII was: SMILING FACE WITH HALOCROWNGB FLAG

Gallery

Conclusion

With the reburial still left it may be a little premature to make any firm conclusions, but based on what we’ve been sent so far I’m pretty impressed. Despite a shaky start, I genuinely find it quite exciting to get a WhatsApp alert direct from the BBC. Their now daily Richard III messages are a perfect appetiser before engaging with extended Richard III BBC News website content.

With the sole exception of the emoji poll, communication for me was strictly one-way. This may be down to my lack of experience with WhatsApp, had I asked a question or commented on one their posts they may well have been answered.

As with Facebook and Twitter before it, it’s only a matter of time before other major content providers adopt WhatsApp as a serious educational delivery platform. I would love to hear about the success of their Richard III WhatsApp alert service when it concludes, in particular how many subscribers they garnered and what level of resourcing was required internally.

Did you also subscribe to this alert service? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section below or via Twitter.

Related Links