Dialogues: Digital Storytelling with Microsoft Sway

In this session we demonstrated the functionality of Microsoft’s digital storytelling app.

  • Quickly create interactive and accessible web content without needing to be a web developer.
  • Create and/or share Sways with the rest of the web, just the University or select users.
  • Sway Overview

We then presented a case study on how the software has been used to create Research Digistories as online educational resources for research students. In the case study, Sways have been created using past student work and focus not on the product of the research but on the externalisation of the hidden and personal knowledge involved in the research process itself.

Sway is available to all staff and students by logging into sway.com with their Office 365 credentials. (campusID@newcastle.ac.uk and your university password)

Additional resources

Sway Video Tutorials

Sway Quickstart Guide

Sway Online Course

Dialogues: Creating resources that are useful and useable

We spend lots of time creating digital resources, how can we build in accessibility so that they can be used by the widest group of people?

In our 3P session we explored a few ideas

  • documents are best when they have text (not pictures of text), structure, and a sensible reading order.
    – We explored this with a hands-on exercise looking at pdf accessibility.
  • videos are much more accessible and useful when they have a transcript and subtitles.
    – We had a look at how easy it is to add transcripts to YouTube.
  • Images can convey information powerfully, but how can we make these useful to people with little or no sight?
    – We explored the use of images in a Sway

Video Transcripts

As well as helping learners who are hard of hearing.  Captions and transcripts also help:

  • non-native speakers
  • people accessing resources on limited bandwidth
  • those without soundcards or headphones
  • people who prefer to read and annotate text

In this activity we’d like to show you how to add subtitles to a video on YouTube.  You’ll need a video, a script and a google account.

Feel free to use the following example files that we used in the Nutela session.

Sign into YouTube with your own google account

  • Upload the video to YouTube (look for the upload button in the top right), and click Publish when it is done
  • Click on the Video manager button


  • Click the drop down next to the video and select “Subtitles & CC


  • Next click “Add new subtitles or CC”


  • The method we will use here is “Transcribe and auto-sync” as this will automatically set the timings of the text:


  • Paste your text into the text box and then click “Set timings



You will now see an option under “My Drafts”.

  • Wait 30 seconds or so and then click the refresh button:


Now you can check that it has aligned it correctly by listening to the video and make any changes.

  • To adjust the timings click on the phrase you wish to change and then drag the blue tabs:


  • Once you are happy with the words, punctuation and timings click “Publish edits


You should see the following video, click on the CC button to view the captions.

(Our demo video is about how we generate subtitles when we don’t have a script.)

YouTube also has a function which automatically generates subtitles

If you don’t have a script for your video you may be able to make use of the automatic subtitles which YouTube adds to all videos.

  • In Subtitles & CC, instead of adding new subtitles you need to select “English (Automatic)


  • Listen to the full video to check if the text is correct and make any changes.
  • Once you are happy with the words, punctuation and timings click “Publish edits



[Huge thanks to Eleanor Lockhart for preparing these instructions and screenshots for the hands-on session.]

Useable PDFs

Imagine that a 20 page PDF arrives in your mailbox.

  • How do you go about reading it?
    Do you skim it? check for a table of contents or look for an abstract or executive summary?

There are a few things that document authors can do to make a PDF more useable.

Top of my list would be:

  1. Make sure that the pdf itself contains text, not just pictures of text – your readers may wish to annotate it, copy relevant portions and highlight key ideas.
  2. Add some structure to guide the reader, headings and bullets.
  3. Think about readers who may be using text to speech to listen to the document – check that it has a sensible reading order.
  4. Have a think about how whether the document would make sense if any pictures or diagrams were removed.

Let’s explore these with a few examples.

Note: For the PDF examples in this post, you’ll need to download these to a folder on your PC, navigate to the folder and open them with Adobe Reader.  We want to make use of  a few features in Adobe Reader and don’t want to open them in a browser.

Is it text or a picture of text?

You can quickly work out whether a pdf has any text in it, or just contains images of words by

  • trying to select text using the cursor
  • listening to the pdf using “Read out Loud”

Try this:

  • selecting some of the text – you won’t be able to!
  • In Adobe Reader select View then Read Out Loud and click Activate Read Out Loud
  • Once Read Out Loud is active click anywhere on the pdf – it will only read the page numbers.

In comparison try the same things with a version containing text.

Does it have discoverable structure?

You’ll have seen Version 2 is a bit better.  It has text, and there look to be some headings.

The downside is that the headings have been created by making the text bold, not by marking them as headings.  As a consequence we don’t see anything at all in the page navigation.

Let’s look at V3: v3-musings-with-headings

This one has bookmarks, so I can see the structure.

bookmarksThis is only a short example, but imagine if it was longer!  The heading structure shown in the bookmarks would really help me understand the flow of the document and revisit pertinent sections once i had read it.

If you are making your own pdfs from Word documents it’s easy to add these bookmarks in.

Adding Structure to your Word/PDF documents

Next: we’ll ask you to create a word document, add headings and save it to a PDF.

  • Start Microsoft Word
  • Type out headings for a short report (you could use “Introduction”, “method”, “results”, “discussion”) and add some dummy text beneath each of these “fjkfjkdfjsj…etc”
  • Put the cursor on each of the headings and click on the Ribbon to make each of these a heading

ribbonYour document should look something like this:


  • Click File/Save As and in “Save as type” choose PDF
  • Click Options


  • Make sure “Create bookmarks using Headings” is selected.


Save and open your PDF – you should see the headings as bookmarks.

Check the Reading Order

If you are reading through the documents using a screen reader or text to speech programme the reading order is vital.

If you generate pdfs from Word the reading order is normally OK, but floating text boxes rarely end up being read in a sensible place.  However, the reading order on some pdfs that have been designed for print can be disasterous!

Here’s a really bad example:  v4-newsletter-example

  • turn on Read Out Loud and listen to this – what has gone wrong?
  • Use right arrow key to move through the document – you’ll see that it moves across the columns indicating a dodgy reading order.

Fixing this kind of problem can be time consuming.  You can get someway with Adobe Acrobat Pro (Touch up Reading Order), but a better approach is often to go back to the original author.

Finally, does it need to be a pdf?

By definition PDFs are designed to be printed.  If people want to increase the font size the only way they can do it is by zooming the document, and they will loose information off the side of the screen.

In contrast if the same information is on a Word document or a Web page this can be zoomed much more easily.  (Try Word’s Web layout), and although PDFs can be annotated in Adobe Reader and other tools, many students would prefer to edit a standard document.

Also, think carefully before you add passwords to prevent editing, copying and annotating – these can really impact useability.

Try annotating v3-musings-with-headings if you want to see how frustrating it is.


3Ps: Dialogues

The next 3Ps: Pizza Pop and Practice workshop will take place on 29th November 2016.

The topic is ‘Dialogues’ and draws together sessions on storytelling using Microsoft Sway and the complexities of designing materials accessible to all students.

The event will take place between 12 and 2pm in the Hope and Tees Clusters of the Robinson Library.

There will, of course, be pizza and pop available before the workshops begin.

Please do register here.

We look forward to seeing you there!


NUTELA Peer Recognition Awards 2017

Nominations are now open for the NUTELA Peer Recognition Awards 2017.

Student robot holding a trophy. Technology concept. Isolated

Has someone helped you? Has another member of University staff gone out of their way to help you use technology? Would you like her/him to be recognised? If so, let us know!

NUTELA is once again offering two peer recognition awards this year. We are looking for nominations of staff members who have contributed to peer support or the mentoring of others learning about and/or working with technology. It might be someone who has helped you understand the purpose of a specific learning technology, or someone who has been instrumental in progressing TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) initiatives in your unit.  You are welcome to nominate any member of staff at Newcastle University.

The nomination process is simple. In 500 words or less, just answer these two questions and send your response to nutelaops@ncl.ac.uk.

  1. How has this staff member contributed to your learning, working or development with TEL?

2. How has this contributed to the Learning, Teaching and Student Experience Strategy

The deadline is November 30, 2016. NUTELA will review the applications and make a decision. All nominees will be told they have been nominated, and will be invited to present their work at the year-end NUTELA conference.

The award will be presented at the 4Ps event in January 2017 and the winners will be invited to the Vice-Chancellor’s Celebrating Success event.

You can see examples of nominations in the NUTELA Peer Recognition Awards Programme and read about last year’s winners on our blog.


NUTELA 3PS : Flipped Classroom

NUTELA hope that you are able to join us for the next Pizza, Pop and Practice. This time we are focusing on flipped classrooms.

NUTELA 200516

The event takes place on the 20th of May from 12pm until 2pm in the Committee Room at the Robinson Library.

In the sessions we will explore:

  • What is a “flipped classroom”?
  • View flipped classroom examples from Newcastle University
  • Find out student feedback from flipped classroom activity
  • Learn about any barriers you may face, and the best way to overcome these
  • Hear about lessons learned from colleagues using flipped classroom techniques

To book your place fill out a registration form.

NUTELA Conference Funding

4613Are you going to a conference based on technology and teaching? Are you presenting at that conference?

If you are you are willing to come and share your experiences and learning points with NUTELA, we might be able to help by contributing to the conference fees. If you are registered for a conference, let us know.

To apply: submit a copy of your abstract presentation acceptance, a copy of the invoice and a 500 word explanation as to how your attendance will benefit the University by May 31, 2016 to the NUTELA steering group.

NUTELA 4Ps: The Awards


On Friday 4 March NUTELA held our inaugral Peer Recognition Awards at the Marjorie Robinson Rooms.

The event was a tremendous success, thanks to the work of the team and more than 50 staff enjoyed some pizza, pop, plonk and practice in the convivial surroundings of the Marjorie Robinson cafe.


Pro-VC Suzanne Cholerton introduces the awards – we even managed to get hold of some Nutella to give away!

Thanks go to the winners of the 2015 awards, Gigi Herbert and Graham Paterson for two really informative presentations about their work and to Pro-VC to Learning and Teaching Suzanne Cholerton for presenting winners and runners-up with their awards.

Gig presenting

Award winner Gigi Herbert and Salome Bolton, who nominated her, presenting on the use of Grademark in the Careers Service

We are now preparing to launch next year’s awards – watch this space.

You can see the whole NUTELA Peer Recognition Awards Programme, including individual nominations.