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We will play, innovate, and creatively share knowledge

By incorporating playful approaches and spaces – open, dynamic, and creative – organisations will be able to ‘think creatively, question old assumptions, respond effectively to the unexpected, and engage all participants’ talents in collaboration’ (Meyer, 2010).

Our Information Services Group (ISG) staff are innovative and creative, and have developed a variety of fun, creative, and engaging ways to provide and deliver our technologies and services.

We want to ensure that this continues and that ISG fosters an environment, and culture, where innovation, playful learning, and creative engagement are embedded in our practices. This is in line with the University’s aim to offer an educational experience that is inspiring, challenging, and transformational.

Information services and technologies are core to the normal operation of the University, and vital to the enhancement and transformation of learning, teaching and research. Encouraging innovation and creativity among staff and students and embedding playfulness into the working culture is one of the ways ISG seeks to meet the University’s vision towards 2025 in which [we] “will ensure we make a sustained and enhanced global impact through an approach shaped by innovations and excellence”.

The University of Edinburgh logoInformation Services Group logo
Playful Engagement goals
  • Facilitate the development of playful innovators, researchers, and creators
  • Promote creative, playful, and innovative use of technologies and tools in ISG services
  • Utilise our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and engaging ways to enrich our services
  • Support a healthy work life balance, and a positive and engaging work environment

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

ISGs Playful Services and Tools

As part of our commitment to play, innovate, and creatively share knowledge, ISG provides a great range of services and tools for staff and students across the University. We also ensure that our own staff are provided with opportunities to experiment, innovate, and create.

On this page we’ve brought together some of the great services and tools that we provide. Each section includes links and information on how to become involved, or gain access, training, and support in the use and implementation of our excellent and creative services and tools.

Animated cartoon illustration of somebody using a laptop with a glowing screen

Digital technologies

Committing to the creative use of digital technologies in our services and teaching where appropriate whether online, blended or on-campus.

Our teams are always on the look out for relevant, creative and engaging digital technologies to enhance research, learning and teaching across the University. 

Digital Technologies & Services

Electronic voting with Top Hat – Top Hat is a creative content presentation tool that includes the ability for questions to be pushed to students’ web-enabled devices and these devices are then used to send back responses.

Catchbox throwable microphones – A Catchbox is a microphone you can throw or pass out to an audience to allow them to be heard and recorded in a large space.

Box of Broadcasts – The University of Edinburgh subscribes to the Box of Broadcasts (BoB) National service which enables all staff and students to choose and record any broadcast programme from over 60 TV and radio channels.

The IoT Research & Innovation Service – The University’s Internet of Things (IoT) Initiative is establishing an IoT Research and Innovation Service, initially using LoRaWAN technology, to help you easily run your IoT project.

The DIY Film School Course – The DIY Film School offers training and advice on using equipment designed for mobile filmmaking. Courses are run throughout the year, with an online course also available.

Computer lab: Instructor screen at front of room, individual PC screens and equipment on student desks.
Flexible IT Spaces

IT labs are increasingly being sought for use other than open access study, these spaces are also being used to deliver IT teaching, training and online exams. Presenting to students in traditional IT Labs requires a large amount of AV technology which is not always suitable for every type of space.

Over the summer of 2018 our enthusiastic  Student Intern, Anirudh Gangwal, experimented with new ways to allow screen sharing between Tutors and Students in a standard Lab, evaluating solutions and engaging with potential users. The outcome of this work will be a pilot of a screen sharing and collaboration solution by Splashtop for Semester Two 18/19.

For updates and progress on the pilot click on the link below to the Teaching Spaces pages.

Teaching Spaces

Woman looking at the camera, while sitting at desk and displaying 3D modelling software on the computer monitor
Digital Skills and is an online skills development service offering an extensive library of over 250,000 high quality video tutorials in digital, technology, creative and business skills. Students and staff (non-visiting) benefit from free access to this resource whilst studying or working at the University of Edinburgh.

In addition to providing the service, is also incredibly useful for updating our own ISG skills and services.

Our Interactive Content team has written a great blog post about how Interactive Content Developer, Jackie Aim, used to refresh and improve her 3D modelling skills and then ran a workshop for the rest of their team.

Read the 3D Modelling Digital Skills blog post here

For information about online skills development click the button below.

laptop with screen depicting the number 23, background skyline of Edinburgh city
23 Things for Digital Knowledge

An award winning, open, and self-paced course for digital and online skills.

Launched for its first run in 2016, and winner of the 2017 LILAC Credo Digital Literacy Award, 23 Things for Digital Knowledge provides a structured way for staff and students to set aside time to build up skills and experiment with new digital tools.

The course uses a structure of twenty-three Things, with each Thing being a subject or tool.

An introduction and a task is provided for each Thing along with suggested readings and resources. How much time and effort participants spend on each Thing is completely optional.

23 Things for Digital Knowledge

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Libraries museums, galleries and collections

Utilising our world-class libraries and collections in innovative and engaging ways to enrich our services.

In addition to our fantastic library and services, the University of Edinburgh is home to around 200,000 artefacts, works of art, potted material, models, specimens, musical instruments and scientific apparatus.

Browse our incredible collection of digitised images

Walk and/or listen to the Public Art Trail and podcasts to learn about artwork around the University

Contemplate the future with the Near Future Library project


Man wearing Google Glasses looking at an exhibition case with documents
Google Glass and Bluetooth Beacons

The Library used Google Glasses in conjunction with bluetooth beacon technology to create an immersive visitor experience as part of the Something Blue exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition were provided with Google Glasses and bluetooth beacons were placed next to several exhibits in the gallery space. When visitors came within range of the beacons, music, videos and voice recordings relating to specific exhibits were activated on the Glass headsets

Users standing near the Blob 05 (Blue) exhibit, for example, were able to access an interview with Art Curator Neil Lebeter talking about the painting, while those in close proximity to the Vienna Horn could watch a video of Curator Sarah Deters playing the instrument.

Opening Doors with Bluetooth Beacons

[Image: Large touchscreen panel featuring Vote 100 Histropedia timeline. Rachel Hosker (L) and Ewan McAndrew (R).]
Vote 100 Timeline

Visitors to the Vote 100 exhibition on display at the Main Library in 2018 could visually explore women’s suffrage in Scotland story via a Histropedia timeline. The interactive timeline created in collaboration with our Wikimedian in Resident, Ewan McAndrew, focuses on Vote 100 significant figures with direct connections to either the city of Edinburgh or the University of Edinburgh itself, could be viewed online or within the Main Library foyer via a large touchscreen panel.

The physical exhibition was on display at the Main Library until the end of 2018, and the Vote 100 website created in collaboration with the Interactive Content Service continues to open up the University Collections to a new global audience.

Vote 100 website

Metadata Games: Play our games & see if you can beat the high score!
Metadata Games

In 2014 the Library Labs Team decided to explore creative and playful ways of opening up the University’s digitised image collection and to improve the searchability of the collection by utilising user-based tagging. The team developed their own version of Metadata Games, a free and open source software (FOSS) crowdsourcing online game system for augmenting access to archival records created by Tiltfactor and Dartmouth College.

Versions of the game have been created to focus on specific areas of the collection. The ‘Tag It! Find It’ version surfaces images from the University’s art collections, and the ‘Where’s Dolly?’ version covers the 3,500 plate glass slides digitised by the Wellcome Trust funded ‘Towards Dolly’ project, which showcases genetics research from the Roslin Institute.

Play our Metadata Games

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Communities of practice (CoP)

Building communities of practice which encourage creativity and innovation and diffuse good ideas across the University.

First introduced by Etienne Wenger (educational theorist) and Jean Lave  (cognitive anthropologist) in 1991,  communities of practice (CoP) refers to any group “of people who share a common interest” and learn how to “do it better through regular interaction”.

two women and a man making sound circuits with oranges and bananas
Ada Lovelace Day

The University’s Information Services Group (ISG) have been holding Ada Lovelace Day celebration events annually since 2015. Ada Lovelace Day is an annual event whose goal is to raise the profile of women in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM), and to create new role models for girls and women in these fields.

Events on the day each year include a range of guest speakers, Wikipedia editing training and an editathon to improve articles about women in STEM, and a range of fantastic afternoon activities. For information about our speakers, the events, how to participate in activities, or to use and re-use the open educational resources created each year, click on the button below.

Ada Lovelace Day

neon light sign "open"
Open Education

Open.Ed is the University of Edinburgh’s Open Educational Resource (OER) service  which seeks to train, educate, and foster an informal community of open education practitioners across the University.

Activities include:

  • playful training and workshops (Gif It Up, OER Board Game Jam)
  • supporting student and staff OER creation
  • a bimonthly Open.Ed newsletter,
  • hosting student interns
  • fun activities at staff meetings,
  • Festival of Creative Learning events

Click on the link below to learn more about the Open.Ed service.


University of Edinburgh Spy Week Wikipedia edit-a-thon
Wikipedia editathons and game sessions

Our Wikimedian in Residence, Ewan McAndrew, regularly runs a variety of fun and engaging Wikipedia editathons towards the development of critical, digital, and literacy skills for staff, students, and the broader community.

The University of Edinburgh now has a thriving Wikimedian community that regularly attend events to improve and diversify the range of information on Wikipedia and the Wikimedia sister sites. Including creating and sharing Histropedia timelines, Wiki Women in Red editathons to improve articles on notable women, and focused diversity events.

Wikipedia editathons

Animated cartoon illustration of somebody pointing to three different signposts - Reflection, Innovation and Development

Reflection, development and innovation

Ensuring opportunity for reflection, development and innovation in teaching and information services.

In order to allow space for that creative and playful spark to ignite there needs to be room to reflect and develop ideas and skills.

ISG seeks to do this by:


Scrabble tiles spelling out Blog
Academic Blogging Service

The blogging service can be used for:

  • Developing a School, departmental, unit or other community blog.
  • Developing your own personal blog – to promote your research or to give you a place to reflect on ideas.
  • Using blogs for teaching, learning and/or assessment purposes.

For more information you can explore the Blogging to Build your Professional Profile course, or click on the button below to visit the service webpages.

Academic Blogging Service

Game Jam
uCreate makerspace

The uCreate Maker Space aims to provide staff and students with the resources to work on innovative ideas and projects related to making, while supporting their personal development and improving creative and technical skills.

The studio provides a variety of technologies such as Arduino and Raspberry Pis, as well as 3D printers and scanners, creative materials, 3D pens, Lego Serious Play kits (watch this video to learn about Lego Serious Play), Ketso hands-on kit for creative and inclusive engagement (click here to learn about the Ketso method)

Workshops are available and open to staff and students interested in making. These workshops are informal and focus on collaborative multidisciplinary work.

To learn more about the Maker Space and how to get involved, click on the button below.

uCreate Maker Space

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ISG Student Internships

ISG are committed to providing on campus employment for students.

Working alongside our students helps them gain valuable employability skills and provides ISG with a crucial student perspective on our services. We offer a wide range of paid internships and part-time jobs throughout the year.

Our Digital Skills and Training team regularly work alongside student employees. Take a look at some of their video case studies to find out about the projects students worked on in this area of the Information Service Group.

Our Employ.Ed summer interns in 2018 created their own IS Student Intern Experience blog to record their experiences working in ISG over the summer.

For further information about these opportunities and how you can apply to work in ISG click on the button below.

ISG Internships


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Exploration and Innovation

Being a place for independent, creative and critical thinkers to develop as innovators, researchers and explorers.

Exploration and innovation is everything; it creates opportunities; introduces new ways to do something; it makes ISG a more exciting place to work.

Since 2015 ISG have been running an Innovation Programme which encourages and funds new ISG projects, investments, changes, collaborations or initiatives proposed by our staff. The successful proposals are funded by the programme and conducted within a Safe to Fail culture where all outputs of the projects, even those that could be otherwise deemed unsuccessful or failures, are valuable and provide knowledge and learning both for the staff involved and the organisation as a whole.

A series of short videos have been created about some of the Innovation Projects undertaken over the past few years. Click the link below to watch the videos.

View the Innovation Channel on Media Hopper

For more information on the Innovation Fund and projects, click on the button below.

Innovation Programme

Animated cartoon illustration of somebody with their arms outreached, weighing up their work-life balance

Work–life balance

Promoting a healthy work life balance, and a positive and engaging work environment.

Healthy Working Lives (HWL) is an initiative led by the Scottish Centre for Healthy Working Lives and encourages employers to promote health and wellbeing in order to encourage a healthier and more motivated workforce.

ISG has an active HWL group with a range of activities for staff including:

Click on the link below for more information on ISG’s commitments towards healthy a work/life balance, with flexible working hours, shared parental leave, and personal/professional development.

ISG Work/Life benefits

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Contact us

We hope you have found the information on this page useful and now know more about our playful and creative services and how to use them. If there’s anything missing or something you’d like to know more about, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Suggest a playful engagement idea

If you have an idea for a playful technology, tool, or service that you’d like to see please do get in touch. We’re always looking for new ideas!

Tell us about your own playful engagements

If you’re using ISG services and tools in playful, creative, and engaging ways we’d love to hear about it!

Get in touch

Image credits

Ada Lovelace Day 2018 – The University of Edinburgh (photo 024)” Copyright © Stewart Lamb Cromar, The University of Edinburgh 2018 CC BY. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“Playful Engagement animations” Copyright © Stewart Lamb Cromar and Hristo Meshinski, The University of Edinburgh 2018/2019 CC BY. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

“Playful Engagement illustrations” – Flickr album Copyright © Annie Adam and Stewart Lamb Cromar, The University of Edinburgh 2018/2019 CC BY. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Creative Commons Licence

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.