Finnish Education Innovation & What We Might Learn from It

photo 1 copyI’m thankful to have gotten to spend the past week in Finland talking to people highly interested in professional development (not to mention quite a bit smarter than myself). This took the form of two main conversations: with University of Helsinki professors Hannele Niemi and Jari Multisilta and with Open Badge Factory creator and Open Badges community member Eric Rousselle. I came away with a few recommendations worth sharing:

  • Pasi Sahlberg’s book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? Sahlberg keynoted the OPPI conference which a few Mozilla Foundation colleagues and I presented at (photos at right), and I’m an admitted late but passionate fan of the primer he’s written. Here’s a teaser: “This book is about how Finland how the Finns transformed their educational system from mediocre in the 1980s to one of the models of excellence today. International indicators show that Finland has one of the most educated citizenries in the world, provides educational opportunities in an egalitarian manner, and makes efficient use of resources.” more

AAM Expands Yoga Exhibit

The Asian Art Museum’s First Thursday program on April 3 will take its current headlining exhibit into the auditory realm. I enjoyed visiting Yoga: The Art of Transformation when it opened earlier this year, and it’s exciting to hear (literally) that matra, kirtan and classical Indian music will be accompanying the exploration this week.


The program is also set to include a new installation by designer Chiraag Bhakta, who works locally as Pardon My Hindi. I first saw his hashtag #WhitePeopleDoingYoga on a museum goer’s tote bag and, curious, tried to find one in the gift shop (no dice). Pardon My Hindi explains:

This piece is a reflection of my personal relationship, as an Indian American, with yoga and its migration to today’s Western context. The project stems off a collection which started when I moved to San Francisco in 2007. I began to collect western grassroots-level meditation and yoga ephemera, book, records, and other educational material, from the 1960s through to the 1980s. During that era, particularly in the Bay Area, yoga started making a big impact on Western culture. I became interested in how yogic practice was being mined and commercialized; how the South Asian face of the discipline was being removed in the branding and portrayal of the practice and culture.

The museum calls the soon-to-be unveiled work (the 132st in the exhibit) “a collection of hundreds of commercial objects produced from the 1960s to the present, serving as a critique of the commercialization and Westernization of yoga.” If you have a chance to see it, please share your thoughts. I expect it to be though-provoking, controversial, and engaging.


Youth Radio Excitement

yrYouth RadioDuring the recent Sochi Olympic Games, Morning Edition listeners had the chance to hear a youth reporter interview a curling coach whose enthusiasm for the sport was infectious. I had thought of curling as an ironic passion for hipsters, but the ecstatic audio that the reporter captured was a pleasure to hear. It was dramatically different from the rest of the newscast. And it reminded me why youth-told and teen-produced stories are so vital: because they capture perspectives that are too often unheard in traditional media.

This spring I’ll be joining the board of directors at Youth Radio, the Oakland-based educational organization that has trained that reporter and many others. In addition to serving content as the National Public Radio youth desk, it provides important employment opportunities for young people. It partners with the MIT Media Lab and hosts a hands-on app creation lab. And it doesn’t just get ideas from adults: I’m especially excited that YR has a youth advisory board helping shape its future directions. Needless to say, I can’t wait to be involved.

Reflecting on Research Wins


As our Mozilla team prepares for SXSWEdu and the Digital Media & Learning conference next week, we’ve been deep in usability testing for BadgeKit. This software toolstack is intended to improve the issuing, visual design, and assessment of digital open badges. We’re focusing user testing on two core audiences:

  • Cities: Last year, the Chicago Summer of Learning was a city-wide experiment in recognizing learning that takes place during out-of-school months. It has ignited excitement across the country and from cities from New York to Dallas. Product lead Sunny Lee has more to say about the expansion of badge-able summer learning programs, and we’ll be hearing from cities more about their needs through live user testing in Boston next week.
  • Mozilla teams: This year we’re planning to support three types of “Mozilla-wide” badges: 1) organization-issued badges; 2) team/product badges (to directly recognize contributors across different Mozilla offerings, including Engagement and Webmaker); and 3) individual/community badges created by non-staff members to celebrate their collective efforts. I’m working with our badge system design lead Carla Casilli in thinking about templates and tools–including BadgeKit–for the #1 and #2 effots. This spring we may be doing a Mozilla roadshow of sorts, talking to product teams about what they’ve learned in trying to recognize their contributors and how badges might further that work. more

Can’t Miss Research Reads


User Research Must ReadsAs my collaborator and mentor Steph Habif and I kick off the three night course “Know Your Humans: Designing Effective User Research” at the this week, I wanted to share a list of favorite resources for researchers. Some of these helped usher me into the field and some are new (but quickly becoming beloved). My V1 of this list includes:


Articles & Blogs

You can download a copy here. Let me know what you would add in the comments or via @emgollie.

Research as “Periscope”: Mule’s Erika Hall for UX Book Club SF

Screen Shot 2014-01-31 at 11.22.45 PMResearch is a tool–a periscope offering you a better view of your surroundings. It can be very powerful if applied thoughtfully. Rather than piling on the costs, research can save you and the rest of your team a ton of time and effort.

In featuring this in the early pages of her book, Erika Hall had me nodding, highlighting, and bookmarking early into reading “Just Enough Research.” Hall, a Mule Design co-founder who shares design research musings as @mulegirl, joined a group of UX Book Club-goers at Mozilla’s SF offices this week. One of the topics that came up first was presentation: how we as researchers describe ourselves (“customer advocate” and “user developer” were amongst the suggestions) and our methods (including “fast insights testing”) to potential skeptics. more

Know Your Humans: A User Research Pop-Up Class

Setting yourself up to design a delightful product or experience means starting with strong user research (you’ve heard me talk about this before). Health behavior designer Dr. Steph Habif and I will be teaching a class at the Stanford design institute (“”) for three nights in February, and we’d love to have you involved. Come learn how to do research that effectively informs user experience in this fun, interactive pop-up class.

We’ll get you comfortable crafting questions, putting on observational and analytical hats, and asking how and why. You will practice how to see and understand users’ small daily choices–the ones that other people might miss–to be able to design with those users. Students who take this class will be able to identify highly motivated users, practice keen observation skills, and have more insight about how to meaningfully impact the people they are designing for.

We’re excited to open the course to students of all ages, including a guest participant from the Hasso-Plattner-Institute, a leader in design thinking in Germany. You can apply to take part here.

Introducing Badges User Profiles

During the tail end of this year I’ve been working with the Open Badges team at Mozilla to prepare for BadgeKit, a software toolstack for badge issuing, assessment, and more. In undertaking product planning, we took a good amount of time to ask who might interact with these offerings and how. What you’ll see is a set of characteristics that extend beyond BadgeKit and, I think, speak to the diverse growth of the badges community and its players. (You can download a copy here.)

These profiles are based on conversations with community members (new and experienced alike) in spring and summer 2013; one-on-one interviews with educators, technologists, and observers of the space; and notes from participants of weekly research and badge system design calls. The latter have provided feedback on these profiles, and thanks to them badges skepticism is importantly included.Untitled-1 more

Be Yoga Comes to Noe, Thankfully

I’m thrilled to have a new SF yoga teaching and practicing home base in the form of Be Yoga. I first got to know Be through their spaces on the Peninsula while trying to burn off nervous grad student energy. I loved the sense of local community they foster and am jazzed to watch it grow in the city.

The month-old space on Clipper and Sanchez Streets is a bright neighborhood studio–and a great place to wake up, should you find yourself doing sun salutations with me on Mondays at 6:30 AM. I also teach an intermediate level Vinyasa flow class on Wednesday nights at 6:15 PM if that’s more amenable to you. You can hear a sample of music you’ll be practicing to here. And check out all our teachers–we’ve got some powerful Forrest-style instruction!

In Noe, a minimalist aesthetic and having Pressed Juicery as a (nearby) neighbor have sold me. You can check out more images of the space taken by my fellow instructor Naemi, and I encourage you to come over for class. See you there soon, yogi and yogini pals.


Danke n00bs, Mentors, & Ninjas

I mentor people for empathy.

After my teammates Jess Klein, Chloe Varelidi and I brainstormed on fun (hackable!) buttons to take with us to gatherings of Mozillians throughout the month of October, I was excited to see a colleague pick up a marker and write the above phrase on a three inch-wide piece of plastic.


Participants at Mozilla Summit and the more making-focused MozFest two weeks later were invited to pick their preferred fill-in-the-blank button. These aren’t “actual” Open Badges that have digital counterparts, though those were available at both gatherings. But they were part of a fun international experiment to see how individuals would edit these three lines: I mentor people for ______; I’m a _____ nin.ja (or expert); I’m a ____ n00b (or beginner/newbie). After the first round of white buttons were snatched up, we reprinted 1,000 more in neon colors. more