On Joining the General Assembly UX Design Teaching Team

I’m grateful to be on the summer teaching team for General Assembly’s User Experience Design Immersive, a 10-week course for burgeoning researchers and designers. It’s been thrilling to work alongside adult learners in a highly hands-on, project-based environment.

(I’m still collaborating on badges and app-making projects at Mozilla and am thankful that I’ve been able to work on my professional research projects and teaching simultaneously. Philz Coffee and a supportive partner help too.)

This summer’s students come from backgrounds as diverse as biology, accounting, and animation and are split between “Tobasco” and “Sriracha” cohorts in two loft spaces. I’m excited that they’re learning from smart designer guest speakers from the likes of DIY.org, Cooper, and Adaptive Path. And I’m overwhelmingly reminded of the importance of creating fun cultural rituals and surrounding ourselves with bright makers from outside our classrooms as frequently as we can. more

Introducing Mozilla Visual Templates for Badge Issuers

In interviewing individuals who want to recognize their collaborators, the question “but how will I design the badges?” comes up frequently. Well before prospective badge issuers have drafted their badge criteria, they may feel apprehensive about creating visuals for them (enter a mindset of the badges have to look phenomenal and I have no graphic design skills! No one on my team does either! Will this project ever get off the ground?!).Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 2.06.22 PM more

Midcentury Modernists, Rejoice!

This week I was glad to see the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibit “Designing Home: Jews and Midcentury Modernism.” I was nearly still jetlagged from a work trip to Finland where I loved seeing 50s-era home styles at Helsinki’s Design Museum, and the two experiences couldn’t have been more complementary. Clean lines, bright hues and an emphasis on functional designs have made these April museum visits.Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 1.50.50 PM

As interest in midcentury pieces grows, it’s wonderful to have this work highlighted locally on Mission Street. (Neighbor SFMOMA even lifted their mid-renovation embargo on lending art to contribute furniture.) The exhibit spotlights “both native-born artists and émigrés, most of whom made indelible contributions to American visual culture after fleeing Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy in the 1930s.” more

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.

Yoga

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.

#WPDY

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

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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

DesignResearchSpiral

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 d.school 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:

Books

Articles & Blogs

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 (“d.school”) 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.