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

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

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.

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.

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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.

Buttons

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

On Soliciting + Sharing Feedback

This past weekend contributors and staff working on the Mozilla project came together in Brussels, Toronto and Santa Clara to share where we’re headed. One of the best parts of this Summit for me has been getting to know the Mozilla User Experience team. (Those would be our cohorts on the Mozilla Corporation side of the house, which is a sister organization to the Foundation where I work. Go figure that it took traveling to Belgium to meet smart folks who sit one floor away in SF!)

Tony Santos hosted a session about soliciting and giving actionable feedback to designers. Together a small group of engineers, UX staff, and a communications director talked about our teams’ approaches to peer-based critique and the difference between that and feedback solicited from external stakeholders. We agreed that we can all be more open about our processes and clear in what we’re seeking (including reactions from community members even on quick timeframes).Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 5.16.04 PM more

Garden Guides & Global Education

I recently wrote about organic growth and discovery of badges in regards to a research and design project we’re undertaking on the Mozilla Open Badges team. It feels like this theme is burgeoning in my personal life, too, as my beau and I are working with the Bernal Heights shop Succulence and @loverbee to select plants for our wedding in three weeks. Some of her recent creations at right reflect important questions around the interviews I’ve been undertaking: as badges help illustrate our learning and interests, might the commonalities between badges help highlight the relationships between them? And how can their differences pique our interest?Camera

At this moment in our protoyping process I have more questions than answers, but a few core themes are revealing themselves in the wilderness:

  • Garden guides could help people recognize their life goals. On the team we’ve talked about the idea of mentors and coaches helping turn learners onto different pathways. more