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


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 (“”) 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.


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

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

New Lydali Worldly Wares

LydaliFor her birthday I just gave my Mom a handmade bowl from the SF-based e-retailer company Lydali. Like the other gifts I’ve bought on the site, it went over (very) well, in part because each item on the site features a story about the artisans who made it.

The online store, which “brings together well-designed jewelry, accessories, and home furnishings from around the world,” sources from 21 countries. It was launched eight months ago by Ali Price and Lydia Harter (whose combined names gave the company its moniker), two friends who met at Wake Forest before working at and Pottery Barn, respectively.

I’m especially struck by a colorblock clutch from Rags2Riches out of Manila, a blue agate ring from Joya in Cape Town, and a handblown olive glass pitcher out of Jordan. Any of which would be much appreciated this week o’ love, of course.

Dance to End Violence Against Women this Valentine’s Day

1 Billion Rising

Where will February 14 find you this year? Dancing with your neighbors, friends, and co-workers, of course!

This 15th V-Day will be the largest ever: when women and men around the world dance, sing, and shout in defiance of violence against women. I’ll be at City Hall with thousands of other San Franciscans, DJs, and Mayor Lee between 4 to 6 PM–consider it if you’re local.

One Billion Rising was created to show our collective refusal of violence aimed at women and girls. Your stomping–your sharing, your hip-waving, your shouting–is part of a global call for a better reality for 50% of the world’s population (and the people who love them). more

A More Mindful America?

Fellow Ohioan (and, oh, Congressman) Tim Ryan has been in the Bay promoting his new book, “A Mindful Nation” with foreword by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The former quarterback said he knew he was struck by the contemplative bug when a recent Superbowl Sunday found him flying to visit a meditation master–and away from much-loved beer and brats.

His interests in education and preparing learners with social and emotional skills are timely ones. In Palo Alto today he asked, “What can we we do to combat inattention, instead of just yelling at kids? How might they come to the technology they’re using?” Being able to teach effectively today, he says (and I believe), involves considering our collective expectations of immediacy. One answer is mindfulness-based practice, a technique Ryan said he’s observed kids bringing to their stressed parents. Now here’s an experimental idea to bring to electorates.