TEDxAtlanta Adventure: Design Thinking with Tier1 Performance


We are pleased to feature a piece from MACIE student, Dartez Jacobs. As part of his capstone inquiry project, Jacobs shares key insights from a recent a TEDx conference.

Coming away from a TEDx conference can be very challenging. There is so much information to soak in, activating ideas we take from them is no easy task. Tier1 Performance teamed up with TEDx to facilitate a workshop that helped to guide our ideas even further. This was my first introduction to the process and brain science behind Design Thinking. The room was set up in a way that sectioned each component of the five-stage Design Thinking Model in a different location of the space. The five stages are: Define, Test, Empathize, Ideate, and Prototype. We were instructed to go stand by whichever stage that we felt was a strong suite. My group was the sole group who couldn’t chose one specific area, so we created our own between the Empathizers and Ideators. As a conceptualist, I feel empathy is very important to business success and to create sound solutions.

A unifying theme throughout the MACIE program is participatory creativity. This Tier 1 workshop gave participants an opportunity to work through the Design Thinking process together in overcoming the limiting beliefs behind rest.

The most unifying theme of TEDxAtlanta was Saundra Dalton’s talk about the rest cycle and different rest deficiencies. Our adventure focused on how we could individually improve our rest patterns. We split up into groups and acknowledged our current state and goals related to our desired rest cycle.

Rest can be split into seven areas: mental, spiritual, emotional, social, sensory, creative, and physical. We reflected on our energy levels during the week and within a group exercise came up with ways we could rest specific to the identified areas with deficiencies.

As a group we uncovered core issues related to the rest we lacked by completing a rest log. We each came up with individual solutions that were a result of overcoming the limiting beliefs behind rest. In many ways this is exactly what we do as educators in making room for change in our education system. Seeing children as creative thinkers and innovative makers is how we move to action, from thinking to doing

MACIE Student Spotlight: Brian Harrison

As the Center for Puppetry Arts Atlanta wraps up their season of Harold and the Purple Crayon, we’d like to recognize MACIE student, Brian Harrison. Brian is a puppetry artist who just completed his first semester in our program. We enjoyed watching him perform as he made connections between his experiences and the theories and research he was exploring through his coursework. 

Center for Puppetry Arts describes the show as, “[combining] the latest in projection technology with blacklight puppetry to enable Harold to create his world live on stage – in real time.” When we asked Brian how kids could be excited about the innovations in the show, he explained that the puppetiers “used an old theater trick called Peppers Ghost which allows [them] to interact with “drawings” in mid air. Children enjoy guessing what the drawing will be.”

In the MACIE program we invite our students to consider creativity as social interactions and collaborative experiences. We were excited to hear Brian describe his experiences in the show as an experience “which required everyone involved to work together to complete it” and “an excellent exercise in collaborative creativity.” Our goal is for each of our students to make  connections between what they are learning and their personal experiences. Brian’s experiences in this innovative production illustrate the kind of learning we strive for in the MACIE program.

Congrats to Brian and the creative team at the Center for Puppetry Arts for an amazing show!!


Thoughts on technology and the human mind


The effects of technology on our minds is a contested topic that’s bound wreak havoc on any casual dinner conversation. Since technology use is expanding rapidly and evolving in ways we cannot predict, it is difficult for researchers to conduct longitudinal studies across diverse samplings. The technologies we use change so quickly and in turn, we adjust our habits of use to fit the changing technology. It is a race to keep up with this pace as researchers scramble to collect and analyze data in ways that will provide accurate and useful insight into how technology relates to our minds.

This week, we are sharing work that explores associations between our minds and the ways we use technology. Here is a collection of resources to spark your thinking about our complicated relationship with technology:


BOOK: The Shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains

In Nicholas Carr’s 2011 Pulitzer Finalist, The Shallows, Carr explores the ongoing debate about the potential and danger of technology. This collection of essays takes on topics across a wide spectrum ranging from brain science to popular culture. If you’re looking for a thought provoking read that takes up deep questions, this book is for you.


BLOG: Brainpickings

In a recent essay on her blog Brainpickings, Maria Popova reflects on the relationship between technology, commodity, and creativity. Drawing on the personal writings of Virginia Woolf, John Herschel’s contributions to the development of photography, and Julia Margaret Cameron’s soft-focus photographic portraiture, Popova laments what is lost in an artistic medium when it becomes so easy to access. Are our minds exercising the same creativity when our Instagram photos rely on “ready-made filters that have purported to supplant the artistry of light, shadow, and composition?”


VIDEO: How technology influences our brains

After realizing that he had become addicted to his smartphone, NPR’s Guy Raz discusses why and how he stripped down his device until he was left with a simple phone with a built in camera. In just seven-and-a-half minutes, Razz touches on the challenges researchers face as they investigate rapidly changing technologies and he shares why we must remember that as humans, we’re wired for direct social interaction.

Connecting MACIE students with our Community Partners

A central element of our program is building relationships between our students and our partners in the Atlanta creative community. One of our apprenticeship partners, See Beautiful, was founded by Lydia Criss Mays, PhD and this local business is committed to “seeing beautiful in every nook and cranny of the world.” See Beautiful is creating a movement through empowerment, education and strategic giving initiatives. ​Through the sale of inspiring, ethically-sourced products, Mays and the See Beautiful community have donated $190,743 to 134 non-profits. 

Recently, one of our MACIE students was awared a See Beautiful grant for her work with Whole World Improv Theatre. Bethany Rowe works with this non-profit organization to provide acting classes for children and teens with autism, PDD, learning disabilities, and other learning differences. The goal of this program is to provide a safe and fun environment where students can enhance communication, build relationships, and practice social skills. The See Beautiful grant is providing funding for children who otherwise could not have afforded to attend these classes.  Rowe explains that through these drama classes, they are “creating a space where children, teens, and parents can come together and continue to grow in communication as well as self and social acceptance.”

As the MACIE program continues to grow, we are excited to watch our students and our community partners build relationships that will work towards our larger mission to cultivate children’s creative lives. 

We thank See Beautiful and Whole World Improv Theatre for the work they’re doing to support children’s creative and innovative thinking!

Reflections On Learning New Skills


As practicing creatives and persons who cultivate creativity in others, we are engaged in continuous learning cycles. We make, tinker, design, invent, and explore through our personal learning pursuits, but we also engage and support others in these practices. Therefore, it is helpful for us to reflect on how we learn and acquire new skills, as well as why these learning experiences are necessary for creative development. 

This week, we are sharing content that invites you to read, listen, watch, and do something that encourages you to think about how you learn new skills and hopefully, inspires you to embark on a new-to-you learning pursuit. You’ll read about characteristics of self-directed learners and specific online resources that are available for learning new things. You’ll watch a TedTalk that shares how you can get the most out of the time you spend learning something new. You’ll listen to a podcast about the power of deliberate practice and then you’ll explore a site called Skillshare where experts offer video courses for a variety of creative skills. 

Happy learning!

Design Thinking In The Classroom

*Article contributed by Courtney Hartnett*

Walking past the open door, chaos appears to ring into the hallway. A longer pause and closer investigation reveal passionate conversations between groups of people. Heads down with pencils quickly working, keeping up with ideas. Numerous hands manipulating an assortment of expected and unexpected materials. Looks of excitement. Anticipation. Frustration. This room is deeply engaged in design thinking. Insert whatever age and educational setting, and the kaleidoscopic connections between individuals, the immediate setting, and the outside world continue to unfold.

Design thinking, also commonly referred to as the Engineering Design Process or creative problem-solving, is not a clear-cut, step-by-step process or curriculum. Rather, design thinking is a method of problem-solving rooted in empathy, creativity, and iteration to create products for specific users:

· Empathy is an important part of designing solutions. Rather than generic offerings, empathy invites designers to imagine solutions that meet the end-users’ unique needs and desires.

· Creativity plays an important role in coming up with innovative solutions that are practical and functional. Designers play around, exploring different configurations and arrangements, of design ideas.

· Designers create iterations of the product, trying out ideas and refining them through prototyping and testing.

Rather than a linear sequence, a visual of design thinking resembles more of a web. Progress towards the end-product is visible, but empathy, creative ideas, and prototype testing is revisited throughout as needed. Design thinking is powerful when embedded into learning environments. Students become problem-scopers—seeking out opportunities for improvements or solutions to real-life problems they encounter, and then tackle those problems with workable solutions.

For example, 3rd grade students at my school recognized that teachers had a problem carrying several items with them during the school day. Teachers had to carry a walkie-talkie, schedules, keys, access badge, cell phone, and student medication, among a number of other things. Items were often left behind or misplaced, wasting time to locate lost items or double-checking to make sure all things were accounted for. Using design thinking, students created well-sized satchel bags with compartments and labels specific to the items teachers need to carry with them at all times. With items having specific “homes” in the bag’s compartments, it is simple to identify when something is missing. Duct tape was the final “fabric” of choice and offered unique pattern options and flexibility in assembling durable bags. The final product was well-received by the teachers for the stylish appearance and customized functionality.

To start working with the design thinking mindset, there are a number of resources available. From an organizational or business standpoint, IDEO offers a number of examples and resources for applying design thinking within a company as well as to generate products for customers. The d.school at Stanford describes their purpose as helping others develop their own creative potential through design. They have an extensive collection of resources that would be a good place to start for anyone interested in design thinking. When you have younger people in the mix, jumping into design thinking can feel overwhelming. Check out the videos from a five-minute film festival about Design Thinking from Edutopia. There are a number of examples of what design thinking can look like in school settings.

However you decide to start, design thinking offers endless opportunities for learning and engagement. Participants apply problem-solving in real-life situations that require communication, creativity, experimentation, and collaboration. This is by no means an exhaustive list of learning opportunities. Give it a try, and I think you will find the experience dynamic and rewarding for everyone involved.

Reflections On Ideas


In this series of creative invitations, we’ve compiled resources that explore the concept of ideas. As creatives, our work is grounded in our minds’ abilities to observe the world around us, to think across concepts and experiences, to make connections, and to imagine new possibilities. It is through such ways of thinking that ideas are born and developed through our work. 

This collection includes links to sites where you can read, listen, watch, and do things that will prompt you to think about ideas. You’ll dig into topics such as where ideas come from, how they are constructed, how we can engage in thinking exercises to help us generate new ideas, and the changing idea economy.





Reflections on the Creative Process


Every creative develops a unique process that allows them to explore their inquiries and create their best work. Processes are often identified, tested, labeled, and replicated in order to teach others how to engage in creative work. But, processes are difficult to translate into one-size-fits-all packages because individuals take them up in different ways. As we work toward refining our creative processes, it is often helpful to hear how others describe how they work. Sometimes there are similarities across our processes and when we are struggling, it can be inspiring to hear how other artists work. 

This week, we’re sharing invitations to read something,  listen to something, watch something, and do something that will help you explore the concept of “process” in the creative community. Hopefully, this collection will inspire you to experiment with different aspects of your process and to begin carefully articulating what works best for you.

Click on the images below to explore how other artists describe their creative processes:





Will Facebook innovate or get left behind?

According to recent statistics, the average American spends about 35 minutes each day on Facebook. Considering that statistics also show that 66% of Americans are Facebook users, it is not surprising that it has exceeded $500 billion in market value. When over half the American public is engaged on a single social media platform, the question becomes: do the benefits outweigh the risks?

Facebook has offered its users numerous benefits like connecting, sharing, communicating, and exchanging information with others. Users can like, comment, and share content that relates to their interests and/or experiences, and they can also share content that they believe will benefit some or all of their friends. Currently, we can browse the web, read articles, watch videos, search for events, and even shop without ever having to leave the Facebook app. While these benefits can enhance our lives, we must remember that when any platform offers multiple benefits and services to its users, there are always certain risks involved. 

Facebook has been criticized for many quantifiable issues such as privacy, data mining, censorship, security, and the circulation of false information. But the social media giant has also been criticized for more qualitative risks such as the tendency of some users to develop compulsive use habits. 

Although there is controversy surrounding claims that Facebook was designed to tap into our addictive nature, one premise is clear: Facebook is on a mission to get users to spend more and more time on the platform. This puts Facebook in a unique position where it must consider multiple ways to keep its users engaged, but it must also consider the repercussions of building a structure that has the potential to influence so many aspects of its users’ lives. 

Not surprisingly, people are beginning to take notice of the increase in time spent on Facebook and some are even designing solutions to the problem of spending too much time on the platform. For example, multiple apps have been created to limit and monitor time spent on social media, some people are deleting their Facebook feeds entirely, and others are setting their screens to black and white to make using apps like Facebook less enjoyable. 

As more and more people begin to see negative impacts associated with time spent on Facebook, CEO Mark Zuckerburg faces his own Innovator’s Dilemma. Coined by Harvard professor Clayton Christensen, The Innovators Dilemma describes situations where companies get overturned by market transformations because accepting them would mean going against their business’s mission.

So if Facebook’s mission is to earn more of people’s time, but more people are starting to view time spent on Facebook as problematic, what is Mark Zuckerburg to do? Should he stay true to the company’s past and current vision or should he change course to innovate in light of the potential shift in the market? We’ll just have to wait and see…

What does it take to innovate?

Recently, Bloomberg released their 2017 rankings of the world’s most innovative economies. Bloomberg ranks regional economies based on their scores in seven different areas, including research and development, and the number of high-tech public companies based in the region.

According to their findings, the United States has dropped out of the top ten for the first time in six years, landing in 11th place. Falling from 9th place in 2016, the US lost ground mainly in its score in the education-efficiency category, which has to do with how many science and engineering graduates are available in the job market. Although the US had made improvements in productivity, it was not enough to compensate for losses in other scoring areas. 

The demand for STEM graduates in the job market leads many to conclude that the logical solution is to push students toward degree programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. But the answer is more complicated than emphasizing these subjects in K12 schools or counseling more college students into STEM degree programs and careers. One must look no further than the American tech giant, Google, for proof that the solutions to our innovation problems are complex. 

As part of their own internal research into the skills that lead to employee success, Google discovered that the traditional tech skills they predicted to find were not the skills that were most valuable to their employee’s success at work. Instead, they found that the top seven characteristics of their highest performoring employees are the following:

  1. Being a good coach
  2. Communicating and listening well
  3. Possessing insights into others (including others different values and points of view)
  4. Having empathy toward and being supportive of one’s colleagues
  5. Being a good critical thinker and problem solver
  6. Ability to make connections across complex ideas

These aren’t the hard skills that are top of mind when many people think about STEM skills, but they are the “soft skills” that can be developed across a variety of academic and fine arts domains. Findings like these further bolster the argument for the Arts in STEAM education programs since the arts promote ways of thinking that include making connections, empathy, critical thinking, problem solving, communicating, and listening. (For more information read the National Art Education Association’s position statement HERE). 

Therefore, an engineering degree can be valuable in the job marketplace, but so can that art degree–it’s all about how you think.