Apprenticeships That Connect

MACIE from College of Education & Human Dev on Vimeo.


The word apprentice may carry the dusty sound of a medieval trade, but the concept is vibrantly modern. Apprenticeships have been a launching point for many famous careers. Alexander McQueen apprenticed with a Savile Row tailor on the road to becoming an international fashion designer. Sir Ian McKellen started his acting career by apprenticing with a theatre company decades before he donned cloak and staff as Gandalf. And Elvis Presley trained as an electrician’s apprentice before…well, ok, not all apprenticeships are steps along a direct path.

The definition of an apprentice is “a person who works for another in order to learn a trade.” And yes, that is the stated goal of an apprenticeship: to enter into the work place of an experienced practitioner to watch, learn, and engage in aspects of a trade. But there is another, equally important function of an apprenticeship that is only hinted at in the formal definition—the building of relationships, the establishing of ties, the nurturing of connections. And it is both of these facets of apprenticeship that we foster in MACIE.

As part of the MACIE degree program, students apprentice at a local enterprise that matches their career goals. If their future plans include developing or working for a non-profit, students can apprentice for a semester or more at a local non-profit organization, learning the importance of grants and community relations. If they plan to work as a teaching artist or start an after-school program for children, they can apprentice with an organization that works with area schools. If they intend to launch a start-up focused on children as creative learners, they can apprentice in a like-minded business. And if they want to work in schools as teacher leaders in the area of creative and innovative education, they can apprentice with area educators operating with similar goals.

These apprenticeships lay the ground for networks of relationships, ones designed to enrich not just the student but the larger community as well. But the learning-through-apprenticeship model of the MACIE program doesn’t stop there. The relationships and connections also include strong commitments by the faculty to the students in the program. Faculty see themselves as mentors, taking an active interest in the goals of their students and supporting their learning every step of the way. It’s one of the secrets of the trade: the joy of the job rests in supporting students as they strive to meet their goals.

Courses That Inform

MACIE – Inform from College of Education & Human Dev on Vimeo.

Among the many exciting aspects of today’s world is the availability of information on demand. Want to know how to take a good photo? Google it. Want to be able to name the constellations in the August sky? There’s an app for that.

Technology is changing the ways we learn. The content that used to be enclosed in books and housed on shelves is now open for anyone with access to broadband and an Internet device. And we know that children and adolescents are tapped into those online sites for both learning and pleasure. Research shows that 5- to 9-year olds spend 28 minutes a day on the Internet (Gutnick et al., 2011), 8- to 10-year olds spend 46 minutes a day in recreational computer use, and 11- to 14-year olds spend an hour and 46 minutes (Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010).

So what does that mean for adults who want to work to support children’s creative learning? First, we must learn to be thoughtful about how, when, and where children engage with digital technology. One way to do that is to team up with like-minded people. While apps and how-to videos are good tools for some kinds of learning, they cannot replace the vibrancy and productivity of collaborative learning that takes place in well-designed courses taught by well-informed people who are enthusiastic about the topic and active in the field.

MACIE faculty take several stances toward the development of program courses:

* Classes should be useful and creative spaces that excite adult students’ inquisitiveness and joy.

* Learning should take place in multiple spaces and at flexible times.

* Effective learning should allow for a combination of collaboration and individual work.

* Courses should provide information, inspiration, and opportunities to form relationships and build connections.

Our courses—and the program as a whole—have been developed with these stances in mind. Course content is useful and selected to prepare students to be productive and knowledgeable in the area of creative and innovative education. Instructors are active participants in the content they teach. Classes take place in a variety of modes, some face-to-face, others online or hybrid. To make it easier for students who work full time, courses are offered in the evenings and on weekends. Aware that 21st century learning is built on relationships and collaborations, classes are responsive spaces that respect what students can do individually and together.

Undergirding it all is this primary disposition: we all hold a deep commitment to human curiosity and the wonder and satisfaction that comes with pursuing knowledge and know-how to support children’s creative lives.


Gutnick, A.L., Robb, M., Takeuchi, L., & Kotler, J. (2011). Always connected: The new digital media habits of young children. The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Retrieved from content/uploads/2011/03/jgcc_alwaysconnected.pdf

Rideout, V.J., Foehr, U.G., & Roberts, D. F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year olds. Kaiser Family Foundation Report. Retrieved from

Pathways That Inspire


Pathway conjures up several associations: passages, trails, tracks, lanes, aisles. Worn and not-so-worn routes that can take you from where you are to somewhere you are not yet.

But pathway also conjures up something else: circuits, networks, downlinks, signal routes. Rapid and humming lines of communication that connect you to multiple others.

Both aspects of the word pathway convey movement, travel, and contact. They suggest, also, notions of change, growth, even adventure. When you embark on a pathway—whether it’s to the sound of birds or bytes—you are opening yourself up to whatever you might encounter. You are preparing yourself with each footstep or keyboard click for something new that you haven’t seen, noticed, or known before.

In the MACIE program, each student selects a pathway to travel. In addition to core education classes in such topics as child development and creative learning practices, students can create a four-course pathway in other Georgia State University colleges. For example, Students interested in starting a business that focuses on children’s creativity can take courses in the J. Mack Robinson College of Business. Students interested in launching or working in a non-profit organization can take courses in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. Students interested in working as an artist in out-of-school settings can find pathways in the GSU College of Arts and Sciences or the new GSU College of the Arts. Students interested in being leaders in their school by designing innovative curricula can develop pathways within the College of Education and Human Development.

What’s tempting about a university the size of Georgia State is the number of pathways down which a student can travel. And what you’re required to “pack” is vital, but doesn’t weigh very much: imagination, broad-mindedness, commitment, aspirations. And most importantly, curiosity. Because that’s what set you on the pathway to begin with, wasn’t it? A curiosity that drives you to take to the trail, to connect across the world, to see what’s possible just ahead.


How do we define American Education?

MACIE from College of Education & Human Dev on Vimeo.

According to its mission statement, the U.S. Department of Education seeks “to promote student achievement and preparation for global competitiveness by fostering educational excellence and ensuring equal access.” This statement is punctuated with powerful actions like preparation, achievement, global competition, excellence and equality–actions we hope all students have opportunities to experience.

But, in the midst of a growing technological and creative revolution, are there more actions students should experience in order to develop the skills they need to thrive in a global creative economy?

Creativity and innovation require different actions: making, tinkering, doing, practicing, searching, exploring, and diversifying. In addition to achievement, preparation, and excellence, how can we also make space for creative and innovative thinking?

Our program is designed to create new learning spaces where people who are passionate about cultivating children’s creative lives can come to find inspiration, information, and connection. Will you join us?

La Gioiosa: The University As A Joyful Space



Creativity. Innovation. These are current buzzwords in both business and education. As economies strive to compete in a global, digitalized world, the call for creative thinkers and innovative makers has become part of our collective thinking about what we want for our children. Ken Robinson, in his famous TED Talk “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” (40 million views and counting), urgently argues “that creativity now is as important in education as literacy, and we should treat it with the same status.” In other words, creativity and innovation are now considered a necessary part of every child’s upbringing.

But what does that mean, exactly? What does it look like when we take Robinson’s call seriously, when we—grown-ups charged with supporting children in their learning and living—treat creativity with as much commitment as we do reading and writing, as well as math and science and other knowledges that we consider vital to the human experience? What kinds of spaces will we create for children, and what do we hope children will do when we invite them there?

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a psychologist best known for developing the concept of “flow,” writes of Vittorino da Feltre, an educator living in 15th century Italy. As a condition of becoming a tutor for a politically influential family, Vittorino opened a school for other children of the Lombardy region. According to Csikszentmihalyi, Vittorino saw connections between creativity and enjoyment and sought to instill those qualities in the learning experiences that took place in his school, which he named La Gioiosa—The Joyful Place.

But Csikszentmihalyi doesn’t leave Vittorino’s story lodged in the history of Italy. Instead, he challenges educators to bring such thinking into 21st century places of higher education.

“But how can the joy of learning be instilled in modern universities?…First, making sure that teachers are selected in part because they model the joy of learning themselves, and are able to spark it in students; second, that the curriculum takes into account the students’ desire for joyful learning; third, that the pedagogy is focused on awakening the imagination and engagement of students; and finally that the institution rewards and facilitates the love of learning among faculty and students alike” (Csikszentmihalyi, 2006, p. xx).

The question of how to cultivate children’s creative and innovative thinking is at the heart of the MACIE program. Also at its heart is a belief in joyful learning and the stance that for adults to awaken the imagination of students, their own imaginations have to be awakened as well. That includes faculty who are immersed in the joy of learning and who strive to design spaces for adults that can lead to creativity, innovation and, yes, enjoyment. In this way, we are here to support adults who want to do the fulfilling and necessary work of helping children grow to lead joyful and creative lives.



Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2006). Foreword: Developing creativity. In N. Jackson, M. Oliver, M. Shaw, & J. Wisdom (Eds.), Developing creativity in higher education: An imaginative curriculum (pp. xiii-xx). New York, NY: Routledge.