Archive for January, 2021

Ideas: YCISL & the IB Extended Essay

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

I received my IB Diploma in 1981. The Extended Essay was one of the highlights of the program, and it still remains a fixture for IB students around the world. My Extended Essay on crystal growth is connected with my geochemistry interest as well as research into evaporite minerals.  The folder containing a crystal sample from experiments attached is still with me today.

And so I would like to connect my YCISL program to the IB program, especially the Extended Essay – and even ToK and CAS. Here, I am going to lay out 5 process tips for the IB Extended Essay so that it embraces creativity, curiosity and impact.

Planning. Make a plan. Start with a napkin plan. Then expand it to a 1-page summary of what you want to do and accomplish. Capture your inspiration and vision here. Include goals and tasks if space allows. Remember, just one page for your initial plan. Subsequent plans can get longer (just a little).

Design Thinking. Another human being (or two) is going to read your Extended Essay. So use the human-centered mindset of design thinking to connect yourself with your reader via your extended essay. Focus positive attention on shared perspectives, engagement and benefit. Show and apply intrinsic motivation to promise empowerment.

Connect-the-Dots. “Again, you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” – Steve Jobs, Stanford Commencement Speech 2005. Show how all the work you did for your Extended Essay is connected. Also connect it to your other experiences and web of knowledge.

Storytelling. There are many ways to tell a story. You just have to choose one. You are the author of your Extended Essay, plus you are the producer and director of this story that the reader will want to visualize. Focus interest on the main character, but also provide details in terms of other characters, objects, thoughts and actions that reveal the full story.

Feature Set. Your Extended Essay will have many features, You will also consider many features that your Extended Essay could have, and trim away excess (at least you SHOULD trim away excess). Think of features that at least half the other extended essays would not have. Then select just three of the features for you to distinctively highlight in your Extended Essay. Put them in the foreground in front of everything else. Put a spotlight on them. Make them shine. And the analogies go on and on. Your goal is to have the reader remember and be impressed by one or more of these distinctive features. This would help your work stand out in a crowd of Extended Essays on the same or a similar topic.


Events: YCISL Innovators Toolkit Workshop (ITW)…Cartoon Examples

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Here is a set of cartoons made in Pixton on the five YCISL Innovators Toolkit Workshop (ITW) skills that we focus on. Do these help the explanation of these skills?

*Source credit for magnesium-chocolate story:
**Dumpling image downloaded from

Activity: Pixton for YCISL Cartooning

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

Once in a while, I try to change up the style of my presentations. Usually I work on the color palette, typefaces and (more recently) adding slide animations. has been a favorite and I have made quite a few flyers and slide backgrounds there. Today, I looked up cartooning tools and came across Pixton. In about 20 minutes, I produced a cartoon about divergent-convergent thinking. There were some things about the experience I really liked (eg, postures and facial expressions) and a couple of things that were somewhat limited. It was fun! Now I have to think up other storyboards.


Plan: Divergent-Convergent Thinking (Popcorn Series)

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

The Popcorn with Colin (PwC) series started in mid-2020 as a means of connecting with students in the virtual space to chat about creativity and developments in the YCISL program. Each PwC meeting, a short 60 to 90 minutes with a small group of 5 to 12 students, is designed to create engagement and the sharing of viewpoints (where you are) and perspectives (what you see). I’ll write up more about it in another article; it’s been going well and should have good future pick-up.

This wiki entry focuses on an upcoming PwC meeting where I would like to discuss Divergent-Convergent Thinking (DCT). I will probably follow-up that PwC with a YCISL White Paper to share action items that “pop” up. DCT has been a part of the YCISL workshops for about 5 years and more recently it was included in the Innovators Toolkit publications on the YCISL web site and the Innovators Toolkit Workshops (ITW). And I just made a short presentation last week on DCT in the NIFTI-SEWSS program; the response from students has been fantastic.

The tentative agenda for that PwC is:

– What is it and why is it a useful creativity skill?
– Checking our divergent thinking (brainstorming) skill…an exercise.
– Applying divergent-convergent thinking to a research project. A group discussion.

The new part that needs development is the connection of DCT to research methods and skills. I’ve heard from many YCISL students that they would like to improve their research skills and find research opportunities. I found the figure below which I think could lend structure to a presentation on research applications of DCT. Inspiration, ideation and implementation are practical stages to step through in all aspects of research (I will focus on proposal writing, experimental design, and reporting). I will need to remember to embed this in a design thinking teamwork and collaboration context because research needs to be people-connected.

That’s all I wanted to share for now about the PwC DCT plan.

Thoughts: Do Governments Kill Creativity?

Monday, January 11th, 2021

As a spin-off thought from the most famous TEDTalk “Do Schools Kills Creativity?” by the late Sir Ken Robinson, I wondered whether other factors could be pushing creativity backwards…in particular youth creativity.

So how about government? Given how some governments have sacrificed education due to pandemic fears and others have solidly maintained educational standards (UN Policy Brief: Education during COVID-19 and beyond), how much does government actually value education? Is educating youth with creativity skills even on their roadmap? I question this regularly every time I think about lemonade stands in California.

The immediate connection is that many schools are government institutions and follow government policies and are budgeted by government. I don’t know whether any government policy specifically encourages creativity in education, or if there is a budget line for creativity, but it appears that those students who succeed because of their creativity do so despite government and education, and not because of.

What do you think? Does your government genuinely encourage youth creativity or does it effectively squash it?