More details on capstones…
My students seem pretty taken with the idea of doing Capstones to show synthesis and push their physics understanding. I’ve already had a bunch of conversations with students about ideas they might pursue.
To give them a bit more guidance in this process, I wrote this up and emailed it to my students:
I’ve started to have a number of conversations with people about capstones—this is great. I wanted to send you this with some more details.
You can start a capstone as soon as you wish, and if you’re truly interested in pushing yourself to develop a deep understanding and synthesis of multiple concepts, I suggest you start as soon as possible.
You begin a capstone by publishing something to the web for all the world to see. You should publish when you’ve got a decent first draft of your first idea. This is more than “I want to write about X” and less than “here’s 3 hours of my thinking.”
You can publish to the web using the blog I’ve set up for you (login at http://burkphysics.com/wordpress/(yourfirstname)(yourlastinitial), posterous, or google docs. I suggest working with the blog first, since it makes it easiest to add equations, and google docs second, since it is slightly harder to share. Posterous is fine, but it doesn’t do a great job with equations.
When you’ve posted something, you should tell me about it by completing this form (this link will eventually be on Schoology and the main blog):
I will then post a comment with some feedback and suggestions. You will then revise (by creating a new post—do not erase old work), and re-submitting on the form.
I will then put your capstone out for feedback from someone outside our course (likely a physics teacher from somewhere around the US).
Once you’ve received and addressed feedback from this outsider, I will re-evaluate your capstone for credit. If you’ve mastered every concept, it can earn up to 3 points. If you haven’t yet mastered every concept, it can earn a maximum of 1 point (and can be increased in value when you master all concepts).
There isn’t a deadline for capstones, but obviously, this isn’t something you can put off until the week before exams. If you do, I may not be able to give you feedback, or find an outsider to give you feedback, and you will not have sufficient time to revise your work. Start now. It’s not nearly as hard as you think.
Capstones are meant to be places where you use the ideas you’ve learned in class to push beyond the things we’ve done in class. I’ve given you a number of ideas to get started at the end of each unit, and if you don’t know how to get started, I strongly suggest trying one of these. Capstones really aren’t meant to be the place for you to submit a book report on black holes (although they are cool, and it is probably possible to do a meaningful project on something like black holes that actually puts to use the ideas you’ve learned in our class).
That’s basically it. I’m sure we’ll be talking about this more as we go forward throughout the year.