After a bunch of reconfiguring my site5 account and a few upgrades, I’ve managed to set up the domain capstonelearning.org and set up a basic wordpress server at that site.

Here is my preliminary vision for how this site could work. I see it as an online journal of science projects. My thought is that students would work on capstones on their own sites (posterous blogs, wordpress.com blogs, or whatever), and then, when the student and teacher agree that their work has reached a certain point where the teacher and student agree that it’s “finished” the student writes up an abstract and posts it on the capstonelearning site.

Some other details and questions:

• Student sites: Students would still be getting feedback from outsiders on their individual projects on websites they own/administer. I’m wondering if it might be a good idea to have an authors page with links to capstones in progress so that visitors to the site can go and give feedback to authors?An even bigger question might be to turn the WordPress site into a network, and give all students accounts—if this gets really busy (many hundreds of users adding lots of content), it might overload my webhost, and we’d have to migrate to a VPN.
• Subdomains: Obviously, since capstones are the coolest thing ever, and taking the physics community by storm, it’s only a matter of time until they spread to other disciplines. It makes sense to have subdomains, like chemistry.capstonelearning.org, and mathematics.capstonelearning.org. How should we handle registration for these sites?
• Design/Format: I was thinking a magazine style with each article consisting of an image, abstract and link to the finished capstone would work best, but am open to suggestions…
• Administration: I was thinking of giving accounts to faculty who have students doing these projects to allow them to post abstracts to the site.
• Bells and Whistles: LaTeX support is a must. What other things does our site need? A mobile version (plugins can do this easily).
• Funding: I had to pay a small amount to register a domain ($10/yr) and a bit more to upgrade my hosting account ($5/mo). These costs aren’t that big of a deal now, but if we need to upgrade to a VPS to allow for hundreds of very active user, costs could jump to \$50/mo or so. I’m all for ideas as to how to fund this endeavor.

That’s my basic vision. I’m sure it needs lots of work and you’ve got many ideas to make it better. Share your ideas in the comments!

1. October 27, 2011 5:49 am

For the LaTeX support, I’ve heard good things about MathJax:

http://www.mathjax.org/

• October 27, 2011 1:06 pm

yes. I’m going to try to get mathjax going on the site, since it’s beautiful. As a fallback, I’ll just turn on WordPress’s default LaTeX support.

October 27, 2011 8:24 am

I would love to get in on this I can help with the costs too.
Right now my capstones are for remediation and for students who have a lot of absences. We are not a true standards based district, although our 1- 4 grading gives the appearance we are. We quit remediation of assessments as students wouldn’t study the first time. Our graduates came back from college and said remediation of assessments in high school didn’t help them learn how to study.
I got permission to use Capstones as a separate assignment. I have several students that say they are going to do one.
My other thought was a wiki and do this just internally but I think students getting responses from outside the school would be awesome.

• October 27, 2011 1:04 pm

I think we’re basically ready to start this site in the fashion i outlined above—I give you an account, and you post student abstracts describing finished, or near complete projects they’ve done online. That seems like the logical first version of the site.

3. October 27, 2011 11:21 am

Are you thinking of student poster presentations or full on papers? Both? Pretty good practice to abstract the paper into a poster, which is a single PowerPoint slide. Poster can draw in audience of those interested to read paper – but it is a challenge for the newbie to create an interest provoking poster.

• October 27, 2011 1:03 pm

I like the idea of student posters, but I think it’s a bit much for my 9th graders. It might be something we can work on later, or I might offer as add-ons to a capstone. But I think the flexibility of what we’re doing is that the site can evlove to be what we want it to be, and teachers can use it how they want. I think a minimum on the main page should be an abstract and a link to more details, but if someone wants to also include a link to a poster, or even an embed of the poster, that would be ok too.

4. October 27, 2011 4:01 pm

Are you planning to have a science fair for the student projects? That is, a place where the students can present their work and get face-to-face feedback from scientists and take questions from members of the public interested in science? I don’t think that the online capstone publications will generate the same questions as a face-to-face science fair. Having to explain one’s work and seeing that the questioner is not getting the explanation provides power feedback—feedback that isn’t present when people just stop reading online and wander off.

• October 27, 2011 7:45 pm

I don’t think I want to create a site full out devoted to science fair projects—but if that’s what people want to do with this, I suppose it’s fine. I’m not exactly sure what the difference is between a science fair project and a capstone, but in my mind, I have a lower threshold on what makes a capstone, and set a higher bar for science fair projects. And I totally agree, I don’t want this site to replace having to explain one’s work in face to face conversations. I’ve found a lot of good to come from sitting down with a student and going through their blog post together.