Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Discussing the Plan & Prospects for Capstone

The Capstone Committee met all Fall with the goal of presenting first to the MTA faculty and then to the M.S.A.D. No. 75 School board. Members of the Committee, including student and parent representatives, presented the plan for Board consideration. Members of the Board took the opportunity to give preliminary feedback about the plan. One board member wanted to make sure that students who might not be ready to speak to large audiences would find some accommodation.

Claudette Brassil pointed out that students' access to individual laptops has made it possible for student to find alternatives to rhetorical skill. She says that students can prepare presentations, or videos or other ways to give evidence of their learning.

Board member Kim Totten cautioned against too much reliance on technology as a crutch. She cited the parallels between Capstone Projects and Eagle Scout Projects. She noted that the scouting program helps students to prepare for the presentations of Eagle Projects over an extended period of time, "they are earning all their merit badges to build toward doing their final projects." Several of the merit badges a scout completes (including communication) prepare scout candidates for the presentation. She favors a good measure of face-to-face presentation skills.

Scott McKernan observed,
"That it is really encouraging to see how all the various components and philosophies behind the Capstone Project really mirror all of the 21st Century Learning Skills ... that we, from day-one, were trying to incorporate as part of the Comprehensive Strategic Planning Committee. It is really encouraging to see that and I am really eager to see how these Capstone Projects turn out especially as they roll out to an entire class. ... It will be really encouraging in five to ten years down the pike to see some applications of those concepts rolling down into the middle school and possibly further. With the proving ground being this program."
Craig King elaborated by saying how difficult it is to lift such a project the first year but that eventually it can become a part of the culture of the school. Kids anticipate homecoming and proms, they anticipate AP exams. He hopes they will learn to anticipate Capstone Projects.

Dr. King elaborated further on the theme by pointing out that the design includes having students see presentations of older students so that a culture of anticipation develops. I have advocated an even stronger form of building awareness and anticipation. Scouts developing their Eagle projects actively recruit younger scouts to help with the implementation. Younger scouts develop insights into what it takes to create a successful capstone for their scouting experiences than they would just by listening to presentations. We can learn more from the scout model.

I hope we don't have to wait five to ten years to develop that kind of culture of anticipation. Part of my design for the work of ITeam at the middle school is to establish that culture of anticipation now. We have students who have already started work on their precapstone projects!

I recorded parts of this discussion and used the recording to reconstruct the record here. I tried to upload it as part of the evidence for this post but the Blogger software only gave a spinning wheel of perpetual processing. It may not accept the .amr file type that audio recording app in my phone produces.

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