The following is a copy of the final Capstone proposal submitted to Cambridge College:
This section is shaped very carefully to elicit the most important details about your project, one step at a time; please read through all of the questions first, before attempting to answer any of them individually. Although each question requires only a sentence or two, spend your time thinking carefully about each answer to make it succinct, rather than over-writing the answers with too much extraneous text. (hint: save your in-depth writing for the Process Document)
1a. Problem Statement: What is the need for this project? What problem are you solving? Describe the problem in as much concise detail as you can, describing how the problem currently affects the stakeholders in your sponsoring organization.
This is the hardest part. Make sure you are solving a REAL problem, and that your sponsor also believes this is a problem.
Don't fall prey to "it seems like a good idea" or worse "it's cool" Think carefully about scope. Don't sign up to change the world. By the same token, don't take on a project building a "shovel-ware" site for an organization that just wants to get some info up on the Web.
Many Algebra students at Natick High School are not able to be in the classroom for lessons during the school year. There are two major reasons for this: One reason is that they are absent for long periods of time due to illness or suspensions. The second reason is that they are following the non-traditional programs, which are available in this school. These programs include Northstar, a program where students attend school in a group environment outside of the traditional classroom and may be enrolled in one or more regular classes. Another program is Omega which is a work study program where students attend Northstar classes from 2-5 p.m. and are in the public workforce for the rest of the day. The other alternative program is Alpha in which students work in the morning and attend Northstar classes in the afternoon.
1b. Problem Solution: What is your solution? Why is a network/the Web the right way to solve this problem? How do you expect to measure the success of your solution to the problem? In this section, focus on the bare basics of the solution: what new structures are you building, or what existing resources are you pulling together? Project specifics are a part of later sections, so you'll have an opportunity to detail the project throughout this form and later in your Process Document.
I would like to create a website that the students would be able to go to outside of the classroom (even at home) to get the days lessons. Students would be able to get the classroom and homework assignments online as well as a tutorial of the day's lesson. Students will be able to submit their classwork, homework and exams online through this site. Students will be able to get extra help, and help each other through a discussion board that I will set up. There is currently a substantial computer system in the school that alternative program students could use and the school has a website that could support my site. A measure of success of this site would be an expectation of higher grades among these students, as well as higher MCAS and SAT scores.
1c. Goals: What immediate impact do you expect your project to have on the client/organization? What will be the specific outcomes? What will be the long term impact on teaching and/or learning in the organization? What other long term impact(s) will the project have?
If there are any standards (national, regional, state, local) that your project considers, please mention those in this section. Absent any "third-party" standards, please briefly mention how you and your sponsor arrived at the goals stated in this section.
I anticipate the following goals: To enable students to keep up with daily lessons even though they are not in class. To enable the teacher to not have students that are constantly behind with their work. To enable the students taking advantage of my site to have a lower attrition rate and higher standardized test scores.
1d. Process: What techniques that you learned in this program will you employ? How will you work with the organization to achieve your goals? Will you need to have meetings or lead workshops with key stakeholders? Where will the work happen?
Practice your new toolkit! Apply new research strategies, think about instructional and curriculum design approaches, use good design and application development skills.
Be careful to consider how much you'll be relying on the client and key stakeholders for resources, review of preliminary designs, regular meetings. It is important to plan for regular contact, but you don't want to limit yourself by making the project dependent on people with busy schedules or little interest.
I will employ all of the skills I have learned in the website development courses such as templates, forms and the use of Flash, as well as many pedagogical tools that have been introduced to me at Cambridge College.
Although I will allow the team workers to use and expand on my accomplishments, I will be keeping full ownership of my site in the event that I am not employed at Natick High School in the near future. I will be doing the majority of the work on my personal computer as well as Cambridge College's computers. I will use Natick's computer systems to have the team workers and some of my students critique my work. I will meet with the team workers once per school cycle (8 days) and a verbal agreement has been made that other online meetings will be held as needed.
1e. Deliverables & milestones:
What are the monthly, or finer-grained deliverables that will assure you and the client that you are making progress? What deliverables, or feedback do you need from the client at various stages of the project? Have you built in buffers that permit some schedule slipping without jeopardizing your graduation?
Make a table! Columns should be: deliverable, person responsible, draft due date, final due date. Be sure to add things that you need FROM the client as well like feedback, content and money, resources needed in order for certain deliverables to happen.
Some of your first activities may be interviews to fully understand the intended audience for your project, the dynamics of your client's business, and sessions to get alignment on project goals, etc.
Your last activities should include assembling and giving final presentations, and project debriefs to talk about the process, their assessment of your work, and plans for follow-up consulting or other participation opportunities.
Capstone proposal 1st draft due 3/22/02
Capstone proposal final draft due 5/1/02
Design and Content of website decided 5/24/02
Capstone Deliverables site set up 5/31/02
1st draft of website completed 6/7/02
Testing of 1st draft completed 6/14/02
2nd draft of website completed 6/21/02
Testing of 2nd draft completed 6/28/02
Final draft of website completed 7/1/02
Testing of final draft completed 7/15/02
Capstone Presentation created 7/22/02
Capstone presentation 7/26/02
2a. Organization details. What's the short history of the organization? What is their educational purpose or mission? What kinds of educational results have they seen? What are the key change forces the organization is dealing with?
You can't help an organization you don't understand. Make sure to budget TIME to research, interview and thoroughly understand each and every last detail. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You need to know exactly what challenges the organization faces and what the difficulties have been. You have to know what resources the organization will have to sustain your project, and what the potential obstacles are. We'll ask you these questions in your final presentation. So get the facts.
Natick High School opened its doors in 1954 at the present sight on 15 West Street. Before this the high school was located at the old town hall. An addition to the building was created in the mid-60's to bring it to its present form. The town of Natick is attempting to pass a budget to rebuild the school in the near future as it is in dire need of repair. There are presently 1,119 students enrolled at Natick High with each class growing by an average of 10% per year. The ratio of teaching staff to students is currently 1:14.
Mission statement: Natick High School challenges and supports each student to acquire and apply knowledge, skills, and a sense of personal and social responsibility.
2b. Pedagogical/Curricular Landscape. What deeply held beliefs about teaching and learning does the organization have? In what ways are perspectives on teaching and learning changing? Do stakeholders feel confident and positive about new approaches, or threatened? What pressures does the organization face?
In K-12 schools in Massachusetts, for example, students are being required to pass the "MCAS" standardized tests before graduation and teachers have to take a test, too. What kinds of accountability for teaching/learning is the organization trying to live up to? What shifts are happening in the field overall? Who are the leaders in making the kinds of changes your client/organization is trying to make? What makes them great?
Remember that your project won't exist in a vacuum; some will feel inspired by it, some threatened by it. Use this section to demonstrate your awareness of the landscape into which your project will fit.
Natick High Schools philosophy of education: Successful
students and excellent schools emerge when educators, parents, and community
members work together to attain measurable goals to improve our programs.
Those goals are articulated in the Strategic Plan for the school district.
The goals, and the beliefs that uphold those goals, stress the values that
support high standards and expectations for students and educators alike.
Education does not begin and end within the school, rather it is the foundation
of the community and it involves each of us.
This school is under tremendous pressure right now to have its students do well on the MCAS, SAT exams, to go on to higher education, to lower its attrition rate and to comply with the state and national frameworks. They are also under pressure from parents to provide enough of a meaningful education for their students during the declining economy and tight budgets. The school is also in the last 2 years of their 5 year accreditation process and are looking to build a new facility to replace the aging structure they now have.
2c. Stakeholder map. Who is your contact? Who do they report to? What kinds of responsibility do they have in the organization? What would make this person succeed in the eyes of other stakeholders? Who are other stakeholders? What's in it for them?
Understanding the culture of the organization you are working with is critical to making change happen. It's always complicated, delicate, political, often highly charged emotionally and otherwise. Get used to it. Map it out. Make everyone with whom you're working feel as though they have personally accomplished something, and you'll win respect, perhaps a promotion, potential consulting clients, or a even new job.
My contacts are Lisa Kovacs and Lucas Schneider. Lisa is
a fellow math teacher at Natick High School who reports to Caryn Cheverie,
the head of the math department. Lisa has taught the level of students I am
trying to reach with this website and knows what teaching approaches work
best with them. She is also well versed in website use and development and
has a schedule that follows mine closely enough to provide ample meeting time.
Lucas is a senior high school student at Natick High. His insight is unique in that he has been through the math classes already and knows firsthand what students are looking for in lessons and in websites. He also has a lot of website development experience.
3. PROJECT TEAM
3a. Roles and responsibilities: Who will be the team that works on the project, including yourself and stakeholders within the client/organization? Why are you the right person to undertake the project? How do your skills, expertise, and interests map to the requirements of the project?
Because you will be the only person from the class working on the project, it will be important to identify stakeholders who will be helping. The scope of the capstone is such that you will need to rely on others to provide content and other resources. Make sure you know who each and every one of them is before you begin.
Note that you may work on a capstone that is related to another student's, and you may even share a client/organization. However, the projects must be distinct enough that you can develop two separate proposals. In other words, there must be clearly articulated educational goals or content areas around which the client/organization wants to develop a Web-based application.
I will be doing all of the construction involved in this website. My contacts will be critiquing the site for me and helping me in the design and editing portions of the site. I will have my Algebra students use the site when it is near its completion so I am sure it is what they would be looking for. I will also work with the alternative programs as my site nears completion so they may also critique it.
3b. Communication plan: What tools will you use to review deliverables, and stay in-touch?
What norms will you establish around communication? Will you have weekly meetings, or progress reports? What times of the day will you be able to reach people? How often to they check their email? What is the contact information of EVERYONE involved?
Step #1: get the contact information of EVERYONE involved, and their rules (don't call me after 9pm or only use my cell phone on weekends or I only check my email in the mornings). Write this all down in this section and consider distributing it to all stakeholders.
I will be meeting with Lisa Kovacs and Lucas Schneider seperately according to the school's schedule. This will result in our meeting once every 8 days. We will also communicate via e-mail and instant messaging, and have agreed to make other arrangements for additional meetings if it becomes necessary.
4. RISKS AND ASSUMPTIONS
4a. Risks: What pitfalls do you know about as part of the organization/project landscape? What problems do you suspect might exist? What are the three things that are most likely to go wrong? Are the risks based on people and personalities, or technology, or the dynamics of the field? What is your plan to recover from problems that might arise based on these risks? What are the known weaknesses in the plan? The team? The goals?
No plan is perfect or foolproof. Don't kid yourself into believing yours is. Better to recognize what could go wrong and the things about which you are uncertain up front. This way, you'll be prepared to deal with at least some of the problems that arise.
I foresee the following pitfalls: 1) The computer support system at Natick High School is not always dependable and may not always be able to have the site available to students. 2) The management at Natick High School is in an unstable position at this time. The head of the math department is on extended leave and the principal is being replaced at the end of the year. 3) I am not in favor with the management at Natick High School and may run into some problems because of this. 4) I need to make sure the material I will start with for my Capstone project is narrowly focused so I do not create too much work for myself.
4b. Key assumptions: What or who are you counting on to make the project a success? Are you assuming that you will get timely reviews and feedback from the organization? Are there key personnel you expect will be in place throughout the duration of the project? Are you relying on the availability of specific hardware? software? Is there money that needs to be available?
Again, better to be very clear about what your assumptions are, because you can't be certain of anything. If you are explicit about the assumptions you have much more leverage down the road when deliverables are delayed.
We expect you to work hard on your Capstone. We expect you to solve tough, non-trivial problems. And we expect that in return you will learn a great deal about how to attack real-world, complicated, Internet projects, and implement plans and systems to help real organizations succeed in a new digital landscape.
For the investment you make in time, effort, energy and brainpower the payback will be in rich learning and rich experiences that you can immediately apply to your career after Marlboro.
I am counting on my contacts to assist me in designing, critiquing and editing my site. I am also counting on the computers at Natick High School, Cambridge College, and at my home to continue working properly and to be able to handle the work I need to complete on them.
5. PROJECT SUMMARY
Now that you've set out all the details, sum up the problem and your solution, along with a sentence or two about your process and the results you expect, all in a compact paragraph, say 4 - 10 sentences. Imagine you have 30 seconds to describe the essence of the project in order to get funding (what entrepreneurs call an "elevator pitch") - what would you say?
I have worked with disadvantaged students for 4 years now as a math teacher and have seen many students that are kept back in math, or drop out, because they have not had the opportunity to follow the classs lessons while they are out of school. Many of these students are very intelligent, but have been labeled as SPED students because of outlying forces. I believe they would benefit from a website that would allow them to follow the lessons given in class, so that they may keep up with the rest of the class. I plan on starting by creating a website that teaches one specific type of algebra, and then possibly extending this to the entire years lessons after I complete my Masters Degree.