Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Reviewing the APS Middle School Websites: Volume II

Continuing our series as we evaluate the Albuquerque Public Schools middle school websites, using a 1-10 scale, with:

1 = fruitcake with extra "fruit"
10 = fudge turtles with extra caramel

School #6. Grant Middle School: Rating 4

The GMS page is a bit of a shocker: it's actually updated! And generally not just here and there, but throughout. Just as relatively unusual, the main page has a message from the new principal that includes his email address. APS principals are generally renowned for their Luddite status. A principal who knows his/her email address and willingly puts it into any public communication stands out. You know, like a real person in the real work world or something.

Oh wait. I take that back about the updatedness. I knew it was too good to be true.

While several pages do appear to be from this year, the teacher's page has a stamp date of "July 19, 2006" on it. This is a shame because the list of teachers is comprehensive and includes email links. So either the webmaster forgot to update the 2006 date or this list of teachers is from 93 staff changes ago. At least 93 changes, as APS middle schools tend to have a higher turnover rate than your local crack house.

More unimpressively, a deeper look reveals two things: 1. The teacher's page link to actual teacher's pages is full of "online class" links that go to basically blank pages. Sad. 2. The site is only "live" in many parts because of links to corporations like "Channel One" (Channel One is still around? Really?) and Scholastic.

Still, relative to some other APS websites GMS has a few good things. It has the weather and an embedded video. In the context of APS those things are like the invention of Google and YouTube combined.

That teacher page is positively painful, however.

7. Harrison Middle School: Rating Zero

Harrison's web page is as blank as a white-out snowstorm on a brightly electronic morning. This is the year 2009. I tried both the link from the APS page and a Google search and the designated HMS page both "works" and has nothing on it.

Ergo, rating HMS's website becomes difficult. Is having a blank site worse than having a nightmarish site, like Ernie Pyle MS? Is a blank white page worth fewer "points" than a deeply disturbing one? A deep philosophical conundrum. A koan, if you will, of complexity that shows how important APS websites are to the development of minds young and old here in ABQ.

In a meager attempt to answer this almost metaphysical puzzler, I decided that creating a domain and then putting nothing in it is less work than creating a domain and putting a ton of awful text and images in it. As we are Westerners who deeply value that "Judeo-Christian work ethic" (as it's called), work beats laziness. Hence....Ernie Pyle gets a One and Harrison gets a Zero.

The saddest thing here is that Harrison is the middle school closest to my South Valley home. I would honestly LOVE if it Harrison's website was a "10" and the school an oasis of academics and love of learning. As I said...sad.

8. Hayes Middle School: Rating 1.5

In further full disclosure, I used to work at Hayes. In the "Technology Department". I still see one or two folks I know as I navigate through the "Professional Innovations" Hell that is the HMS site. And in seeing those old colleagues I note they have updated webpages.

The 98% of the staff I don't remember...not so much. The principal's (since my time) page consists of only an email link. There are no "Newsletters" to display. The calendar is blank. To be honest, the website is the virtual equivalent of the old movie "The Omega Man" where Charlton Heston is (or thinks he is) the only human left alive after a massive epidemic. The "Professional Innovations" infrastructure is there, but no humans populate this website.

And maybe that says more about Hayes Middle School in 2009 than I, a former resident, want to admit. Sorry HMS: You may still be alive in my heart, but to the rest of the world you're dead. Very dead.

9. Hoover Middle School: Rating 2.5

Like the Hayes page, the Hoover MS site begins with a splash screen from circa-1998:
This website has been designed to be used with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0 or later with Javascript enabled, with a screen resolution of 1024 X 768 or greater. Viewing this website with any other combination WILL result in decreased functionality, visibilty, speed and overall performance. Your system is using Netscape with the screen resolution set to 1280 x 1024.
Remember "Windows for Workgroups"? How about "Windows 3.1"? How about Kaypro "portable" computers with little 3.5" diagonal green screens?

I know I've harped too much on the antiquated nature of these APS pages, but c'mon folks! Putting a "warning" about not using IE 5.0 to see a website is like trying to sell a menthol cigarette in 2009 because it's "safer".

I was tempted to just blow past the Hoover site after seeing that splash screen, but my commitment to you, the dedicated reader, is so great I continued my investigation.

And after about 20 seconds I stopped my investigation because this website is full of the same empty, dated "Professional Innovations" crap as all the other "Professional Innovations" websites.

Visiting this site is like going to the dentist with a talkative dental hygienist. Full of worthless information and pain. I have a headache after going to this site. Maybe it's the tiny font on the main page with arcane details about "accelerated Language Arts". Maybe it's the control characters for "bullets" on that page. Most probably it's the simple fact 95% of the website has absolutely nothing on it. Nothing.

No club links. No pictures in the photo gallery. Little or nothing else.

And what is there is hidden behind all the "Professional Innovations" template crap. I did see some teacher pages with actual content, but you have to click through about five times to get to those pages. It's like "Get Smart" with all those doors closing, and your nose just ends up getting hurt.

Okay, I apologize...that last pop culture reference was so old and so old that, maybe, one person in the entire world understood it. And that one person, me, thought it was lame.

Maybe it's time to stop these website reviews...And we're only about halfway through? Whose stupid idea was this?

Nevertheless, I will continue to plunge forth through the APS alphabet in my next report....


Robin said...

found this link: http://www.proinnov.com/

at the bottom of www.apsleadership.com


please tell me our taxes aren't paying for these "websites" you are exploring!?

Anonymous said...

Of course APS dollars go to PI. This, in spite of the fact that APS has its own domain, server, etc.

The bottom line with PI is that it's designed to make every teacher his own little webmaster. It's a REALLY bad idea from the start. No teacher needs an extra job.

While the internet becomes the center of so much of life, APS is still calling--not e-mailing--parents about absences, cannot post timely information on the district or school web pages, and has yet to get an online grading system in place.

I have little hope for current leadership.

Abuelita2 said...

So, I deduce that PI is another company that gets paid our tax dollars through APS bureaucracy??? Or, please, for those of us not in the know, what is Professional Innovation with capital letters?

Natalie said...

You didn't steal my idea. I think we've all been there/done that with APS websites. I've been up one side and down the other of "leadership", "communications", and other departments trying to inspire. Heck, I even volunteered to fix their websites (elementary levels) but I ran into bureaucracy and/or "tech" people who were terribly territorial over their BS websites. It was, of course, all for the greater good but I've decided that those departments don't want that 'cause then we (parents and educators) might have to hold them accountable to something somewhat tangible like, you know, accurate information.
Which is like the tide...
Keep up the good work. You are doing a fine job.
And it's entertaining as hell. ;)

Anonymous said...

I so agree with your ratings. As a parent and as a prospective employee, I find the APS websites mostly useless.

Lucky said...

You haven't got to my school yet. I'm going to guess you give it a 2. I'll let you know (don't want to spoil the surprise).

Steve (Hayes MS) said...

This is an interesting topic. I am finally ready to post assignments and stuff on our website, but was told we were getting rid of/replacing it this year. I don't know any parents who are trying to access information (probably because our website is so dated and lame), but our community is pretty behind on such things. I will ask at open house next week if anyone has tried and get back to you.