Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Reviewing the APS Middle School Websites: Volume III, The "Js"

Another in a continuing series as we search for an Albuquerque Public School website that doesn't induce migraines and/or soul-crushing depression.

10. Jackson Middle School: Rating .000001

I've been getting to almost all the middle school sites by going to the schools section of the APS site. When I clicked on "Jackson Middle School" there I was directed to this "Manzano Cluster Family Connection" webpage. Then I just stared at the page for about a minute. Then I decided this must be a bad link because despite knowing that "Manzano" is a high school here, and that Jackson is in the Manzano cluster (back when we had clusters) I saw no reference to Jackson anywhere.

So I went to Google and just searched for Jackson. I found a site, but the site had a bad "certificate" and my Firefox didn't want me going there.

So I went back to the "Manzano Cluster Family Connection" and finally saw a list of schools about halfway down the long page and a link to Jackson MS.

I clicked on that...and it asked me to register.

Folks, we're trying to access a middle school website here, not NORAD, not somebody's bank balance, not the cheat codes for Resident Evil IV. A middle school website. Yet this "Manzano Cluster Family Connection" is all about NOT GETTING CONNECTED. "Connection" has, quite obviously, become one of those Orwellian/GWBushian APS words like "Ministry of Love" or "PATRIOT Act".

I did wander around the Jackson section of this eminently unfeeling and sterile site, and saw a few announcements from a few teachers. Tellingly, the only pictures/graphics on the site are of the same round-headed character with no facial features wearing a tie. Exactly. The whole site is faceless.

Jackson gets the lowest rating yet, because not only is it utterly lacking in information but also pretends it is offering the visitor something new and advanced. I wish George Orwell was alive so I could show him this site and we could both silently nod our head in joined understanding. Then we'd get some crisps at the pub and smother them with vinegar. Then we would nod some more in shared understanding.

11. James Monroe Middle School: Rating Beyond Exasperating (i.e., 2)

Despite the impression that might have been given by earlier reviews, I really prefer simple websites to the complex. James Monroe has a simple homepage (in dramatic contrast to Jackson's), readily leading the reader to a few things. And those things are updated today, including some volleyball tryouts.

After the Orwellian nightmare of Jackson, this site is refreshing in its humanity. There's not a ton of information, in fact there might not be twenty ounces of information here, but at least it's easily found.

At the same time, the most important page/link is the "EPSS Staff List", and that's where we run into bigtime problems. First, nobody outside of teachers knows what the Hell "EPSS" stands for. I am a teacher and right this second I can't remember what it stands for. I know it doesn't stand for this, but whenever I see the acronym "EPSS" I immediately think it must be Swedish for "boring meeting".

Non-teachers must look at "EPSS staff list" and think "is this a mention of a school that has nothing to do with James Monroe Middle School (JMMS)?" "Where is the JMMS staff list?" "How do you say 'EPSS'?" "Eeeps! Eek! only with a "ps" instead of a "k" sound?"

The average website visitor has probably gone on to Internet search for the text of the Monroe Doctrine or pictures of Marilyn Monroe by this point, but your brave website reviewer ventured forth and clicked onto the actual JMMS staff page. And your brave reviewer was direly disappointed. The teachers have email links (yeah!), but very, very few have their own web page. And the first staff page I clicked upon went to a dreadful little traffic cone graphic

and the following:
Sorry, the Class Homepage you are trying to access is not configured for direct access.

To sign in to your Class Homepage, click here.

And if you click above you go to a Scholastic Inc. login screen. I swear...if I read many more of these school webpages I might have to blind myself. With a paper clip or the corner of my writing desk. Man...this is a tough slog, I tell ya.

And yes, dear Scholastic Inc. people, I stole your traffic cone graphic and brazenly put it on my blog. Come arrest me. Take me to Associated Press copy/paste Court. For Criminy sake.

Why are we commercializing the public school experience by using POS outfits like Scholastic Inc.? Why can't people just make some webpages with community, parent, geeky 8th graders who like to mess around on the computer help?

On a bigger front, why can't schools/districts/state departments of education just create "open source" standardized tests, instead of buying them, at incredible markup, from companies like Pearson. Why doesn't the U.S. Dept. of Ed. just use its new funding to create these tests and give them to states/districts/schools for free? Why must we "Blackwater" public education?

P.S.: Not every one of the five staff webpages at JMMS were "Scholastic/Blackwaterized". Which is nice. But there were only about five staffpages in the whole school, which is very double plus not nice.

12. Jefferson Middle School: No Rating Because I Work There

I'm recusing myself from judging JMS. I wouldn't be impartial, and what would be the fun in pointing out the "fact" that the JMS site isn't half bad for an APS website? Instead I'll just throw out a link or two:

Here's my school page again
Here's my classroom webpage (as those Landmark Forum types say..."It is what it is")
And here's a little secret that everybody knows about getting folks to actually go to your classroom might have heard of it, it's called "Google"

Meanwhile, committing to this website reviewing thing has become a millstone for both your humble blogger and the two or three people who actually might read this post all the way to here. I applaud those who have heroically wasted enough of their time to make it to this point, and it is for them that I will continue wading through the leech-infested waters tomorrow, pulling the leaky boat that is APS "technology" as I/we go. All aboard, baby!

P.S.: And I didn't even make it out of the "Js" today!!! Oh man, can somebody help me with these leeches?


ched macquigg said...

You know what really bugs me about all of this? Go into any middle school in APS and you will find a half dozen or more "geeks" who would love to work on their school's website, and probably do a much, much better job.

The adults have dropped the ball on this one. Probably because schools' website are not evaluated under the NCLB and don't have to make AYP.

Robin said...

I agree with Ched - Scot would it help this cause if I forwarded your expose to the press?
I don't want our taxes going towards clip art traffic cones esp. when our students could be designing something a bit more user-friendly...

Anonymous said...

No, not the press. This needs to go to Mr. Brooks, APS big cheese...

Michelle said...

Nodding my head in shared understanding here... and wanted you to know that people are listening to your words. They are important. Keep up the good work :)

Natalie said...

Oh, poo on "Mr." Brooks. He's not going to do anything about it.
I say clue in the press... Yeah (fiendish laugh) get Larry Freakin' Barker on the case. (cue maniacal laughter)

And, sorry buddy; you are on your own. Been there; done that to no avail.
Keep on truckin'!
my word verification is like a little clue: "upgramk" No fixes, no upgrades, just "upgramk"

Anonymous said...

Now Mr. Brooks does understand "doo-doo" if your read his recent quote in the Abq. Journal this AM.

Maybe he can use the same kind of witty and urbane language when talking about the APS web issue.

jscotkey said...

A number of good comments above, and I appreciate y'alls (you alls, everyone's) participation. In particular, I concur with Ched's point about the existence of "geeks" (a badge of honor imho) within middle schools who would love to make webpages/sites.

Using homegrown talent is a tactic I've used for years, and wish I could utilize more. I've also wondered why the District farmed out the web development jobs for Version 2.0, instead of having high school students and an energetic sponsor teacher do the job. Isn't developing and nurturing passions what teaching is all about?

As many of the commenters have noted on this and the other "Volumes"...much of the status quo in this regard just doesn't make any sense. You'd have to almost work harder to make the websites as bad as they are now. It would be easier to make simple better ones. Why? Why???


Anonymous said...

Isn't developing and nurturing passions what teaching is all about?

Yes that is what teaching is all about, but the business of education is pouring money out the door to the few and blessed who have influence with the towers of power and the board.


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