Friday, September 11, 2009

Reviewing APS Middle School Websites: Volume VI, The Neverending Movie Sequel Edition

Another in a continuing, zombie-like in its difficulty to kill, series reviewing APS Middle School Websites. Today we will compare each site to a famous film in an inadequate attempt to lend some cohesion to what has been an inchoate reviewing process.

Can you tell from reading the previous paragraph I've been working on some grant-writing lately? And to keep up the spirit-less spirit of your typical grant, let's also remind readers of our "grading rubric" for these things.

Rating of 1-10, with 1 = to "Pauly Shore Movie" and 10 = "John Cazale Movie"

School 21. Taft Middle School: Rating: 2 "The Shining"

Here the rating of 2 doesn't correspond with Kubrick's film in quality. It's not the greatest Kubrick ever, but for a horror movie, "The Shining" does alright. I use the movie here because of the famous "redrum....redrum....redrum" incantation scene.

Think back to creepy kid who talks to his finger. Now instead of him gutterally bellowing "redrum....redrum...redrum..." imagine him saying to his finger "snoitavonnI lanoisseforP....snoitavonnI lanoisseforP...snoitavonnI lanoisseforP". Picture the words "snoitavonnI lanoisseforP" scrawled in blood red on a, in this case extremely large, wall. The camera swings violently to an equally gigantic mirror and after ten minutes of creepy kid intoning "snoitavonnI lanoisseforP" we see it....

Professional Innovations

The shrieking music climaxes, flash edits show dismembered little girls and blood-stained hotel walls. We cut to Jack Nicholson at a typewriter and know that all is lost.

The Taft Middle School website, like all the Professional Innovations sites I've seen so far, is just like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining": crazy, holding an axe and about to die from hypothermia in a frozen maze.

Okay, maybe that analogy is a bit over the top (like Nicholson's acting in "The Shining"). Suffice to say APS schools have not really utilized the "Professional Innovations" web template concept very well. Taft is an example of such under-utilization. It is no stretch to say the Taft website is like a frozen maze. One gets lost there. It is empty and foreboding. It is very cold. One may very well end up left icily glued to an axe if one visits this website.

Well, it could happen.

22. Taylor Middle School: Rating 5.5 "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou"

I am a big Wes Anderson fan. "Rushmore" is one of my favorite movies (maybe it's the whole school thing). At the same time, "Life Aquatic" isn't really that great of a film. It meanders, tries to do too much and is a bit of a mess, really. Still, there are certain small aspects that are so great.

The Portuguese folk stylings of David Bowie songs...great! The line where Angelica Huston tells Steve, the rest of the observation vessel and the audience "It is beautiful Steve"...fantastic! The obligatory Anderson slo-mo walkaway end credit roll while "Queen Bitch" wails...inspiring!

The Taylor MS website is like that. Overall it has some of the same problems we've seen at all APS websites: out-of-date information, long confusing linking patterns, dead links. But amid the dross are some really good things. I like that the Principal has a blog. In a sea of linkless staff, one teacher (who I do not know, btw) has a great, ambitious set of pages around literature and video.

And, in a very quirky, Wes Anderson sort of gesture, the main page has a link to the entire 2008-2009 Taylor MS budget. It's so divergent from the entire rest of the site in its thoroughness, the budget link is, if time is spent reading it, a maybe-too-personal peek into a school. It's like that nude scene thrown into the middle of another Wes Anderson mess/epic, "The Royal Tennebaums".

There are worse things, in my view, than being compared with Wes Anderson. Taylor MS...I think you have the highest rating I've given yet.

More reviews, eventually, to come next week. Have a good weekend, everybody.


Anonymous said...

Come on Scott, some of us who work at a certain school whose name begins with a V are waiting with baited breath for your insight as to what makes our web site tick, or maybe cockroach.

By the way I was warned that what ever is said at inservices while the big wigs are there, will be reported back to your principal. This takes the pal out of principal. It also reminds me of a German unit that started with a G.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scot. I've been reading your blog for some time now and I'm delighted to see that Taylor got a decent rating (relatively typing).

Mine is the website you mention as being "ambitious". ;o)

Thanks for putting such time and energy into this worthwhile endeavor. I've given this link to my principal (the one with the blog) and we're considering some improvements based on your observations.

Thanks again.
Tina D, Taylor MS

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