Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Reviewing APS Middle School Websites: Volume VIII, Let's All Hum Europe's "The Final Countdown"

If all good things must come to an end, really bad things must really come to an end. Like immediately.

And so it is with our reviewing of APS middle school websites. What began as a simple, and simplistic, attempt to make a point has taken on a rather dark and lengthy life of its own. Yes, I knew there were 27 APS middle schools going into this thing. But little did I know that going to these 27 sites would be so psychologically damaging. So soul-crushing.

Long distance runners speak of "hitting the wall". Well, I hit the wall here about 20 schools ago. Ever since roughly John Adams MS it's been a slog of ultra-marathon proportions. I need a website PowerBar....I need some fluids....I need to see a finish line.

And there it is, shimmering before us. The end. Let's "break the tape" on this thing. Let's "kick", go slam some oranges and get a massage.

For those who haven't paced me during this shindig, it's a simple 1 - 10 rating scale, with:

1 = bonking to the point of bodily evacuations and collapse upon the roadway

10 = overtaking the Kenyan contingent and winning the NYC Marathon

26. Washington Middle School. Rating: 1.5

I seriously feel like Krusty the Clown at this point. "Oh buddy. This I don't need." Yes, at this point in the reviewing process I feel like a misanthropic clown with a heart condition. But we move past this first "gut" reaction to the WMS homepage and move onward.

The Washington MS site has some stuff on the homepage. A declaration about its "Dual Language" school status, which is cool. A link to the "Dress Code" and a "Supply List". Fine. An announcement about a flamenco program. Interesting.

And then you have some links to some other internal pages, and that's where things go wrong. Just as is the case at pretty much all the other middle school websites. A few links ("teacher resources" for instance) have at least some information on them, but others, like the faculty and class pages, are almost entirely bereft.

Sitting lonely as the world's last passenger pigeon perches the class webpage for a Mr. Mulder, 7th Grade Science teacher. I would personally like to applaud Mr. Mulder for being the ONLY teacher with a class webpage at WMS. I acknowledge him for several reasons, not the least of which is the almost certain fact somebody (or more than one somebody) at his school has asked him "why would you want to have a class webpage?"

Mr. Mulder, I humbly and sincerely honor you as someone willing to stand alone on the frozen field of website notoriety. I looked at your website, Mr. Mulder, learned your first name is Don and that you served in the Air Force and Navy. Learning such things reminded me that it would be nice to know a little more about your many colleagues at WMS. Like their names. Or their email addresses. Anything.

27. Wilson Middle School. Rating: 1

Only fitting we end up at another "Professional Innovations" website. Other than noting that the few staff members who have webpages at Wilson have bizarre non-functioning links to MSN and Yahoo pages, I think I'll just dispense with the usual tirade against "Professional Innovations" and make a few closing comments.

Closing (Finally...Yeah!!!!!) Comments:
  • By the way, Wilson's website is lousy, too.
  • Readers will have noticed I tend to focus on the class/faculty/staff pages at these websites. Why? Well, it's not because I'm trying for a "gotcha", making fun of these places in a vulnerable area. I know staff turnover is high, and that keeping up-to-date with the many changes is difficult. But not EVERY SINGLE STAFFMEMBER is replaced every school year. Plenty of middle school teachers stay at the same place for 15, 20, 25 years. Yet, still nothing or a frustratingly close next-to-nothing from many of them. Why?
  • And don't give me that "well, our kids and their parents are poor and can't afford the Internet". That act is tired. I don't have a number in front of me, but the percentage of internet-connected homes is much, much higher than when many of these websites were last updated.
  • And I know the demands of teaching and administration make little things like updating a webpage seem inconsequential. I know. I'm a teacher.
  • And I know school "technology coordinators" are very busy people, with little time for website update.
  • But those are poor reasons to have websites last updated in 2007.
  • And yes, having an updated website IS important. Really. I know it wasn't that important in the days of Geocities vanity webpages and Mosaic 2.0.
  • But...well...you, dear reader, are on the Internet...you know.
  • But somehow these schools DON'T KNOW. And one thing they don't know is that they have all these 8th grade kids just sitting around as "classroom aides" who would LOVE to update some webpages. That some geeky staffmembers would be thrilled to have updated pages if only someone would tell them how to connect to the school website. That there are millions of website creation tools infinitely better than "Professional Innovations" that wouldn't cost anybody anything to use.
Alright. I'm finally done. Time to go to school 90 seconds early and update my class webpage. Thanks for sticking this ultra-marathon out, dear reader. I don't know if all of this has/will have a pimple on a butt's worth of impact on anything, but perhaps a point has been made. And remade and remade and remade and....


Steve Brügge said...

A very few of us do have updated and functional web pages:


Your fan,

Steve Brügge

Natalie said...

...and remade and remade... ad nauseum...

Steve is the one teacher/master updater who commented on my posts about this. His schools' web pages are updated and look pretty darned good.

Thank your lucky stars you didn't try to do this with the elementary schools. It would take the entire school year to review those.
Reviewing the high school websites is interesting... in case you get bored (as if) because the smatterings of updates almost make it seem like a carnival. Up.... Down.... Up.... Down...

Thanks for all you do and did and made do. It is important work.

Now, if only APS would read this stuff and take heed. Do you have stat counter? If not, you need it. *wink* That's a-l-w-a-y-s fun to see who visit and when. I always figured if someone has the time to surf the web and read my blog, they sure as hell have the time to update their ol' website, que' no?

We took our fifth grader out of APS (long story about bullying, inept principal, abusive parent/kid, and teacher with no skills) and he now goes to Catholic school. I shuddered to think because, I, too, went to Catholic school and, well, yowzer! His teacher emails us daily with lessons/homework/news. It's always quite succinct and I'd like to think it only took her ten minutes 'cause she's got it goin' on. He's gone from a "C" student to an "A" student according to the email reports and his progress report we just received today. I'd like to think these positive directions are the direct result of good communication ('cause that's my spiel) and he could never get away with not completing his homework, etc...

I wish that for you and every other APS educator: improved, sustained communication that is rendered from the availability of computers, time to do it, and that 10% of parents who actually give a rat's a**.

Good luck, scot, and goodonya, man!

jscotkey said...

Steve: Sorry I missed your site/page at EMS. And now having looked at it, it's the exactly the kind of site/page I'd like to see everywhere. Do you any ideas on how we can "spread the word" without having to talk to a bunch of burn-outs who will never use it or anything else?

Looking back over it, my take on EMS kinda got bogged down on the whole Professional Innovations thing. My last point about "PI"...that faculty page with the drop down listing of all those departments...is death.

Natalie: Thanks. I truly think a complete Elementary review would have killed me. Literally. I may do a look at high schools at some point in the future, but not before I spend significant time recovering vital electrolytes and such sucked out of me with this middle school thing.

And sorry to hear about the APS thing with your fifth grader. Oh well...

Abuelita2 said...

Oh, well, I'm going to be a pain in the butt. For many reason: I'm "old." I live many decades ago, and experienced life then, etc., etc. I stand (sit) here, like a volunteer at a carnival dunk the person booth. Hit me with what you've got. Oh, dear, I'm going to sound like an old fogey. So be it.

Why do we need web pages? We used to communicate even better before without them.....???

Just asking.

jscotkey said...

Abuelita: No "pain in the butt" at all. I feel a website/page should just be part of a delicious marketing breakfast for a teacher, and is not the end-all answer.

Combined with email contacts, face-to-face talks and the occasional official PT conference and "open house", a webpage can be the orange juice to the email toast and face-to-face eggs and bacon.

You'll note I left off the whole phone thing. The phone is the weakest link in the APS communication chain...and I don't mind that at all, personally. I don't have a phone in my room...nobody at my school has a phone in their room (except for the BD teacher), and with all the above rockin' there's no reason to have one, imho.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Anonymous said...

thanks Scot - I loved your website reviews! good stuff!

SydTheSkeptic said...

Your pain was truly our gain.
Thanks for all the work and time you put into it.