AOL Goes to School

America Online Inc. Wednesday ushered in
a teaching tool designed to provide
state-of-the-art communications features for K-12 schools.

Dubbed [email protected], the comprehensive online program offers a variety of age-appropriate
educational content, as well as teacher and administrator resources all
accessible from any existing Internet connection.

The [email protected] portal is available at no cost to all interested K-12
schools, since most schools already have Internet access through local
service providers.

Internet enabled schools can install the free software on computers and
register each student with individual screen names and passwords. When
students sign on to the Web, they will be taken directly to specially
designed portals for K-2, 3-5, middle school, or high school.

Students registered with the [email protected] program have access to e-mail,
instant messaging, and chat capabilities at the discretion of school
officials. Teachers and administrators get access to Web content in
compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, a law crafted
to restrict Web sites from collecting individually identifiable information
from kids under 13 years of age, without first obtaining parental consent.

Steve Case, AOL chairman and chief executive officer,
said the governments have made Internet access at schools a priority, now
AOL is providing a virtual safe haven for U.S. educational Web content.

“AOL’s commitment to building a medium we can all be proud of must include
a strong commitment to making the online world an effective part of our
children’s education,” Case said. “Getting schools hooked up to the
Internet has been an important national priority, now it’s time to help
them make the most of this technology to help students learn more.”

Industry analysts view AOL’s move into the nation’s classrooms as a virtual
coup de grace capable of instilling brand loyalty in K-12 students.

Homework helper sites have been popular with online students since their
inception, but the educational program is an entirely new breed of
AOL-branded Web entities capable of gathering generations of new customers
inexpensively for the nation’s largest interactive service provider.

Although the [email protected] program possesses the capacity to tap into a
national captive audience, the student-side of the Web portal does not
contain any advertising or e-commerce components. However, the teacher and
administrator portals will provide opportunities for purchasing school
supplies and other related items and represents a potential major
e-commerce initiative for America Online.

America Online developed its educational programs in conjunction with
parents and teachers, and has obtained approval from the American Association of School
Administrators
, National Association of
Secondary School Principals
, and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum
Development.

National Center for Education Statistics
research reports that 95 percent U.S. schools are connected to the
Internet, but only 20 percent of U.S. teachers believe they are
well-prepared to integrate educational technology into classroom
instruction. More than 79 percent of teachers said that they do not get
enough help using technology in the classroom.

The [email protected] program provides student portals that have been chosen by
educators as the best educational content for that grade level, making it
easier for teachers to get to know the Net.

AOL’s Web collections include access to many of the world’s great museums
and libraries, as well as education-specific destination sites and content
from leading textboo

k publishers. Additionally, the student portals provide
a suite of functional online tools with access to encyclopedias,
dictionaries, and calculators.

U.S. Secretary of Education Richard W.
Riley applauded AOL’s educational initiative as an essential ingredient for
the nation’s students and teachers alike.

“Support from businesses like AOL is so important for the success of the
President’s national effort to close the digital divide and open up our
classrooms to the world through computers and the Internet,” Riley said.
“Technology can be an effective learning tool for students and can provide
the experiences necessary for them to compete in the future.”

While the Internet contains a great deal of educational content and an
non-educational destination sites, teachers need a significant degree of
online savvy and time in order to find, assess, and prepare lessons around
Web content while ensuring that students do not have access to
inappropriate or harmful material.

Terry Crane, AOL vice president for education products, said teachers need
an effective way to put the Internet’s resources to work in the classroom
and [email protected] makes it easy for them to tap into Web resources.

“We took what educators told us was the best educational content available,
and added AOL’s unmatched expertise at making the Internet easy-to-use and
convenient to create a tool that’s really going to make a difference to
both students and their teachers,” Crane said.

Each of the six [email protected] portals links to educational Web sites
appropriate for specific age groups. Sites selection criteria included over
all content quality, enhancement of critical thinking, ability to engage
students in the learning process, and credibility.

The service is a closed Web environment that only connects students and
teachers to approved Web sites. AOL has applied filtering technology based
on its public portal’s parental control features. Even the [email protected]
search engine filters through a separate list of sites that are recommended
for educators.

Gerald Tirozzi, National Association of Secondary School Principals
executive director said the AOL educational program bridges the gap between
students already familiar with Net content and teachers struggling to
catch-up with online technology.

“Across the country, schools have struggled with the question of how to
make the most of their Internet connections,” Tirozzi said. “By providing
reliable, safe educational content in an easy to use format, [email protected]
provides tremendous help in answering that question.”

Schools wishing to use [email protected] will be given software to load onto their
computers and instructions on how to register each student for his or her
own account and password, allowing school administrators to control each
student’s access to e-mail, chat, and instant messaging.

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