is evolving after a year of service. America Online’s free K-12 learning tool has teamed up with EdVISION Corp. to produce StateStandards for the online service. And plans for a Mac OS X version of the AOL@SCHOOL software is in the works, though it’s not expected until 2002.
AOL@SCHOOL is a free online learning service that America Online launched in May 2000. It’s designed to make the Internet a more effective part of the classroom experience, according to Dr. Terry Crane, vice president for AOL’s education products. The heart of AOL@SCHOOL is a series of six online learning portals designed for grades K-2, 3-5, middle school, high school, teachers and administrators. The student portals offer an environment in which students can access Web sites that have been selected by educators as the best content for their grade level.
The student portals provide a suite of functional online tools such as encyclopedias, dictionaries, a calculator and other research/collaboration tools. The portals for teachers and administrators provide professional development and administrative help and resources, as well as the ability to search for subject and age-specific lesson plans.
AOL@SCHOOL has two components. The online service itself, which is accessible from all Web browsers, and the software, which is cross platform.
“We’ll be offering a native Mac OS X next year,” Crane told MacCentral. “We offer new Mac and Windows versions as schools move en mass to a new operating system. We waited a while before offering a Windows 2000 version, which is the same thing we’re doing with Mac OS X.”
The agreement between AOL@SCHOOL and EdVISION gives an educator access to lesson plans based on state curriculum standards. Using StateStandards, teachers can now search curriculum standards documents for over 40 states from computers at home or school. Teachers who want to find lesson plans that are correlated to state standards can log on, choose the appropriate state document and specific objective, and access relevant lesson plans that are aligned to that skill.
Besides offering access to state documents and related lesson plans, StateStandards gives educators the chance to receive an e-mail when information for specific state changes, according to Bill Tudor, CEO of EdVISION. The company’s programs assist school districts in developing aligned curricula, designing classroom assessments, and identifying and tracking student ability in a variety of skill areas.
StateStandards is just one of the new additions to AOL@SCHOOL. Earlier this year, AOL announced a partnership with TestU, an online test preparation provider, to deliver free online SAT preparation courses. After the service was announced, over 3,000 high school students signed up for the free SAT course, Crane said.
Crane said that AOL@SCHOOL has had “tremendous growth” since its 2000 rollout. It’s “one of the fastest adoptions of technologies I’ve ever seen.” It’s now been officially endorsed in five states — Maryland, Florida, Virginia, Colorado and Pennsylvania. The five states have even worked with AOL@SCHOOL to implement their own, customized pop-up windows that provide information, among other things, on their states’ particular educational standards.
“We fit a niche,” Crane said. “Before AOL@SCHOOL, there was no interface to the Internet that was organized in a way that a teacher and student would use for educational purposes. We believe we have such an interface, one that makes sense of the way students and teachers would use it in class.”
Version 2.0 of the AOL@SCHOOL software is in the planning stage. AOL is taking the feedback they get from students and teachers and shaping the product based on that input and the requests they’ve received, Crane said.
“We’ll be adding more third party and hardware partners. Also, we’re looking at ways to add components for special functions, such as special education.”