Free Gateways to Online Education

America Online is offering a free service that provides online learning environments to schools. AOL@SCHOOL, developed in conjunction with the American Association of School Administrators, provides specialized portals that connect students to sites chosen by experts for their superior educational content. The portals link only to sites that focus on learning, rather than "edutainment." Such sites include Compton's Encyclopedia, the Smithsonian Institution and the New York Times Learning Network.

The portals are divided into six categories: K-2, 3-5, middle school, high school, teachers, and administrators. AOL@SCHOOL also contains a special search engine that for each query returns a list of links from sites that have been approved and recommended for students. The search engine automatically screens out inappropriate content. School officials can control access to communications features such as e-mail, messaging and chat.

The teacher and administrator portals offer sample lesson plans, grant and award applications, education publications, and other professional development resources. The service can be used with any existing Internet connection, from any computer, and requires no special software. The education portals will be sponsored by companies, but no direct marketing will appear onscreen. America Online, Dulles, VA, (888) 468-3768,

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/2000 issue of THE Journal.