Mac Happens

Preview: AOL@school

April 11, 2000 - Evan Kleiman

There is only one internet consumer that AOL doesn't have a monopoly on - America's schools.

Well, not anymore. AOL will be soon releasing a new version of their software specifically for schools called AOL@school. As one of AOL's "valued" beta testers, I was able to get ahold of a prerelease version of this software.

After downloading the 2-point-something megabyte file, I started the program, and boy was I shocked. AOL@school was pretty much nothing but a slimmed down version of AOL targeted at schools.

This program's interface looks quite similar to AOL 4.0 and 5.0, however in a much more "kid safe" way. There is no way to send or receive instant messages, no way to go into anything but AOL@school's predetermined keywords, no profiles, no internet, just learning.

AOL@school is pretty much just a filtered internet portal. In fact, you can't even dial into the Net with it! You need an existing TCP/IP service to get on. Once you are on, you can visit a variety of AOL@school's learning based web pages and keywords (and nothing else).

Also, you can send limited emails. Sending regular plain text emails is allowed; however, embedded pictures are blocked by this program. Also, the filing cabinet feature is nonexistent in this version.

Usually, I don't like to give bad reviews. However, this program isn't really worth it. A price hasn't been determined yet, but it seems like schools would be much better off with a plain TCP/IP connection and some subscriptions to learning based Internet services.

However, in the end, I believe that AOL@school could have some potential if it is improved before its release to the public. Maybe some better services for kids (like homework help and access to more computerized books than are already available).

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