America Online Launches Back to School@Aol: A One-Stop Online Resource for Parents, Students and Educators

August 25, 1998

America Online Helps Parents and Teachers Around the Country to Get Their Schools "Connected" With Free Customized School Web Sites Fostering Communication Between Parents and Educators Dulles, VA, August 25, 1998 -- In an effort to raise awareness among parents and teachers about the availability of free customized Web sites to every school in the country, America Online today kicked off the "Sign Up Your School" campaign with the FamilyEducation Network. The campaign, a key element of "Back to School@AOL," is designed to tap the potential of the Internet to play a more central role in education through improving local parent - teacher communication. The AOL-FEN Sign Up Your School campaign begins today and runs through October 31, 1998. Parents or teachers who are interested in the Sign Up Your School program can get more information by going to AOL Keywords: FEN or Education, by going directly to FEN's Web site (http://familyeducation.com), or by calling FEN at 1-888-881-3472. As schools sign up to establish their free Web sites, the school names (as well as the names of the parent supporters) will be entered into a drawing to win one of 150 free AOL accounts for a year. In addition, every school signing up with FEN during this back to school season will receive a video with important information about Internet safety for children. Rated the "world's best parenting Web site" by Family PC magazine, the FamilyEducation Network has built a network of Web sites for schools throughout the country. These Web sites allow parents to communicate directly with their child's teacher through e-mail and chat enabling much more regular contact between the key figures in a child's education as well as providing valuable information for parents like school event listings, activities and PTA meeting notes. "We know that parental involvement is the biggest factor in the academic success of a child," said Steve Case, Chairman and CEO of America Online, Inc. "We want to move parent-teacher communications into the 21st century by enabling an easy and convenient dialogue over the Internet instead of through the more traditional routes of notes pinned to coats or tucked in backpacks. Today we invite every school district in the nation to take advantage of this free resource and get connected." "Sign Up Your School is a unique partnership between FamilyEducation Network and America Online," said Jonathan Carson, President and Co-Founder of FEN. "We are striving to foster increased parent/school community through the use of the Web. This campaign is founded on the premise that communication between parents and schools can be greatly enhanced by harnessing the power of the Internet." America Online entered into a partnership with the FamilyEducation Network in April 1998. In addition to carrying the award-winning content and educational resources of the FamilyEducation Network on AOL's Families and Research & Learn channels, each school participating in the FamilyEducation Network will be assigned an AOL Keyword to allow AOL users to navigate directly to a specific school's site. Participating schools in the FEN network will also take advantage of AOL's Instant Messaging technology which enables real-time private communication between Internet users - a resource that is well-suited to communications between parents and teachers. In just over 12 months, 335 school districts - representing a total of 2,855 schools - have signed onto the FamilyEducation Network's initiative. FEN has built a unique public/private alliance with the leading grass roots education organizations including the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), the National PTA, and the National School Boards Association (NSBA). Through private sector partners like AT&T Learning Network, Fleet Financial Group and Scott Foresman-Addison Wesley, the company provides its program at no cost to school districts. Back To School@AOL Launches In launching Back To School@AOL [Keyword: Back To School], America Online has created the world's largest online resource for parents and kids going back to school. Back To School@AOL is one the most popular programming sites on America Online, offering homework help, advice for parents, college preparation resources, Fall fashion tips, and continuing education information. The Back To School area also offers members access to the content and educational resources of the FamilyEducation Network. "More than 43% of the more than 12.5 million households in the AOL community have children ages 6-17, so back to school is a busy time for many of our members," Barry Schuler, President, AOL Interactive Services. "Many of these members rely on AOL's Back to School area - for example our AOL homework helpers answer more than 1 million questions per week - because we provide the easiest-to-use and most comprehensive educational resource and community in cyberspace. "In addition, our partnership with FEN facilitates communication between parents and teachers, enabling an open dialogue that allows parents to take a more proactive role in their child's education," added Schuler. Back to School@AOL Back To School@AOL is divided into five categories: Homework Help, Parents' Guide, College Preparation, Back To School Shopping and Continuing Education. Specifically: Homework Help features Ask A Teacher, where kids can e-mail teachers questions regarding their homework. AOL Homework helpers provide more than a million individualized responses to homework questions each week. Parents and kids also have access to Compton and Columbia Concise Encyclopedias, an online research library, dictionaries and a thesaurus. Parents' Guide offers advice from the FamilyEducation Network on how to prepare your kids for the school year, parental involvement in children's school experience, school safety and children's learning styles. FEN also sponsors the "Electric Library@AOL" and "Hometown Hero" sweepstakes. If users sign-up for a trial membership to Electric Library, the Internet's premiere online resource library, they are eligible to win $3,000 or one of 50 annual Electronic Library subscriptions. Parents and children can also be a "Hometown Hero" by entering a sweepstakes to win $10,000 worth of computer equipment and $2,500 computer for their home. College Preparation & Applications provides access to Peterson's Guide to Colleges so parents and teens can determine what college is best for them here and abroad. There are also SAT tips, practice tests and registration and test dates. Scholarship and grant information is also available and users can even apply to more than 1,000 colleges online. Back To School Shopping offers an easy way for AOL members to purchase the essentials for the back to school season including, sporting goods & active wear, apparel & accessories, books, music & videos and electronic & computer goods. Continuing Education provides valuable information to adults who are considering going back to school. Adults can register for credit or non-credit courses online and take free computing tutorials. Peterson's Guide to Graduate Schools is also available, as well as financial aid and entrance exam information. Other well-known AOL partners, including Teen People, Blackberry Creek, Nickelodeon and MaMaMedia, contribute a variety of educational content and activities for parents and kids of all ages including: "School Style Gallery," "Ask Stylegrrl" and "Sari's Back-To-School Advice" are all part of Teen People Online's area devoted entirely to Back to School. "School Style Gallery" displays teens across the country in their ideal back to school wardrobes based on online surveys. "Ask Stylegrrl" is an online fashion guru who answers fashion questions and solves crises. Plus, "Sari's Back-To-School Advice" counsels teens on dating and relationships. Blackberry Creek offers kids an opportunity to share their school experiences by submitting poetry and short stories on back to school topics like "what if there were no school," "best friends" and "my teacher's the best." Kids can also send in artwork depicting their new friends and teachers at school. Today's Topic message board provides further opportunities to express opinions about going to a new school, home schooling, friends in class and school fashion. "Back to School Fashion Accessories," featured on Nickelodeon Online, includes a questionnaire asking kids to choose which supplies they "must have" to go back to school. The supplies they choose determine their personality and prompt participants to download an item that fits their personality -- an apple for the teacher's pet or a tiara for a homecoming queen.

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