AOL launches gated garden for K-12

StudyBuddy prescreens sites to be safe and relevant to student searchers.

AOL thinks it has an answer to parents' worries over their kids having open access to all thing good and evil on the Interent— StudyBuddy. In launching the new student-oriented browser, reports AP, AOL hopes that kids will use the free site for homework resources.

StudyBuddy users can target their choices to their grade level. AOL says its search engine is pre-screened to only include sites prescreened by teachers and librarians.

June Herold, AOL's vice president for education and consumer services, said AOL developed StudyBuddy because parents often complained that other search engines were too broad for most homework-related research. StudyBuddy has about a million handpicked sites from the Internet.

StudyBuddy is among the latest of AOL's efforts to boost advertising dollars through free services. The site, however, carries fewer ads than most other AOL sites, and none on the home page.

When we reported on this a few weeks ago, we noted:

Search results include encyclopedia entries, newspaper articles, book content, audio and video clips, photos and maps and regular Web pages. Students can narrow the list of results by specifying they want to only see those appropriate for a specific grade level: kindergarten through second grade; third to fifth grade; sixth through eighth grade; and high school.

The site also offers students online folders it calls "backpacks" (cute, huh?) where students store information and share it with others.

The problem with AOL-type resources is that they may be too cleaned up, too encyclopedic. Will StudyBuddy include Wikipedia? Will it include the obsessed, deep-drill-down sites that make the Web what it is and not what AOL is?

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