Trend Watch(14)

File Sharing for Fun and Profit

"How many hours have you spent doing work that you aren't being paid for?" asks the Web site, whose new Einstein file sharing program is sure to raise ire in the education community. Primarily designed to allow high school and college students to share homework and papers, the program includes e-commerce tools so users can charge for the schoolwork they provide. This'll be one to keep an eye on.

Meanwhile, if your knowledge of file sharing is limited to news reports about Napster, you should check out Steal This File Sharing Book, an irreverent explanation of the history, present, and future of digital content trading. Definitely for adults only (several chapters discuss methods for finding and downloading illegal and inappropriate content), the book is nevertheless an informative overview of the tools and rationale for legally sharing files over the Internet.

Quotation of the Month

"There's this sort of bizarre belief that computers cast a spell over students and teachers and schools. Can you imagine what would happen if you had the same in business, asking if computers were interfering with performance? It would be a big joke."

-Christopher Dede, professor, Harvard Graduate School of Education, quoted in The Christian Science Monitor. Dede was referring to a recent University of Munich study that found computer overuse could have a negative effect on academic performance.

Who Is Margaret Spellings?

"Low-key" and "pragmatic" are how some colleagues of Margaret Spellings describe the incoming Secretary of Education. The 46-year-old Spellings, who at press time looked as though she will sail through the confirmation process, is a real insider. She helped President Bush develop Texas education policy in his governor days and later served as his domestic policy advisor in the White House, playing a key role in the creation of No Child Left Behind. And Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy says she's "a capable, principled leader who has the ear of the president and has earned strong bipartisan respect in Congress."Karl Rove once called her "the most influential woman in Washington that you've never heard of." We doubt she'll ever be described that way again.

Removing Adware and Spyware's IT Guy tackles the annoying-and potentially costly-trend of unwanted software installations.

Question: How can I get rid of the extra search bar that now appears in every Internet Explorer window? My computer seems to be running slower since it appeared.

IT Guy: It sounds like you have some type of adware or spyware installed on your computer. By keeping your antivirus program definitions up to date and running regular virus scans, you can prevent the installation of some of these insidious programs that can slow down your computer. However, not all adware and spyware can be removed with antivirus programs.

It's always good to check with your own district IT department before downloading and installing new software on your classroom computer. Spyware and adware removal utilities abound on the Internet, including some good, free software options. One way to find the most popular free tools is to visit CNET and click "Downloads," then search for "spyware" and click the "Total" link in the "Downloads" column.

Ad-Aware SE Personal Edition is one of the most popular and free spyware-removal tools for Windows-based computers. You can learn more at the Ad-Aware site. Download, install, update, and run this program to locate and remove many different types of spyware and adware from your personal computer.
- Wesley Fryer

Quick Stat

48 percent of system administrators spend on average more than 20 minutes per system removing unwelcome spyware, according to a W2Knews reader survey.

Coming soon to the pages of Technology & Learning: more IT Guy columns.

A Federal Question

Amid the recent E-rate woes, we asked readers a fundamental question: are the feds ultimately responsible for providing Internet access to schools? 55 percent of respondents to our online QuickPoll said yes, while 45 percent disagreed. Here are some selected comments.

In Favor:
"The federal government is the only entity that can ensure equal access nationwide. The issue is no different than any other civil rights issue..."

"If the federal government wants to hold us all accountable for educating our students, then we must have equity across the board and that includes technology issues."

"E-rate has always been a red tape disaster. If simple block grants to states were used, the money would be distributed much more efficiently, and I think there would be less fraud."

"This is the role of the local school. This is one of the local control ideals that Republicans don't seem to want to put into practice."

Gender Matters

A new Department of Education study reports that girls are just as likely as boys to use computers at school and at home. When it comes to formal knowledge of IT, however, boys still have the edge — and apparently — more interest. 86 percent of students who took the Advanced Placement exam for computer science in 2002 were male, and on average, males scored higher than females on the test.