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Beware of Spyware How to stop the invisible network destroyer

March 2004

Beware of Spyware

 

Bits & Bytes

Problem/Solution

Beware of Spyware
How to stop the invisible network destroyer

When the Irving (TX) Independent School District gave laptops to 8,500 high school students last year, senior network administrator David Callahan knew he'd have a problem with spyware. Invisible pieces of code from various web sites that embed themselves into a computer's registry, spyware tracks students' surfing habits, and potentially their passwords and social security numbers. But even he has been amazed at its invasiveness. "So many sites secretly attach programs to your PC—programs you then don't know you have," says Callahan. When students take their laptops home, they're no longer protected by the school's firewall. Although Callahan relies on the students' judgment to stay off non-educational sites and not download MP3s, he knows that's unrealistic.

To protect the network, Callahan has installed Websense software on every laptop to prevent students from installing applications, launching executables, and modifying system settings. If spyware is downloaded, Websense prevents it from reporting surfing habits to marketers or slowing the computer down. Jason True, a security specialist with CDW-G, says that many schools mistakenly treat security as an afterthought.

"A school IT director's job is like fighting a 'cyberwar,'" he says. "You need a game plan and strategy to win."

Bits & Bytes
By Pamela Wheaton Shorr

Lights, Camera.
You might want to audition your school for a starring role in film or television. Ali Galedary, assistant principal at University High School in Los Angeles, has added as much as $25,000 a year to his bottom line this way, at a rate of $1,700 per day. That's to say nothing of some of the other perks involved: He scored $12,000 worth of graffiti-proof lunch tables from one shoot and says that, when crews disturb a class, they're pretty good about making a donation to a related school program. What's more, it can be a good opportunity for the students. Galedary says student reporters have interviewed Hilary Duff and Jim Carrey, and drama students observe on the set. You don't have to live in LA to get ready for your close-up. Call your state's film bureau to register your school, and express your interest to university film departments and local film, television, and production houses. For more information, check out the Association of Film Commissioners International at www.afci.org/index2.asp.

No Small Potatoes
In a move that may be a model for future state-centric data management, Idaho has signed a 10-year, $16.8 million deal with PLATO Learning to integrate the PLATO Orion Standards & Curriculum Integrator software and support services with the Idaho Student Information Management System (ISIMS). ISIMS provides a student information system, data analysis, curriculum management, and reporting across the state, and it serves more than 250,000 students and 17,000 educators. According to John Super, vice president of strategic and business development for PLATO Learning, the movement away from district-by-district solutions and toward large systems is well underway across the country. He says that a conservative estimate suggests that, by using the statewide system, Idaho will spend only a tenth of what many communities are spending .

Music to Schools' Ears
GarageBand, the $49 music product that's part of a suite of Mac-only iLife applications, is getting lots of press because it's inexpensive and easy to use. But Paul Fletcher, technology director at Marcus Whitman School District in Rushville, New York, says there are already a lot of other electronic music products available. His students have been using Fruityloops, the top-rated electronic music creation software in Europe, as well as Steinberg, Propellerhead's Reason, and a host of others. "The new Apple products are great for bringing wider awareness to schools," he says. "But there's a difference between sitting down to do music and sitting down to master the technology required in electronic composition—and a lot of music teachers just aren't there." So how to get these teachers to, as Apple might say, "think different?" Technology consultant and author David F. Warlick uses several electronic music products but is planning to experiment with GarageBand. It may be that the best school application for GarageBand is to teach the teachers themselves just how much fun it can be. Find out more at www.apple.com.

Camphones Banned in Montana Locker Rooms
The Montana High School Association (MHSA) recently sent a letter to its 183 member schools strongly recommend-ing that they ban camera phones in school locker rooms. "We thought this was the best way to handle it, rather than mandating it," explains Jim Haugen, executive director of the MHSA and president of the National Federation of State High School Associations. Haugen says that Montana is trying to avoid litigation and that schools around the state have been coming up with their own policies and solutions to keep the picture phones out. "It really is a privacy issue," Haugen explains, "and really, there's no need for them in the locker room in the first place."


Pamela Wheaton Shorr is editor of the Heller Reports' Educational Sales and Marketing Insider, and is a frequent contributor to Scholastic Administr@tor.

PROBLEM/SOLUTION
How can districts connect students with mentors?

Solution #1: Participate in an online mentoring program.
We created an online mentoring program with the Jacksonville Regional Chamber of Commerce. Thirty-five students spent about 10 minutes each week on a classroom PC e-mailing their mentors. We wanted the mentors to be able to give something on their terms, and they felt valued because they were making an individual impact. The students saw this interaction as a terrific networking and learning experience from which they can benefit long term.
Chris Force, director of the Academy of Finance, Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, FL. For details on how this program got started, contact paula.chaon@myjaxchamber.com.

As new immigrants, our students don't have the social networks Americans take for granted, and few of their parents are high school graduates. iMentor matches young people from underserved communi-ties in New York City with adult volunteers. The iMentors provide patterns of success for our students to emulate and, through e-mail, provide much needed advice on how to get from point A to point B.
—Ben Sherman, ESL teacher, Lower East Side Preparatory, NY, NY. Imentor (www.imentor.org) works with young people from underserved communities in New York City.

Solution #2: Buy an e-mentoring program.
Discipline rarely leads to a student's internal motivation to change the behavior. We brought MindOH!—a web-based series of interactive modules guided by mentors that teach problem-solving and communication skills—into our discipline process. I expect it will help our students realize that they can indeed change their behavior in a positive direction.
—Dr. Kelly Trlica, principal, Galveston Ball High School in Galveston, TX. MindOH! (www.mindoh.com) is a web-based series of interactive computer modules guided by mentors that teach problem-solving and communication skills. Price: $6,250 for a site license.

To learn how to start your own mentoring program, visit the National Mentoring Partnership at www.mentoring.org.

 

PROBLEM/SOLUTION: What is the most creative way your school or district has raised funds? Share your secrets with us at letters@scholastic.com.

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