With the explosion of instant messaging (IM) as an alternative to eMail, school technologists foresee a number of educational applications for IM designed to give computer users simple, immediate access to a wide range of information—from homework help to what's on the school lunch menu.

About 61 million people, or roughly half the online population, use instant messaging, according to research firm Jupiter Media Metrix. Teens in particular have joined IM networks, prizing the ability to engage in flurries of instantaneous conversation with a selected list of online friends.

Now,

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