NBC launches 'social education' site iCue

NBC News' educational arm NBC Learn has launched iCue: part social network, part news source for students age 13 and up, built upon NBC's vast video news archive.

iCue's learning environment is based on a concept called CueCards, which are video clips and related news stories fashioned into virtual trading cards. The content of these will focus on US history, government, and politics, as well as English language study and composition. CueCards can be collected, annotated, traded, indexed, and even integrated into games.

The collaborative learning platform was developed based on research from MIT's Education Arcade group, which continues to monitor iCue's usage in an ongoing study that users can opt into. MIT Comparative Media Studies will watch how the site is used to learn how to build a better learning environment for modern classrooms.

The "21st Century Classroom" is a major interest for NBC news, which in 2007 launched Archives on Demand --current and historic digital videos teachers can use for instructional purposes -- which are available through a partnership with HotChalk, a library of teacher-contributed lesson plans and digital content for instructional usage, and Alloy Media's ChannelOne, the 12-minute daily TV show, which has been available since 1989 to nearly 6 million middle- and high-school students in 8,000 schools.

Both of these properties "give NBC News a chance to explore how a new generation of viewers consume news," said NBC News VP of strategic initiatives Lynne Pitts last year.

Initially reported by The New York Times to have cost nearly $10 million to develop, estimates of iCue's pricetag creeped up to around $15 million in February of this year. The site will remain free, but "NBC News may develop additional products or services for education, and some of them may have subscription costs. But all of the things you see on iCue today will remain free for our community," says the site's FAQ.

There are currently no advertisements on the site, but early plans entailed only having advertisements appear on the site during after-school hours.

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