FIZZ Intros Private 'YouTube' for Classes

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A team of researchers at North Carolina State University has created a suite of tools that it's selling to help teachers implement "safe" Web 2.0 environments in the classroom. Lodge McCammon and his team at NC State's Friday Institute for Educational Innovation have developed FIZZ, which is being used in 35 K-12 schools over seven North Carolina counties. The tools give teachers a private YouTube-like site for each school. Through the FIZZ Web site, teaching, and learning outcomes can be broadcast over the Internet to increase student engagement and achievement, while still allowing school administrators to control the Web site's content.

"There have been discussions about this for years now," said McCammon, specialist of curriculum and contemporary media at NC State. "A group of teachers and administrators sit around and talk about how to use these digital tools as a teaching device, but most get so frustrated with its limitations, such as lack of security and ample inappropriate content, that they end up tabling the discussion... over and over."

According to McCammon, with FIZZ teachers can film students in the classroom reciting poetry or they can work on a music video teaching a physics concept, and put it on the school's private FIZZ site where students can go look at it from home--and show their classmates and family. "People love looking at themselves in pictures and on film," he said. "With FIZZ, students go home and watch these educational videos of themselves, their teachers, and friends over and over, therefore reinforcing educational material in a way that engages them."

The FIZZ environment consists of two Flip video cameras, a custom video sharing site, 20 preinstalled blogs, and a day of training for two teachers. Pricing starts at $1,500 if training is done at The Friday Institute. The cost is $2,000 for on-site training.

Shortly, said McCammon, the institute will be launching a contest for North Carolina schools, based on curriculum songs he has created that can be downloaded free from his blog, where participants will be able to win FIZZ packages.

Jamie Hall, a math and science teacher at Centennial Campus Middle School in Raleigh, has seen the impact on his students. "My students really enjoy using FIZZ and being able to make their own videos and work with classmates to make videos for our school's FIZZ site," he said. "Parents enjoy it too. It gives them a window into their child's world--they get to see what their kids work on at school, and their kids are proud to show it to them."

Helping students solve math problems or learn Civil War facts is an important part of this program, explained McCammon. But there's another component--teaching students appropriate ways to use Web tools.

"Students are getting mixed messages about how to use sites like Facebook and YouTube. At their schools, these sites are banned, giving students the impression that the sites are inappropriate," said McCammon. "But then they go home and their parents tell them they can use the sites, but maybe for only 30 minutes a day. No one is really giving them guidance on how to use these tools in an appropriate manner. They don't fully realize that once they put content online, it is out there forever and they can't take it back."

McCammon said he hopes using FIZZ will teach children how to use Web 2.0 tools in a productive and appropriate manner.

"Facebook and YouTube aren't going away. If anything, more and more sites like these will be popping up," said McCammon. "If we can work with students at a young age, to teach them how to use these great, informational tools in an appropriate way, then we're doing an even better job of preparing them for living and working in the 21st century."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a writer who covers technology and business for a number of publications. Contact her at dian@dischaffhauser.com.

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