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First Star URI RAM Academy

Friesem, J., Greene, K., Provorova, L., Tierney, T. & Hobbs, R.

A Report from the Media Education Lab




In July 2012, twenty-two students aged 14-16 from the foster care system in Rhode Island came

to the University of Rhode Island (URI) and worked with staff of the Media Education Lab to

deepen their media literacy and social media competencies as part of the First Star Academy.


In collaboration with the URI Division of Student Affairs and the Harrington School's Department of Communication Studies, we provided two credit-bearing courses on digital media focusing on social networks

and videography. In the Social Networks class, students learned to use three different social

networks (Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr) to communicate with each other and perform research

on any subject.


A significant amount of time was devoted to anti-bullying activities and

responsible use of the Internet. In the Videography class, students learned to critically analyze

and produce commercials and music videos; they worked collaboratively or individually to

create final projects of their choosing.


At the end of the program, students had created more than 30 short videos which were screened in a closing ceremony. Each student had also experienced writing an email, posting a comment, uploading a picture and conducting research on the web.


Today, the students continue to communicate through a secure Facebook group.

First Star and Adoption RI collaborated with the University of Rhode Island to develop this

program and a number of generous partners at the University of Rhode Island supported this

project including the Harrington School of Communication and Media, the Curriculum Materials

Library (CML), and Information Technology Services (ITS).


Success of the program can be seen in many different ways: the active Facebook group, the

telling content of the students’ videos, their critical media observations, and the students’ own

insightful course reflections. Participants in the program observed the profound and meaningful

experience the students underwent in the three weeks.


This report summarizes the experiences of the staff of the Media Education Lab who developed and implemented the courses. Jonathan Friesem, Kelsey Greene, Tim Tierney, Lisa Provorova and Dr. Renee Hobbs participated in the design, implementation and assessment of the program.

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