Academic Research

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How could educational media be more inclusive? My scholarship explores the practices of media education to implement diversity, equity, and inclusion using media production for social change to reach all learners, especially kids and youth who are coming from historically disadvantaged backgrounds such as low socio-economic status, neurodivergent, first generation college students, racial minority students, students who identify as LGBTQA+, and students with disabilities. I am interested in examining the affordances and challenges of human empathic development through the creative process of media production. My research delves into the social and emotional learning (SEL) as part of the power struggle of learners and educators, cultivation of trust, fostering agency, and practicing empathic communication—all as part of the media production process. Mainly studying children, youth, and young adults, I apply qualitative methods to deepen our understanding of the production processes of educational media and its impact on young learners and educators.

A. Social-Emotional Learning and Media

It’s all about control: how giving kids control over access, content, and format of their media production advances social and emotional learning

While the literature on kids’ media practices has grown, few studies connect this knowledge with media pedagogy and children’s emotional learning. This case study of four third grade students in a social intervention program explores the process in which they gained control over access, content, and form of their intervention by creating animated videos of positive behavior reinforcement. The author used narrative analysis to examine a journey of a speech pathologist and a school psychologist who were learning to produce media together with their four students. The process of trial and error included four stages for the interventionists: high freedom, high control, challenge, and structured freedom. This case study sheds a light on how the pedagogy of media production using structured freedom can improve self-reflection and self-efficacy of young students, especially those with emotional and behavioral disorders (EBD). The results show the process of creating a potential space (Winnicott, 1971) while producing media via mobile devices that became a transitional object, enhancing students’ ability to reflect on their own feelings and conduct.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2020). It’s all about control: How giving kids control over access, content, and format of their media production advances social and emotional learning. Media Practice and Education, 21(4), 261-274.

Tuned in: the importance of peer feedback with foster youth creating media

This longitudinal qualitative research explores the benefits and challenges of using positive peer feedback with a group of foster adolescents during a summer academy at a Northeastern university. In addition, the authors, who taught the class for four years between 2012–2015 reflect on their experience using the structured feedback as a tool in their digital and media literacy class. The paper describes how the instructors addressed challenges revolving around students’ social, emotional, and cognitive needs through the incorporation of peer feedback. Based on positive behavior support and peer mentoring, the authors used a structured peer feedback as part of their digital and media literacy pedagogy. The findings show that students’ use of peer feedback with different media platforms helped increase the students’ engagement, develop collaboration skills and for some enhance their critical thinking. As we move to use more and more digital tools, this method of positive peer feedback can help educators to grow their students’ social, emotional, and cognitive skills.


Citation: Friesem, Y., & Greene, K. (2020). Tuned in: The importance of peer feedback with foster youth creating media. Reflective Practice, 21(5), 659-671.

B. Inclusive Practices of Media Literacy Education

Beyond Accessibility: How Media Literacy Education Addresses Issues of Disabilities

This special issue on media literacy and disability provides a variety of examples and case studies to showcase the importance of addressing issues of disability in the media literacy community. The literature on the intersection of media literacy and disability is slender but suggests four distinct uses of media for students with disabilities. However, none include applying a critical lens to the use of media for students with disabilities. By connecting the practice of critical media literacy with disability theory, this paper offers a theoretical and practical framework for media literacy educators, extending NAMLE’s principles of media literacy education to the needs of this important group of learners.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2017). Beyond accessibility: How media literacy education addresses issues of disabilities. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 9(2), 35-55. Special issue on media literacy and disability.

The media production hive: Using media education for differentiated instruction

As our understanding of individual students’ needs is increasing, media education should reflect on its practices to address needs of all students in the classroom. This article is a reflection on eighteen years of teaching media production with adolescents and young adults in schools, out of schools, and at the college level. Using the theoretical framework of Universal Design for Learning (Rose & Meyer, 2002), the author shares his inclusive pedagogy that aims to address all students’ needs while teaching media production. The teaching model of the Media Production Hive described in the article includes seven stages: exploring, empathizing, planning, producing, organizing, sharing, and being civically active. Through each step, the article describes how a media educator can differentiate her instruction by providing her students with multiple means of engagement, representation, and expression. While the Media Production Hive model has been successful as a differentiated instruction pedagogy in a variety of contexts, it should be examined qualitatively and quantitatively to advance our understanding and practice of media education for all students.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2017). The media production hive: Using media education for differentiated instruction. Media Education: Studies, research, best practice, 8(1), 123-140

C. Defining Digital Empathy

Empathy for the Digital Age: Using Video Production to Enhance Social, Emotional, and Cognitive Skills

Digital empathy is a new concept aiming to highlight social, emotional, and cognitive practices in a collaborative video production as part of a digital and media literacy class. The structured five stages of video production (screenplay writing, preproduction, production, postproduction, and screening) enhance six distinctive empathy phenomena (empathic concern, cognitive empathy, projective empathy, affective empathy, psychological empathy, and aesthetic empathy). Together as the process comes to an end, most of the students experience higher levels of empathy. This chapter describes the theoretical background and provides the connection between each stage of production and the empathy phenomena. Digital empathy as a new concept calls for further research to explore these connections and better understand how to foster social, emotional, and cognitive skills with digital devices in the classroom.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2016). Empathy for the digital age: Using video production to enhance social, emotional, and cognitive skills. In S. Tettegah, & D. Espelage (Eds.), Emotions, technology, and behaviors (pp. 21-45). Academic Press.

Developing Digital Empathy: A Holistic Approach to Media Literacy Research Methods

In the Digital Age, when technology offers many solutions and distractions at the same time, we should use media literacy research to address these advantages and challenges through a holistic approach. This chapter introduces digital empathy as a holistic framework combining empathic design and empathic listening to bridge the traditional protectionist and empowerment approaches in media literacy research. Digital Empathy is a mixed methods approach that has been developed through a longitudinal study. It is an inclusive model that addresses the participants and the researcher’s cognitive, emotional, and social skills through empathic design and empathic listening. Using a longitudinal case study of a month-long media literacy summer class with underprivileged high school students, the chapter describes digital empathy, not only as a pedagogical approach, but also as a holistic research method that will advance media literacy scholarship.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2016). Developing digital empathy: A holistic approach to media literacy research methods. In M. N. Yildiz, & J. Keengwe (Eds.), Handbook of research on media literacy in the digital age (pp. 145-160). IGI Global.

D. Impact of Civic Media

The PARIS Model: Creating a Sustainable and Participatory Civic Media with and for the Community through Immersive Experiences

This chapter offers a civic media framework to work collaboratively on social issues within a community and its members. Unlike the exploitative way that professional VR creators use their human participants to evoke sympathy in order to fundraise and raise awareness of humanitarian causes, community members can use immersive media creation to genuinely generate social empathy to motivate action. To achieve this digital empathy, participatory design and participatory action research are applied to establish sustainable solutions to the community’s social issues. New immersive technologies allow any person with a mobile device to design, produce, and share their media. Nevertheless, a collective participatory effort for dismantling structures of power through new immersive technology can provide stronger and more sustainable solutions. This chapter advocates a process of collaborative research, design, production and distribution with shared responsibilities and control to promote social justice. Using media literacy competencies aligned with civic media principles, this chapter provides guidelines to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion through the creative process to achieve a design representative of its users.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2021). The PARIS model: Creating a sustainable and participatory civic media with and for the community through immersive experiences. In: J.A. Fisher (Ed.). Augmented and Mixed Reality in Communities (pp. 38-61). CRC Press.

Youth Media

The term “youth media” covers both the process and the product of creating mediated messages,and the creators are teenagers and young adults who are learning to articulate their ideas via media tools. The process consists of seven stages: exploration, ideation, planning, creation, editing, sharing, and taking action. Media production activities can take place in formal and informal educational environments such as schools, libraries, community centers, summer camps, art centers, correction facilities, refugee camps, and even at home or in one’s neighborhood. The product of youth media varies from written and print media to videos, podcasts, music, games, blogs, websites, applications, and digital campaigns distributed via social media. Youth media can serve different purposes, which range from developing digital and media literacy competencies (access, analyze, create, reflect, and act; see Hobbs, 2010) to teaching journalistic inquiry and enhancing technical skills, creativity, agency, and civic engagement.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2019). Youth media. In R. Hobbs and P. Mihailidis (Eds.). The International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy. Wiley-Blackwell.

Learning to Engage: How Positive Attitudes about the News, Media Literacy, and Video Production Contribute to Adolescent Civic Engagement

Many students enroll in video production courses in high school as part of a vocational, career, or technical program. While there has been an explosion of scholarly work in digital literacy in informal settings, less is known about how digital and media literacy competencies are developed through school-based video production courses. This study explores the relationship between civic engagement and the various multimedia instructional practices used in a high school video production course with a single-school convenience sample and an ethnically diverse population of students. Findings reveal that the best predictors of the intent to participate in civic engagement are having positive attitudes about news, current events, reporting, and journalism. Media literacy attitudes and a range of in-classroom learning experiences with video production are also associated with civic engagement.


Citation: Hobbs, R., Donnelly, K., Friesem, J., & Moen, M. (2013). Learning to engage: How positive attitudes about the news, media literacy, and video production contribute to adolescent civic engagement. Educational Media International, 50(4), 231-246.

Civic media as a cultural dialogue: A professional development journey of Arab and Jewish teachers via documentary filmmaking in Israel

Eighteen Arab and Jewish teachers of civic education and communication studies took part in a national professional development for peace education at the Israeli Center for Educational Technology from 2016to 2018. They created documentaries as a way to have a cultural dialogue. While learning to produce a documentary as a form of reflection, the participants deepened their dialogues and challenged their own perspectives of the Jewish-Arab conflict. Each participantre presented her/his cultural heritage by producing a personal narrative that was analyzed through the media literacy critical questions. This case study provides an insight about challenges and affordances of media literacy as an approach to civic education in conflict areas such as Israel.


Citation: Ratner, E., & Friesem, Y. (2018). Civic media as a cultural dialogue: A professional development journey of Arab and Jewish teachers via documentary filmmaking in Israel. Journal of Media Literacy, 65(1&2), 13-18.

E. The Pedagogy of Media Production

Media Production in Elementary Education

Media production is the pedagogical process in which students learn to access, analyze, ideate, plan, create, edit, and share their media message. In elementary education, students acquire production skills as they undergo a spiral model of both learning and producing. The benefits of integrating media production in any subject matter are engagement, agency, collaboration, inclusion, formative, and summative assessment. Though there are challenges to incorporating media production in schools, having a project-based learning experience enhances students’ media literacy skills.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2019). Media production in elementary education. In R. Hobbs and P. Mihailidis (Eds.). The International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy. Wiley-Blackwell.

Teaching Media Production Online During a Pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic has challenged the world and the U.S. with a health, financial, and information crisis. Starting in March, with a quarantine in place to stop the spread of the virus, millions of students and teachers found themselves suddenly locked at home as they try to find ways to continue the school year. This short report highlights the ways in which secondary educators teaching the PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs taught media production through remote instruction. Teaching media production during the pandemic is not easy, and both educators and students experienced challenges, as documented by interviews and focus groups with 16 educators and analysis of artifacts created by students during the pandemic. But there are certain best practices that greatly helped educators in teaching media production online in times of uncertainty.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2020). Teaching media production online during a pandemic (pp. 1–5) [Brief report submitted to PBS Student Reporting Labs]. Media Education Lab.

The creativity of imitation in remake videos

A growth in the popularity of remix culture has led to the phenomenon of people creating videos that explicitly imitate or copy an original work. In order to explore the potential educational value of the remake video phenomenon, we conducted a content analysis of 93 videos that were inspired by “Love Language,” a sentimental narrative video that features the themes of budding romance and disability awareness. Some remake videos attempt to closely match the original work in both content and form. Other producers are inspired by the original work and create remakes that diverge considerably in content, format, and cinematograph. Using content analysis, we examined the ratio of imitation to originality for content, form, and cinematographic variables. Most remakes include careful imitation of narrative story elements, with evidence of originality found in the depiction of social relationships. Format and cinematographic codes reveal less strict imitation. The production of remake videos may enhance media literacy competencies by offering a means for young media makers to develop creative skills through strategic imitation.


Citation: Hobbs, R., & Friesem, Y., (2019). The creativity of imitation in remake videos. Journal of E-learning and digital media. 16(4), 328–347.

Teaching Truth, Lies, and Accuracy in the Digital Age: Media Literacy as Project-Based Learning

The post-truth era has challenged traditional ways of teaching journalism and media literacy. Media literacy education can offer a useful lens for teaching students to be more critical. This pedagogy article describes a semester-long undergraduate course designed to deconstruct information disorder in the post-truth era by looking at economics, ideology, and power relations. Applying a project-based learning model allowed students to enhance their digital and media literacy skills by inquiring about the accuracy of a variety of sources centered on a single story.


Citation: Friesem, Y. (2019). Teaching truth, lies, and accuracy in the digital age: Media literacy as project-based learning. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, 74(2), 185–198.

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