Hobbs, Renee

Renee Hobbs

Professor, Harrington School of Communication and Media

Communication Studies/ Faculty & Staff/ Full Professor/ Graduate/ Undergraduate


Renee Hobbs is a Professor of Communication Studies at the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island. From January 2012 to June 2014, she served as Founding Director of the School, helping create a distinctive identity, mission and vision for the new school, which includes programs in Journalism, Film/Media, Communication Studies, Public Relations, Writing & Rhetoric and a graduate program in Library and Information Studies. She also served as Interim Director of the Graduate School of Library and Information Studies in 2013, leading that department through a major curriculum renewal process. She worked collaboratively with URI colleagues in the School of Education to create a Graduate Certificate in Digital Literacy and has a joint appointment in the URI School of Education, supervising PhD students enrolled in that program.

About Renee Hobbs. Professor Hobbs is an internationally-recognized authority on media literacy education. Through community and global service and as a researcher, teacher, advocate and media professional, Hobbs has worked to advance the quality of digital and media literacy education in the United States and around the world. She is the Founder and Director of the Media Education Lab, whose mission is to improve the quality of media literacy education through research and community service.

Research. Renee Hobbs maintains an active research agenda that examines the intersections of the fields of media studies and education. She has written four books and published over 150 articles in scholarly and professional journals. She is the founding co-editor of the Journal of Media Literacy Education, an open-access peer reviewed journal. She has developed and validated measures of media literacy competencies for adolescents and has recently published a new book with co-author David Cooper Moore, Discovering Media Literacy: Digital Media and Popular Culture in Elementary School, which chronicles their three-year effort to develop children’s media literacy through informal and formal learning in a Philadelphia charter school. Previous books include Digital and Media Literacy: Connecting Culture and Classroom, which offers portraits of how secondary educators integrate critical thinking and communication skills across the curriculum and Copyright Clarity: How Fair Use Supports Digital Learning  which helps teachers understand copyright law as it applies to the use of digital media in education. Reading the Media: Media Literacy in High School English provides the first large-scale empirical evidence of the impact of media literacy education on reading comprehension skills. She also co-authored Elements of Language, the first secondary English language arts textbook to incorporate media literacy.

Teaching. Hobbs offers graduate and undergraduate courses in mass media, children and adolescence, library service for children and youth, digital and media literacy education, youth media culture, and educational media production. She supervises graduate students interested in the intersections between the fields of media studies, library and information studies, writing and rhetoric, and education. In her teaching, Hobbs uses inquiry learning practices and emphasizes the role of students as content creators through digital multimedia. In October 2014, she collaborated with the Canvas Network to launch a MOOC (massive online open course) to help educators understand how copyright and fair use support digital learning. Hobbs makes active use of social media in education. Learn more abut her innovative fully-online courses which use an open network learning environment.

Advocacy. Renee Hobbs works to increase visibility for digital and media literacy at the national level. In 2012, she served as a Fellow for the American Library Association Office of Information Technology Policy. As a field-builder, she helped found the Partnership for Media Education, which evolved into the National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE), the national membership organization for media literacy. In petitioning the Library of Congress Copyright Office, she has sought and won exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to advance the benefits of digital learning for all teachers and students. She is also active in helping educators understand their rights and responsibilities when using mass media, popular culture and digital media in education. Her white paper, Digital and Media Literacy: A Plan of Action offers a blueprint of pragmatic actions to bring these competencies to all Americans. It was released in Washington D.C. in November, 2010 and published by the Aspen Institute and the Knight Commission on the Information Needs of Communities in a Democracy.

Professional Development, Community and Global Service. Hobbs offers professional development programs to K-12 educators, librarians, college faculty and media professionals locally in Rhode Island, nationally, and internationally on four continents. With her colleague Julie Coiro, she created the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy, which has attracted 170+ educators from 15 states and 10 countries since 2013. She has worked in Turkey, Italy, the Netherlands, Brazil, Argentina, France and China to help bring media literacy education to students and teachers worldwide.  She partnered with the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations to explore how media literacy can promote multicultural understanding, particularly of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East and is currently collaborating with Visiting Scholar Sait Tuzel on a study of motivations for digital learning among Turkish educators. With her colleagues at the Media Education Lab, Hobbs developed Powerful Voices for Kids, a university-school partnership that offers a comprehensive program for K-12 schools including a summer enrichment program for children, staff development program, hands-on mentoring and curriculum development, and parent and community outreach. Hobbs also consults with school districts and for clients including PBS/NewsHour Student Reporting Labs and the U.S. Memorial Holocaust Museum.In the early 1990s, she created the first national teacher education program in media literacy, the Harvard Institute on Media Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

Media Production. Renee Hobbs is a multimedia producer and has developed numerous award-winning resources for students and educators that help develop digital and media literacy competencies.  Assignment: Media Literacy, a comprehensive K-12 curriculum in media literacy, was developed with support from the Maryland State Department of Education and the Discovery Channel. With support from the U.S. Office on Women’s Health, she created My Pop Studio, an award-winning online edutainment game that introduces tween girls to media literacy concepts and takes girls “behind the scenes” of popular music, television, magazines, and online media. She also created an online education program for integrating social media into the teaching of the 2008 Presidential election, with support from PBS Teachers.  Access, Analyze, Act: A Blueprint for 21st Century Civic Engagement is an interactive website for teachers designed to strengthen their ability to use social media tools developed by the PBS community. Her documentary video, Tuning in to Media, which examined media coverage of the Los Angeles riots following the Rodney King trial to explore the role of media literacy in K-12 education, won the Parent’s Choice Award in 1994.

Renee Hobbs received an Ed.D in Human Development from Harvard University, an M.A. in Communication from the University of Michigan, and a B.A. with a double major in English Literature and Film/Video Studies from the University of Michigan.

Click here to access her current CV and read more about her early work to develop the field of media literacy education.