Photo credit: phdstudents.tumblr.com
This meme is humorous to me. It’s funny because it’s true! It depicts what I thought memes were – pictures with funny or clever text that made me laugh. I didn’t realize they were really so much more than that. Kay Oddone in her post What does it all Meme? states that the internet meme is a contemporary form of communication, one that is very popular with youth. Richard Dawkins describes the meme “as a way of using evolutionary principles to explain the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena such as melodies, catchphrases or fashion.” I prefer About.com’s definition of a virally-transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. It is a discrete “package of culture.” Memes spread like a virus, they travel from person to person and they may mutate and change or vary in the process.
Oddone states that internet memes are an example of participatory culture, where the public can contribute to and produce them. They have become a major part of contemporary digital culture. Limor Shifman says we are living in an age driven by hypermemetic logic. She explains that there is a meme made for pretty much every major public event and they play a large role in defining many events in this century.
Larry Ferlazzo gives a breakdown of some different types of memes on his blog. Most internet memes these days are centered around humour. Before writing this post I was searching them, sitting by myself, and literally laughing out loud! These memes usually reach the most people. There are shock-value memes such as Angry German Kid. Other memes, which are usually urban myths, share life lessons like The Littlest Fireman. There are still more memes about deep content mixed with commentary and absurdity like Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Photo credit: knowyourmeme.com
As an educator, what do memes mean to me? Oddone suggests three reasons for using memes in your classroom: engagement, information literacy, and critical understanding of current world events. Memes are fun and students like them, but more than that, creating a meme is challenging and requires higher order thinking. Dr. Alec Couros suggests using memes as a way of understanding how information travels and is distributed online. Some memes are just jokes, but others are more complex and tell a deeper story, even if they are disguised as jokes. Students can learn to be aware of this complexity and the possible lessons that could be learned through it.
So how can I use memes in my classroom? I think it is a fun way to introduce classroom rules and procedures. I have also seen humorous memes relating to specific content knowledge that could be shared with students to “lighten” the current topic. Having students create memes related to subject matter would bring in that higher order thinking piece and be an engaging, fun assignment. Check out “Memes in the Classroom” for some more ways to use memes with students.
Students at my school created memes such as this one.
I’m not exactly sure what the assignment was but everyone thoroughly enjoyed the display of memes in the hallway.
Photo credit: created in memegenerator.net
How do you use memes in your classroom? I’d love to hear from you.
Also, check out my classmate’s blog post The Science Behind the Meme.