Do You Know Your Memes?

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I admit, I love memes. Not only do they evoke a laugh here and there, they allow me some serious procrastination as I scroll down my Facebook news feed. For those who may be unfamiliar with a meme, Wikipedia describes it as:

meme (play /ˈmm/, rhyming with “cream”[1]), a relatively newly coined term, identifies ideas or beliefs that are transmitted from one person or group of people to another. The concept comes from an analogy: as genes transmit biological information, memes can be said to transmit idea and belief information.

A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas symbols or practices, which can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals or other imitable phenomena. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate, mutate and respond to selective pressures.[2]

Memes can be a useful and innovative educational tool. They are, in essence, part of our collective knowledge. According to Sean Micheal Morris, “memes seem to come about spontaneously, as though growing not from the mind of any one person or organized group, but from the material of society itself”.

Appealing to your student’s creative drive and sarcastic zeal, memes provide an ideal platform for propagating information. What can memes look like in practice?

Suggestions for a general overview lesson (from Memes in the Classroom):

  • Define “meme”
  • Identify popular memes
  • Learn to recognize memes versus truth (try Snopes.com)
  • Define the audience (“remixers”, “sharers”)
  • How was this meme spread?
  • Why did the meme spread?
  • How was the meme created (skills required)?
  • How was the meme remixed?
  • Discuss the collaboration, modification and sharing of memes
  • Identify counter memes

Memes in content areas:

  • Write a riddle for math over a picture of Albert Einstein.
  • Pose a science question over an image of Marie Curie.
  • Summarize the main idea of a text over a snapshot of a book’s cover.
  • Create a slogan in Social Studies corresponding with a social movement.
  • Create a meme about grammar rules in Language Arts.
Photo Credit: classtechtips.com

Photo Credit: classtechtips.com

  1. Go to flickr (or any photosharing site)and choose a Creative Commons photo.
  2. Use a photo editing site. A simple site to try is Glogster. Students can upload images and  add text using a simple click and drag feature.

Recognizable to the masses, memes are part of our social fabric. Spreading through our social media channels, they are infectious in nature and are essential to information literacy. 

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