What I Meme

3 mins reading

If you had less than 2 seconds to convey a key message to students, what would you do?

I thought I’d follow up my last blog on the benefits of ‘teacher-generated content’ with an example of my own media-making. I’ve been creating videos, blogs, podcasts, infographics, Periscopes, and other digital media for students for a while now, but my most recent ‘level up’ in this area is something much more simple: memes.

I’ve been inducted into meme culture since my own university student days at the turn of the century (‘cos that phrasing doesn’t make me sound old!), but it wasn’t until 2019 that I made my very first meme. To be honest, it had never really occurred to me to create anything of this genre even though students have photoshopped me into a few memes of their own over the years…

I’ve forgotten who made this, and I don’t feel that terrible 😀 (I think we’ll call this a parody)

Of course, the question this blog began with is slightly misleading. I’m by no means suggesting that memes replace anything – so please withhold all scornful comments regarding ‘bowing to shortened attention spans’ and ‘creating fragmented learning experiences’… 😉 Memes can complement other learning materials in valuable ways and be a very useful tool to use as part of an engagement strategy.

I’ve used memes in a few different ways this year, from concluding blogs by reiterating a point that’s made throughout, to asking a question that encapsulates a key debate central to a given topic. In short, memes have been a great way to state in a brief and engaging way what I mean. They’ve also proven handy for sharing in tweets that invite student reflections, and for drawing attention to aesthetically restrictive news items on a Learning Management System.

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As you can see from these examples, I make the memes myself using imgflip.com rather than poaching them from Google. I also use my own photographs instead of the template images provided on the site, reflecting the importance placed on the credibility, creativity, and connectivity of making your own media. To these three ‘C’s’, I’d also add the important factor of copyright, as creating my own content in this way provides a best practice, industry-relevant example to students who I’m teaching media-making to.

This strategy has the additional benefit of enhancing my own professional-personal brand, with the online identity of my canine companion Tiffany as proxy. I’ve written elsewhere about how Tiff has been a ‘celebrity’ figure in my engagement with students over the years, and this is reinforced in my recent series of meme-like images (they don’t go viral so their status as ‘memes’ is perhaps more in their appearance than any cultural dissemination?).

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The typical role of the ‘meme’ genre in providing humorous entertainment might just enable these images to have a greater affective resonance with those who connect with them. And that in itself is something worth exploring…

Have you ever created a meme before? Check out imgflip.com (one option among many) and have a go at it – it’s a bit of learning-by-doing but it’s a straightforward process. Share your creation with me on Twitter by tagging @digitalzones – I’d love to see what you make!!


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