Memes are cultural phenomena represented humorously using a mixture of text, images, stickers, drawings, etc. For instance, a viral meme that has been recently making the rounds is that of Will Smith slapping Chris Rock.
Memes are inherently funny and humorous and as Sara Henderson stated, ‘humor activates the brain’s dopamine reward system, stimulating goal-oriented motivation and long-term memory, which means that humor can improve retention in students of all ages’. Hence the importance of using memes in education.
How to integrate memes in teaching?
Besides infusing your class with fun and humour that are conducive to meaningful learning experiences, memes, as is the case with using GIFs in class, can help enhance students learning and boost their engagement. Students love memes (who doesn’t?) and several teachers have already tried them out in their classes.
For instance, Sharon Serano used the expressive power of memes to help with teaching math. She asked her students to create math-themed memes using tools of their choice and the results were amazing.
She compiled students memes and published them in a YouTube video that has been watched by thousands of viewers from all around the world thus prompting several other teachers to replicate her meme strategy. As Sharon contended, “memes are a great educational device for teachers and students alike to promote clarity, pedagogy and humor”.
Likewise, Tracee Orman used memes as classroom assignments. In one of her assignments she asked students to create memes related to the chapter they have just read which is a great way for students to showcase their understanding and demonstrate their learning.
Memes can also be used to teach vocabulary and grammar. Students can use images of new concepts or words and annotate them by inserting definitions or fun examples of word usage. Laura Gibbs has this excellent collection of grammar-themed memes to help students with learning grammar.
Another way to use memes in your teaching is through creating memes that communicate classroom rules and code of behaviour. Check out this Pinterest board by Gina Ostlund for examples of classroom meme rules.
Additionally, memes can be used to highlight or introduce a new lesson or concept, create icebreakers, share writing prompts to engage students in writing projects, prompt discussions, and raise awareness about complex societal topics such as violence, bullying, hatred, racism, and so forth.
Things to keep in mind when using memes in your teaching
Before you incorporate memes in your teaching make sure you outline clear pedagogical goals for your meme-based activities. Next, provide students with instructions on why and how to use memes and emphasize the ethos of digital citizenship. Instruct students to use proper language and copyright-free images.
Also, most of the popular online memes have stories and context behind them, sites such as Know Your Meme is a great place where you and your students can learn about the historical and cultural background behind viral memes.
There are numerous meme generating tools out there but most of them are not student-friendly due to obscenity, inappropriate language, annoying ads, among other limiting factors.
I would rather students use image editing or design platforms to create their own memes. That being said, below is a collection of some good meme generators that you can use with students to create educational memes.
Canva provides numerous ready-made meme templates that you can easily customize the way you like. Type in ‘memes’ in the search box and browse through the results. Click on the meme template you like to start editing it:
You can change background, add colours, insert text, import images, and many more. Alternatively, you can start building your meme from scratch using a blank template. When you are done you can export your meme in different formats or share it directly through email or embed code.
WeVideo offers a handy meme maker that you can use to create different educational memes. As I stated in a previous review here in educatorstechnolog.com, WeVideo meme maker allows you to create beautiful and fun video memes, no prior experience is required.
The process is simple: start with a pre-made meme template and customize it to your liking. You can add your own media or select from WeVideo’s stock images and video clips.
You can insert custom texts and various effects and once your video meme is finished you can download and save it or share it directly to social media sites like YouTube and Facebook.
Quizizz, the popular game-based quiz tool, offers an interesting meme making feature. The process to create memes on Quizizz is simple and easy:
- Login to your Quizizz account
- Click on More on the left pane and select Memes
- Click on Create a new meme
- Type in a name for your meme set and click on Done
- Click on create a correct meme and upload an image
- Add captions to your image and type in a name and click on Save.
- Repeat the same process to create an incorrect meme.
Imgflip Meme Generator enables you to search for established memes and customize them by adding text to them. The site’s meme library might contain memes for adult audience so you may need to use your discretion and prudence when using it with students.
It is preferable that you choose beforehand the memes you want students to work on and use them in group work activities in class under your supervision and guidance.
Imgflip offers a wide variety of pre-designed meme templates to start with or you can build your own template starting from scratch. You also have the option to upload templates and add your customizations such as text, images, stickers, drawings, and spacing.
Once your meme is ready, you can then share it with others using a generated link or you can download it to your own device. You do not have to sign up to create memes in Imgflip but you will not be able to save memes to your account. Also, the free version of Imgflip meme generator supports watermark, only premium users can remove the watermark.
Tenor allows you to create beautiful memes using animated GIFs. The way it works is simple: upload your GIF and stickers or browse through Tenor’s GIF library for pre-made GIFs.
Tenor’s GIFs are arranged into multiple categories including Movies, TV Shows, Food and Drink, Sports, Celebrities, Music, Holidays, and more. When you find the GIF you like click to add your caption. Once done, click on Create GIF and download it to your computer.
You can use the popular screenshot capture tool Snagit to create educational memes to use in your class. You can create captures or upload an image to Snagit editor and customize it by adding text, stickers, arrows, etc. Snagit also allows you to generate GIFs from recorded screencasts. Check out Snagit teacher review to learn more about this tool.
Meme Generator review by University of Massachusetts Amherst
Copyright, Memes and the Perils of Viral Content, by Plagiarism Today
Using Classroom Memes to Connect with Your Students, by Nick Grantham
Five Ways to Use Memes to Connect With Students, by Mrs. Orman’s Classroom