Technology is certainly changing our world today, and if we allow it, it can change the learning in our classes.
One important difference in the media today from yesterday is the participation factor. When I was a child watching TV and movies, I sat passively taking it all in. The active part came in playing with the themed toys that marketers smartly targeted to kids. But the world of the media was mostly a one-way road.
Then came the Internet.
With people now able to upload anything from text, to pictures, to videos, the world of the Internet is now our world, too. In a fascinating TED talk, Why Video’s Go Viral, YouTube trends manager Kevin Allocca notes that one significant difference in the media today is that people can participate in the conversation, partly why, he explains, videos go viral. The media is no longer a one way road.
I wanted to get my kids participating, and in the recent unit on satire, I finally saw a way: Memes. In class we came to understand that satire humorously points out the flaws in society, government, religion, etc. Then we followed this sequence:
1. I wanted to make sure that everyone understood what was meant by memes. I had to avoid an open search for memes because some of the them are not appropriate for high school. I preselected some for them to view and posted links on the class web site: Why Women Live Longer Than Men, If Alcohol Labels Told the Truth, Welcome to Parenthood, and Magazine Pictures Vs Others. We could have talked a bit on which ones served as satire and which ones just humor, but I needed to keep the pace of the lesson quick.
2. Next I wanted them to see the just how participatory and influential memes could be, and the summer World Cup gave us lots to look at. Because it is a class on media, I wanted them to study the structure of articles as part of the lesson. So we doubled the task, looking at information on the influence of memes and news article structure. This article titled, How the World Cup Became a Cup of Memes, from the Wall Street Journal served nicely. (If you have Spanish speakers, they could look at the many Spanish memes referenced in the article.)
3. Now for the kids chance. The students could use the meme generators available at makeameme.org and imgflip.com. Both have lots of pictures from which to choose. I also provided an image to get them going if needed; they could use Preview on their Macs, which allows the addition of text to any jpeg. This images was taken by the tech department when an unnamed teacher tried to get more toner our of a toner cartridge. He did, but not in the way he expected.
4. For the collection of the memes, I created a Google Presentation and gave them editing rights. They easily made their own slide, put on their name, and pasted in the meme. After watching the show, the kids wanted more–especially more on an IB theme (We’re an International Baccalaureate School), but they wanted to share their favorites that they had read online. So we added more slides.
5. Sharing with the community. I wanted other students and teachers to see what the kids created and how valuable it was to show the kid’s creativity and sense of satire. So I made a bulletin board in the hall. I know, its anachronistic, but it would get to my audience. I’m hoping that the other teachers would be impressed, and maybe, inspired to find ways to integrate memes into their lessons. (Imagine memes of historical characters? Literary characters? An atom talking to an enzyme?)