The Memeing Instructor: Increased Attention = Increased Retention

Presented By: Megan Hodge

Keywords: Social Media, Storytelling and Classroom Practices

Grumpy Cat. The Most Interesting Man in the World. Socially Awkward Penguin. Teens (and the whole Internet, really) love these things, sharing them on Reddit and Facebook. But what do they have to do with us in education? Memes are a way of connecting with our students in a way they likely don’t expect. There are many stereotypes and preconceptions our students have about professors and librarians, but it’s pretty safe to say that they don’t consider us people with our finger on the pulse of pop culture.

Two of the most important elements of making what we teach memorable to our students, according to Heath and Heath (Made to Stick, 2007) is unexpectedness and simplicity. Using memes and other pop culture references in one’s instruction—e.g., changing your LMS profile picture to a memed version of yourself, dropping them into course-wide emails, using them in slide decks to introduce instructional content—can visibly surprise students, prompting them to eagerly anticipate the next slide. The obligatory brevity of the text on the meme image requires distillation of a concept into its simplest form. Memes therefore have great potential to be used in the classroom to increase student engagement and thereby increase retention of what was discussed in class.

This Ignite! session will explain the learning theories that make memes effective vehicles for instruction, discuss where to find popular memes that will resonate with students and methods of how they can be employed inside and outside the classroom to enhance instruction, and offer tips regarding best practices.

Attendees of this session will be able to:  explain the relevance and usefulness of memes and GIFs in instruction; adapt existing memes to have amusing and subject-specific content; employ memes and GIFs in instructionally appropriate places.

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