Remember the seemingly innocent photo of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders at the inauguration in January? That image of him wearing a puffer jacket, oversized mittens, sitting on a fold out chair instantly became an internet sensation. This image went viral. Bernie became a part of people's families as they photoshopped his image into portraits, an extra cast member in movies and films, and appeared in ads and internet memes. So what makes memes so popular? Gianluca Stringhini, a meme expert, cybercrime researcher, and Boston University College of Engineering assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, explains what research can tell us about the making of a mega-meme.
Photo Credit: New York Times
We see memes EVERYWHERE. These simple, yet powerful images convey a lot of information in a very short period of time. This Internet pop culture staple has gained substantial popularity, especially over social media. You’ve probably seen memes that contain political messages, humor, satire, fake news, and references to popular shows and movies. And chances are that your students use memes to communicate with peers.
While memes are certainly entertaining, they can also be used as a mechanism to engage students. Undergraduate Z MacLean (Sr, History) thinks the use of memes in the classroom can be an interesting and unique way to engage while teaching. “The pros of using memes in academia can include less stressful classroom environments, more engaged students, and a chance to provide some much needed humor throughout the semester.” He did, however, mention that not all memes are appropriate in the classroom.
Teaching Tip: Use a meme to forge a connection with your students. Start class by using a ‘Check in’ meme to see how they’re feeling. The sheep scale is one of my favorites because it brings a smile to students' faces and lets me quickly understand how students are feeling. This meme also elicits some interesting commentary about why students are associating with an image. If you’re not much into sheep, do a quick ‘animal check in meme’ and you’ll likely find something that fits your needs!
If you do a quick Google search, you can find just about any meme on any topic. You might even try searching Reddit for discipline specific memes. However, if you want to exercise some creativity to create a unique meme, try the online generator, imgflip. This tool lets you quickly create memes in a variety of familiar templates.
Creating your own meme
Quick guide: Navigate to the top left of the webpage and find the ‘Make a Meme’ button under the ‘Create’ tab.
Next, you will arrive at a page with two text boxes, a list of memes templates to choose from, a button allowing personal upload of new images to make into memes, and some other options for you to explore. At this point, the fun begins. Type what you would like your meme to say in the provided text boxes and click on the ‘generate meme’ button, which takes you to the final step. Right click on your new meme -> ‘Save image as...’ and save it to your computer for later use. Ta-da! You’re all done. Happy creating!