Using Internet Memes in the Classroom

Teachers constantly see memes on students’ computers in the lab.  Instead of being infuriated that students are using the technological powers for evil (i.e. distraction), harness that interest and use memes in the classroom to pull students into the lesson.

What purpose can memes serve in the classroom?

  1. Relevant content lesson (i.e. inject some fun into your discussion)
  2. Fill in the Blank (i.e. critical thinking skills using an either/or statement on a meme)
  3. Rules and Advice (students are more apt to follow rules present in meme form than a rules poster)
  4. Create Their Own (make it a project!  students will have to think carefully about subject matter)

(List courtesy of Nick Grantham)

Before you decide which meme to use, you need to make sure it is relevant.  You need to know you meme.  This database will help look up memes, explain its origin, and provide examples.

Memes are everywhere, but here are some interesting places you may want to check out:

  • Heck Yeah, Educational Memes! – A large Tumblr collection of educational memes
  • Grammar Catz – A collection of cat memes with meme grammar, grammar rules that apply to that particular meme, and then a button to show the grammatically correct meme
  • Meme Assignment using the Hunger Games – “One does not simply run away to District 13”  “If you could stop the districts from uprising, that’d be grrreat”
  • School of Fail – a FailBlog devoted to school fails, education jokes, and related memes
  • Comma Memes – a previous blog post on Teaching & Technology
  • MemeCenter/Education – a forewarning: not all are age-appropriate, but many are.  Also, there are several funny, age-appropriate memes for sex education teachers.

Want to create memes but don’t know how?  Here are four online tools:

There are also dozens of apps on the iPad that can quickly create memes that you can save to the camera roll or email to yourself.  I’ve made several “Stay Calm” posters and “Motivational” posters.

iPad as the Teacher’s Pet: An Infographic

This infographic was created by @TonyVincent.  It is the most thorough, most informative, and most helpful iPad app infographic for education that I have seen.   This infographic is more than just a .jpg or .png file; it was uploaded to Scribd, so that the included links to the apps or other websites would work.

On Tony’s blog entry for this infographic he also posted links to download a 6-page version to print or a very large 24-page version to piece together to make a poster.

Prezi: The New PowerPoint?

stick figure high-fiveSome people can make some visually striking Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.  Others….cannot.  PowerPoint has an abundance of bells and whistles to liven up presentations and while each edition makes attractive presentations more and more “idiot-proof”, there are still people who put white text on a blue background with the most ridiculous clip art and Comic Sans or Courier New typeface.  Perhaps in 1995 those presentations looked professional, but not now.

But one of the biggest shortcomings of PowerPoint is compatibility.  If the computer you use to create the presentation will not be the computer you use to present, there is a good chance something won’t work correctly.  You’d have to double check versions,  operating systems, links to media files, etc.  It’s a headache.

Prezi is completely cloud-based.  This allows a user to create and edit a presentation from any computer without needing to install software.  It works perfect for collaboration (“group projects”) – the creator of the Prezi can grant certain users access to edit a Prezi.  Several users could be editing the presentation together as if you were all meeting in the same room, but you could be across the world!

Prezis are iPad friendly.  You can download the Prezi Viewer for iPad (it’s free!) and since Prezi is cloud-based, your Prezis will automatically sync to your iPad.  The viewer also lets you download them so you have access to them when you don’t have internet.  And it’s not just a viewer…you can edit it to fix those typos.  On top of that, if you have an iPad 2 (or 3), you can connect it into a projector.

In the site’s own words, “Prezi is a cloud-based presentation software that opens up a new world between whiteboards and slides. The zoomable canvas makes it fun to explore ideas and the connections between them. The result: visually captivating presentations that lead your audience down a path of discovery.”

Zooming is Prezis claim to fame.  Prezis aren’t made up of numerous slides like PowerPoint, instead, Prezi has an infinite-sized canvas in which you can zoom in or out.  You can even spin upside down.  But be careful – you’ll make your audience dizzy if you overuse effects.  Equate it to how much you enjoy the one-letter-at-a-time effect in PowerPoint…for large amounts of text…every slide.

So the question is…is Prezi better than PowerPoint?  My answer is: it depends on what you define as better.  There still is a learning curve.  It isn’t plug-and-play; however, it is relatively simple, especially with an abundance of how-to videos.  PowerPoint…is familiar.  I can make a great looking PowerPoint in a third of the time it takes me to make a Prezi.  But I’ve made hundreds of PowerPoint presentations since 1995-ish.  I’ve successfully made 1 Prezi, collaborated on 2, and abandoned a few.  Both PowerPoint and Prezi allow for crappy and insanely good presentations.  Prezis advantages of having a zooming canvas and being completely cloud-based aren’t enough to jeopardize PowerPoint’s life.

Let me put it this way: Prezi is the young, hot, new “it” person that everybody wants to date.  PowerPoint is the reliable best friend that you can always count on and has been there for you for the last dozen or so years.  My advice is to take Prezi out…go out on a few dates.  Perhaps you might find you’d rather just stick with your best bud, PowerPoint.  You may also find Prezi to be your soulmate.  But don’t worry if you’d rather stay just friends.  There’s room in your life for both PowerPoint and Prezi.

Here’s my one successful Prezi.  My license is for educational use only – thus, it is embedded here for you to see an example.  Explore user created Prezis on Prezi.com.