In Social Studies class at Lakehead University, we were to complete a Meme Assignment. This assignment required students to pick a theme and create memes that corresponded to that theme. At first, I thought the idea of creating memes for teaching purposes was ridiculous and would not be relevant to teaching.
After creating a meme in Digital Media Literacy class, my entire outlook on the use of memes in the classroom had changed. Joe Lambert (2010) in Digital Story Cookbook states that, “A good story often comes from looking at the familiar in a new way and with a new meaning” (Lambert, 2010, p. 7). I found that creating memes can actually, not only be fun, but allow a topic to be looked through an entirely different lens and reveal deep layers of meaning in a story/topic. All of the memes were created using IMGFLIP, a meme generator, that was introduced to us in Digital Media Literacy class among others. Students in the class created memes using the generator of their choice and posted them in their student blog. This activity provided the class, including myself, with the basic knowledge and skills involved in creating a meme. This activity also enlightened me in how memes can be used to create visual media that generates a profound outlook on current events, social issues, historical events, and popular culture icons. For the meme that I created in Digital Media Literacy class, I touched upon an idea that most professional year students can relate to. I suggested that if professional year students miss class(es) in unintentional error, they would have to redo professional year. This is an extreme case but, touches on some truth as, if students miss too many classes without a life or death reason or do not complete all make up assignments for the missed classes, they could potentially fail professional year.
Some of the memes I created can be used in the classroom, however, some were just intended for submission in the assignment due to their mature content. These memes, depending on the age, grade level, and maturity level of the class, can be used to introduce a new lesson by incorporating one or more in an inquiry based minds on portion of a lesson. To come up with a theme and subsequent topics for my meme assignment, I answered the questions that Lambert (2010) suggests a digital storyteller should ask him/herself before creating a digital story, “‘What’s the story you want to tell?’ and then as a follow-up, ‘What do you think your story means’“ (Lambert, 2010, p. 9)? The theme I chose for this assignment was climate change because it directly corelates with curriculum expectations, is relative to every day life, the concept can be taught with reference to current events, and is a topic of interest I have, as knowledge and information on the topic of climate change is ever changing and expanding. Perhaps, as Lambert (2010) indicates, I created a story where I can “listen for the answers” of climate change “that [I] can relate to [my] own li[fe]” in the form of current events that impact my environment on a local and global sale (Lambert, 2010, p. 10).
Try creating your own meme using any of the meme generators below!
BC Forest Fires
This meme I created, using the image from "Canadian Wildfires Shut Copper Mines”, is relating the forest fires in British Columbia with the season of fall. The meme engages the audience with a play on words. The statement, “the trees are already changing colour” is meant to relate the leaves on the trees actually changing colour during the season of fall, to the trees changing colour due to them being on fire. This meme is humorous but it is also about a serious catastrophic current event. Forest fires are not necessarily caused by climate change. The mountainous terrain of British Columbia’s forests are located at a high altitude, causing the area to be particularly dry. Dry conditions make areas more vulnerable for fires to start and spread. People are also sometimes the cause of forest fires whom either intentionally or accidentally cause a forest fire. Lightening strikes are the prominent igniter of forest fires. However, the forest fires do create CO2 emissions which destroy the ozone layer; a contributing factor to climate change. With more trees being destroyed in forest fires, less trees are available to convert carbon dioxide into oxygen which leads to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere, depleting the ozone layer. Despite the fact that climate change does not cause forest fires, it does prolong the season of forest fires by extending dry and warm conditions, due to more UV rays and sunlight being transmitted from the depleting ozone layer.
Learn more about forest fires in British Columbia by accessing the articles and a Twitter post by Canadian Geographers (@Cangeographers) showing the extent of British Columbia's ongoing forest fires using a map with a comment I made to the post attached in the buttons below!
Hungry Polar Bear
I created this meme, using the image from “New York Daily News Photos”, to engage the audience in humour but to also comment on a serious issue involving climate change. Although, the polar bear in this photograph is most likely in captivity, the bear’s unusual green, warm environment in the photo is meant to represent the changing environment of wild polar bears due to climate change. The increasing temperatures around the globe is causing the polar ice caps to melt which is changing the habitat of polar bears. Polar bears are starving as their hunting grounds are not sustainable for their prey to survive.
Learn more about how climate change affects the polar bear population by accessing the articles in the buttons below!
Long-term Trends in the Population Ecology of Polar Bears in Western Hudson Bay in Relation to Climatic Change
This meme I created, using an image from Pinterest, relates to the polar bear meme on the previous slide. This meme adds more of a human feel to the issue of the melting ice caps. This meme makes the viewer want to buy a bigger wagon for this sad baby in the photo and may also encourage the viewer to want to help the polar bear population.
Learn more about how you can help make a difference by reducing your carbon footprint and how you can help the polar bear population by accessing the articles in the buttons below!
This meme I created, using an image from “20 of the Most Painful Sunburns Ever”, depicts an overly tanned and wrinkled woman. The child in the photo is inspired to stop global warming for a humorous reason; an older woman looking unattractively wrinkled and tanned. There is tanning, and then there is going overboard. Obviously, this lady just spent too much time in the sun. but with climate change, it is easier to get your tan on. The ozone layer is depleting and a large portion of the cause of this is due to CO2 emissions emitted by human activities. The impact on human health involves humans being more susceptible to skin damage from the harmful UV rays and increases the chances of skin cancer.
Learn more about how global warming impacts human health and the precautions you can take to reduce the chances of developing skin cancer by accessing the articles in the buttons below!
I did not create this meme, it was retrieved from “Hurricane Sandy Memes”, but, I had to add it in the presentation because when it comes to global warming, in the words of Marty McFly, “It's heavy”. This meme uses a cultural icon to attract the audience to a current issue, large scale hurricanes, such as Irma, making its way towards Caribbean countries and Florida. Using the characters from the movie Back to the Future, also touches upon the idea that these multiple and high-level hurricanes are almost futuristic as three hurricanes of this scale and in such proximity, (Irma, Harvey, and Jose) has never been witnessed before. It suggests that these hurricanes are the result of something that did not exist at this scale in the past, climate change. This meme does contain foul language and the cultural icon may not be recognized by younger students so I only intended the meme to be used for the meme assignment. However, with a few changes, this meme can potentially be altered to be more age appropriate.
Check out this throwback video clip from Back to the Future when Marty McFly uses his famous catch phrase "Whoa, that's heavy". Also, check out the remake of a clip from Back to the Future that discusses climate change!
Learn more about how climate change affects the creation, frequency, duration, and scale of tropical storms and hurricanes by accessing the articles in the buttons below!
This meme I created, using an image retrieved by “Donald Trump Face” on Giphy, is meant to refer to Donald Trump’s opinion that climate change is not real. On Twitter, Trump expresses that climate change is a concept invented by the Chinese as a ploy to be less competitive in the industrial production sphere (Donald Trump, 2012, Twitter). As reported by Dan Merica in CNN's "Trump Dismisses Climate Change Question by Contradicting Himself on Hurricanes" article, Trump also claims that catastrophic weather events similar to the high-level hurricanes of Irma an Harvey have always occurred, therefore, disproving there is any sort of change in Earth’s climactic conditions (Merica, 2017, CNN).
Learn more about Donald Trump's views on climate change as well as the thinking of climate change skeptics by clicking on the buttons below!
Memes can be used on and off social media platforms to draw attention to a particular issue. Incorporating current events, cultural icons, and humorous photos can make the premise of a meme more engaging, impacting, and insightful. Memes can be used to engage students, provoke inquiry, and encourage discussion on a particular idea, concept, or lesson in the classroom.
Lambert, J. (2010). Digital Storytelling Cookbook. Section 2: Seven Steps of Digital Storytelling, pg 1-24.