iPads in Education – Enhancing student learning by Lynda Cutting

Memes – cute cats or powerful learning tool

It would be tempting to see memes as just cute cat and celebrity pictures with a caption. But memes, like s much of the discussion around using ICT in learning can be so much more powerful if we dig deeply and use them rigorously.

In fact the term meme was invented in 1976 by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (way before social media became so rampant) to explain how ideas and cultural phenomena spread in the same way as evolution, similar to the way viruses and the biological evolution of genes. Examples of this cultural evolution would be songs, fashion and jargon.

Memes are a digital version of this evolution – a phenomenon that spread by imitation and replication as people share them via social media and personal networks. The key word is evolution. This is a classic example as Keep Calm evolved and was shared.

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Memes can provide biting political or social commentary – remember BronnieGate, when the then Federal Parliamentary Speaker misused a helicopter.

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Students of all ages can create their own memes by combining image and text to build on memes that have gone before – or begin something entirely new. The most important thing is that they understand they are building some form of common understanding. Imagine what could students create with these images of characters and personas that they are familiar with as a starting point!

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What would characters like these say about global warming, political or historic events or even characters in a text?


There is little doubt that memes are fun and engaging but we need to help students go beyond the superficial to deal with something of significance.

Memes can help students:

  • Develop visual literacy as they consider what words and text best represents their message
  • Move their thinking to the higher levels of Blooms Taxonomy as they synthesise  complex events, experiences or understandings into just a few, well chosen words – definitely not as easy as it sounds.
  • Develop information literacy as they consider what makes a meme go viral and the implications this might have for them and what they post on line.
  • Inspire creativity as students express themselves by combining shared social understandings with words and images in new ways

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.09.22 AMMemes are also a great teaching tool too. Try using memes to:

  • Introduce new topics and areas of study by stimulating conversation and discussion. Especially if you combine them with a thinking routine such as “Connect – Extend -Challenge”




  • Make class rules more interesting .
  • Encourage critical thinking by starting a meme and have students complete the last line.
  • Have students create a meme to summarise a text or historical event or as an exit ticket.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 4.58.47 PMThere are many ways students can create their own memes.My favourite is simply to use the free app Mematic. It is quick and easy and most importantly safe.

There are also a number of websites that work well with iPads such as Meme Generator or Livememe but be aware that they are public sites and not all images or memes are “student friendly”

Used wisely and with rigour, memes can be powerful and engaging ways for students from all year levels to synthesise their thoughts about significant ideas, events and experiences and real learning will flow.









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This entry was posted on December 3, 2015 by in Assessment, Thinking, Uncatagorised, Your iPad as a Tool and tagged , , , , , .


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