Memes as educational devices in MOOCs

Memes are powerful artifacts. In order to summarise something enough to fit inside of a meme, it is necessary to have a deep understanding of the issue or, at least, to be good at saying much with little words. It takes some previous work of organising ideas in order to create a nice and understandable meme. And memes don’t have to be idle fun. They are often used as a means to criticise annoying or unfair aspects of society, provide advice, or to create a sense of belonging to a community, since meme creators are asked to comply with certain conventions to be understood (a meme literacy, if you think about it). If is not read and understood in a few seconds, the meme is very likely to be dismissed right away. If used right, memes can be awesome, and educational, too.

A ‘WTF’ meme type, used to express disbelief or disapproval, related to Education

Memes are no longer to be seen as some strange entertainment of geeks from Reddit or 9GAG. They are increasingly being used otherwise, due to its popularity and its efficiency. I want to mention to this matter an initiative carried out by INTEF, an institution dependent of the Ministry of Education and Sports of Spain: they used memes educationally.

This institution offered MOOCs about digital storytelling and expanded education and part of the course tasks was to have students create their own memes (of course, related to the educational topics they’ve been studying throughout the MOOC). It may look like a risky activity to offer in a course with the name of an official public institution, but it came out quite good and students, allegedly, enjoyed it.

An example of a meme created by one of the students of the MOOC ‘Expanded Education‘

The objective was that students depicted their own personal view about expanded education in the form of a meme, or how digital storytelling could benefit from the use of these artifacts (you can see some of the memes here and here). It could be said that there are plenty of blatant violations of the conventions and rules used when creating a meme (you can see this other work of mine to read what I mean), but that is not the point.

This meme, not related to these MOOCs, represents how the community values the observance of certain conventions when creating memes

The point is that teachers seized a — relatively — new tool of communication, appropriated it, used it and created with it, thought of ways of using it inside their classrooms, and had a good time. And it all took place as a MOOC activity.