Using memes in learning

Videos can go viral in a matter of seconds – the more outlandish the better to create buzz and the fleeting 15 minutes of fame. With the phenomena of the internet and social media in particular, memes have gained popularity and notoriety as entertainment and distraction from the hum drum of daily life.

The concept of memes has been around for a while but exploded on the scene with the increasing popularity of social networking sites. So, what is a meme exactly? Basically, it is a behaviour or cultural system that is passed around by individuals usually via imitation. Think of a video, an image or text that goes viral on the internet because it is forwarded to many people who then create variations of the original.

Why not replicate the success of memes in the learning discipline? They share the same factors as some of the elements needed to deliver a successful learning program. Factors such as repetition, imitation and engagement comes to mind. A learning program is only as good as its design and delivery. Instructional Designers and Facilitators are tasked with the ability to dazzle, while delivering the practical aspects such as relevance, interest, and retention. Of course, as in any design, the audience and the need will be the driving force.

My most memorable teachers, while in school, were those who “coloured outside of the lines”. They were able to convey information in exciting and memorable ways. I have heard of high school teachers who have used the musical genre of rap to teach math, for example. The brain has a way of gravitating towards the unusual.

Pop culture has given us many tools and ideas that we can use to jazz up our learning programs. I think memes just might be the ticket.

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