INTRODUCTION When reflecting on ways I can utilize remixing and address double exposure in the classroom, I started reviewing classroom annoyances of the past. Earlier this year when I was working as a supply teacher, I quickly learned a common frustration that most teachers have when students return from an absence and ask if they missed anything. It is so vital for teachers to either update a class blog with attachments of assignments and/or have a file in the classroom for students to check. In the middle of doing 549 other tasks, it can be difficult to recall exactly what the student needs to know and it seems inevitable that the “Did I miss” question (NOT “what did I miss”) will arise. And when it does arise…despite their innocence and your desire from them to get away from you ASAP because they may still have germs in some instances, you must keep a cheery disposition. This is where the “Unhelpful High School Teacher” comes into play.
Remix #1 (because sometimes one just isn’t enough…looking at you Diddy and Ja Rule) “The Unhelpful High School Teacher” is an available meme on memegenerator.net. Most of the memes built around this character have condescending messages. They seem like they could be based around annoyances that students want to air about teachers. While this image is already available, I created this particular caption. The site is free but asks for you to create an account. It is simple to use and I the only drawback is that it places a watermark in the lower right corner (even on pictures that you upload from the web or your personal collection). You can then either select an existing image from their database or upload an image. Other pre-loaded images include- Kermit the Frog, Oprah, Willy Wonka, Jackie Chiles (Seinfeld) Law School, and a guidance counselor. Next, it will ask you to fill out what you would like the text at the top and bottom of the image to say, respectively. Additional hashtags can also be added. I chose- “kidsaskthedarndestthings #annoyingquestions #checktheblog. By creating this meme, I remixed the original as it swapped the perspective from the student to the teacher. However, I thought I would take it even further….
Remix #2 Enter Chris Traeger, a character from NBC’s Parks and Recreation. I kept the captions almost the same. I cut down the top line some as it got a little long (and will start covering up the character’s face) and I modified the last line to include “literally,” this character’s favorite and overused word. Using Chris Traeger transforms the meaning as his character is super positive and if he were a teacher, his meaning would differ from “The Unhelpful High School Teacher” as he would not say it sarcastically. In fact, he would probably say it LITERALLY. Chris Traeger would probably either LITERALLY shut down the class for an entire week for the absent student or he would have them come in after school to LITERALLY make up all of the time missed because he would be afraid that their education may be forever damaged. SIDE NOTE: I really like Parks & Rec and I think they might have missed the boat on this “Teacher Traeger” idea (which would in itself be a remix). A teacher could ironically place this meme on their missed work box to maybe give students somewhat of a smile as they collected their dreaded piles of missed work. I do not think that most high schoolers would take the meme LITERALLY. Caution may be needed with younger middle school students. The Chris Traeger image is one that I got off of Google and uploaded to memegenerator.net.
Memes could be a part of a class project to assist students with learning vocabulary, grammar, plot points, characters, or writing techniques. The memes would help them because they would be able to connect school content with familiar TV characters, musicians, athletes, and/or animals.
- Students are “boxed in” to the design of the application and may not be able to fully communicate their intended meaning if it is too narrow or niche.
I am glad that I checked out memegenerator.net as I know that memes are quite popular with students and CONFESSION—this was the first time that I have ever created a meme! I have seen them all over social media for some time and can recall how many different meanings have been attached to one image. I would like to continue to check out further meme apps to weigh out what would be most contemporary and student-friendly. The Chris Traeger meme represents double expose as it superimposes my experiences (from the classroom) on a found image through remediation with text (Rish, 2012). The meanings carried by the Traeger character prior to my remix were those intended for the character (by the collaboration between the writers and producers of Parks and Recreation and actor Rob Lowe). Even though my remediation places the character in a potentially different role than a state auditor or city manager, his character traits are not wiped away. Students familiar with Parks and Recreation may even not initially understand his usage in the meme and it may open up the floor for an interesting conversation about character analysis and even remix, employing the idea that learning should be a conversation, not dictation (Dail & Thompson, 2016).
Cautions for Using Memes in the Classroom:
- Students may have a difficult time reeling it in when necessary as memes present ample opportunities to be goofy and perhaps go too far out in the deep end.
- memegenerator.net is not an appropriate site for younger students. It contains explicit language and suggestive content.
- Teachers must make sure that students are not uploading pictures of each other (or anyone connected to the school or community) as it may lead to potential bullying issues. Consistent monitoring and firm guidelines for assignments using memes are a must! This includes informing students what and what they cannot use in relation to copyright laws.
My Suggestions for Using Memes and Remixes in the Classroom:
- Ensure that a proper connection is drawn from the meme (or other form of remix) to the learning (current content and critical thinking).
- Make sure that students are comparing and contrasting their remix creation with the original and why and how their deconstruction alters the original’s meaning (and how it stays the same).
Questions for Teachers:
- Are there G-rated meme apps available? Are high school students turned off by their “clean” nature? How do you monitor potential bullying threats?
- What are some suggestions for appropriate assignments to employ memes? Have you had bad experiences using memes or other forms of remixes in your classroom?
Dail, J. S., & Thompson, N. (2016). Talking Back: Remix as a Tool for Helping Students Exercise Authority when Meaning Making. The ALAN Review,35-48.
Rish, Ryan (2012). Double Exposure. RyanRish: Playing and learning with ideas and media.