Lots of online courses look to provide a means of introduction – specifically as a way to warm students up to others taking the course. There’s bound to be some means of engagement of students one with another (or at least there should be). While it’s easy to tell students, “state your name, where you’re from and something unique about yourself”, doing so is an old and rather tired prompt.
Rather, another way to do accomplish much more discussion and interest from students is to have them create a meme and post it to the course discussion area. Meme’s are “an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by nongenetic means, especially imitation.” A meme carries with it the idea of carrying forward a framework, while recognizing that other frames of reference exist. In the case of class introductions, using the prompt, “Explain what you do,” can seem daunting and dry. Yet, when paired with a meme as a product – it asks students to create an image or set of images that when given the ‘right’ prompts – help students explain what they do as viewed by different audiences. Take the following one for example on teachers:
Or here’s one on IT Support Desk folks (Tech Support):
Some of the comparisons following the prompts are laughable, entertaining and yet telling at the same time. Use the following prompts or just a few of them:
- What my friends think I do
- What my mom (parents) think I do
- What society thinks I do
- What my boss thinks I do
- What I think I do
- What I actually do
Any amount of searching the Internet will turn up quite an array of these memes, so it may be important to help focus student’s efforts to produce these. You can find a Powerpoint template for creating them here. To be sure these don’t have to be incredibly complex. They can also serve as an entry point to discuss copyright, proper source citation and explanation of meaning. Meme meanings are not always obvious – not unlike puns or humor from one language or culture to another. Students could be prompted to explain their memes or attempt to explain the memes of other students.
Additional prompts could also be included, such as:
- What my future will be like
- What my parents think my future will be like
- What my teacher thinks my future will be like
- What my future won’t be like
Keep in mind these prompts and the pairing of them with creating a meme sets students on a path of exploration and elevates their thinking from information recall (about themselves) to reflection, comparison and contrast as well as evaluation which are considered higher order thinking skills.
As a technology extension, this could also be done using VoiceThread.