Education Student Suggests Leveraging Memes in the Classroom

WNMU secondary education senior Taylor Benavidez presents at the spring 2022 WNMU Academic Symposium.

© Western New Mexico University

Taylor Benavidez is studying secondary education at WNMU, where she said she is learning about how to be the best teacher she can be in order to educate the future leaders of our world.

“I have not only been educated on what students need to learn, but also how they learn. Recently, there has been a movement to stray away from teacher-centered learning and place more emphasis on the student having the ability to learn this information on their own,” she said in an address at this spring’s academic symposium. “But I beg to oppose this movement and say that maybe teacher-centered learning is not such a bad thing. Maybe we just don’t know how to keep the students’ attention anymore.”

The senior, who will be student teaching this fall, developed a proposed method for capturing students’ attention and engaging them with the teacher-presented content. She calls the technique “Meme-ingful Connections.”

Benavidez’ research project was aimed at determining if the use of memes within teacher-centered learning would increase student attention and allow them to retain the information longer. “I was also able to connect this project to the WNMU Millennium Honors Program and with my Classroom Assessment course,” she said. “We, as honors students, take an active approach to learning.”

Weighing the impact the internet has on students, Benavidez considered that it provides students access to more information and also a line of communication to classmates and the teacher outside of class. It also better enables students to complete work outside of the classroom and cuts down on paper waste. “It sounds great, right? Well, you have only heard one side of the story,” she said. “The internet is shortening student’s attention span. Social media provides students with short videos that they find entertaining. Students spend less time focusing on one subject.”

So, teachers should leverage the educational goldmine that the internet is providing: memes, or humorous images, videos and pieces of text that are copied (often with slight variations) and spread virally. Since images are comprehended faster than text and humor also increases comprehension, memes are an ideal way for learners to connect with content, Benavidez said.

The aspiring middle school science teacher provided an example: “An ionic bond is when one atom takes an electron from another atom. This creates a positive and negative connections between the atoms. Think of them like magnets,” she said, motioning to an image projected in the Miller Library forum. “If we look at this meme it says, ‘The name’s bond, ionic bond. Taken, not shared.’ It is a spin-off of James Bond’s martini saying. This approach is fun and engaging to students, plus it provides them a fun saying to help them remember this type of bonding.”

Arguing that memes provide fun outlook on learning, Benavidez said, “There are endless ways that we can use memes in the classroom. It is all about being brave enough to break the ice and try it for yourself.”

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