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Memes Madness! Reflections and Connections from #clmooc

Memes Madness! Reflections and Connections from #clmooc

Written by Peter Kittle
July 29, 2014

This was originally posted as a blog for Making Learning Connected 2014, otherwise known as CLMOOC. These reflections and connections come from the second week’s Make Cycle focused on Memes! led by Kim Jaxon, Jarret Krone, and Peter Kittle of the Northern California Writing Project.

A hearty and heartfelt thank you to everyone in the #clmooc community for your enthusiastic, thoughtful, provocative, and often hilarious contributions to our meme-making madness this week. We were so impressed with the variety of makes posted in the G+ community, on Twitter, and to the Make Bank—it was definitely a prolific week!


We saw some interesting trends show up during the week that are worth highlighting. One was the notion of the “localized” meme, perhaps best exemplified by a flurry of makes coming in from the Southern Nevada Writing Project. With memes focused on anything from their writing group protocols to the frustrations of finding a parking place on a college campus, the local
meme trend helped us see commonalities we share with our distant colleagues while also getting a glimpse of their particular communities’ values and concerns. We also saw a number of funny riffs develop on topics like The Big Lebowski and Luis Suarez’s World Cup chomp. But the potential for memes to do more than make us smile was also given due attention. Many took up the call from Kevin Hodgson’s blog post, “When the Meme Turns Serious,” and created thoughtful makes about topics like seeing more than data in students, understanding the economics behind standardized tests, and student resilience; +Rebecca Wolkenstein focused on disability issues in a series of makes that may show us all ways to strategically use the meme genre for social activism.

Beyond the makes themselves, many participants shared compelling blog posts focused on complicating and extending our thinking about memes. Shyam Sharma’s thoughtful considering of the variations of meaning attributed to owls led to an inquiry into the memes of writing across cultural bounds. Shyam’s post inspired Maha Bali to write about the complications of using even seemingly “natural” animal symbols like dogs, cows, and pigs, finally leading to some thoughts about rhizomatic learning. Chris Campbell took the concept of the meme and applied it to the ways that references work in films, and by extension invited us to think about what the rich knowledge of cultural memes, broadly considered, provides for us.


In our Twitter chat Thursday, we were struck by the connections being made between writing memes and writing in more familiar genres: even when we’re composing with images, we’re still considering purpose, context, audience, and the affordances (and limitations) of form. These writing practices—with their focus on context, audience, and purpose—may be “the basics” we can work with as we support students. Perhaps we can move from our “old” memes—the five paragraph essay comes to mind—and toward  “new memes” for education such as participation and collaboration. How do we turn the principles of Connected Learning into memes that spread in educational settings? How do we condense complex ideas—openly networked, peer supported, and production centered learning—down to a morsel? As Peter Kittle’s Ignite talk reminds us: “Education needs better memes.”

Reflecting on Memes and Meme-Making

Memes in their most-common online form are the very incarnation of brevity. For reflecting on Make Cycle #2, we invite you to elaborate on your experiences with memes this week in a longer form. Maybe you’d like to reflect using one of the tools people used in their Make Cycle #1 How To projects (a ThingLink? a Hackpad? a Canva? a HaikuDeck?) to create a “How to think about memes and education” project. Perhaps a blog post would better suit your purposes (see Mindy Early’s “Mentorship and Writing Economically” post, or Peter Kittle’s NWP 40th blog post to see how memes and blogging can work together). Regardless of form, we would appreciate hearing about your making processes (successes, failures, iterations, ah-ha moments, stuck places, and everything in between), your insights about memes, your perceptions of ties to Connected Learning, and your thinking about the roles memes could play in your classrooms, and in your roles as educational leaders.

What’s Ahead

We look forward to what you continue to share in Make Cycle #3. (Nor is it too late to share a How To Guide from Make Cycle #1, or to continue making memes). The third Make Cycle begins on Monday and facilitators Terry Elliot from the Western Kentucky Writing Project and Joe Dillon from the Denver Writing Project will bring games and gaming into our Connected Learning space. We’re excited to make, learn, and play next week. Until then, keep meming and reflecting!

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