What do you meme?

From cave art to digital photographs, visuals have been a part of our life for thousands of years. But what impact do these visuals have upon our life? Students are constantly working with images through various mediums such as Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, and Pinterest. The sharing of images has become so common in recent years that popular pictures have gained more recognition as they are transformed into various meme’s. These pictures are universally recognized and understood, hindered not by language or cultural barriers. Now the question is, how do we use this widespread fascination with visual images in our classroom?

According to the article, ‘Using images to teach critical thinking skills: visual literacy and digital photography’ (Cordell), “80% of what you perceive, comprehend, or remember depends on the efficiency of the visual system”. So it stands to reason that we should place a high importance on developing our students visual system. For our younger students it might be done through something as simple as a picture walk through the story you are reading. Asking students key questions along the way such as, “What do you see in this picture?”, “What does it remind you of?”, “How does it make you feel”, and “What more would you like to know?” will help with developing students visual comprehension and help them make connections to other background knowledge that they have. For older students, analyzing infographics, political cartoons, and working with the creation of visuals such as meme’s or collages, might be more beneficial to continuing the development of their visual system. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that is becoming increasingly more true with each passing year. Visuals can have a powerful effect on explaining a situation or persuading people to action. One picture can invoke more emotion on a topic than hundreds of words on the same topic. Maybe it goes to that old saying, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. It is easy to disconnect from words on a paper, believing that it doesn’t impact you at all. However, when a picture is placed in front of you, suddenly it becomes much more real and personal. It creates an emotional connection that you don’t get from words alone. Teaching our students to understand and analyze, as well as create, visuals will help them to not only connect with information on a more personal level, but also engage in helping others to connect as well.

One thought on “What do you meme?

  1. I like your thinking here about the different kinds of visual literacy traning that would be appropriate for younger vs older students. Your comments about the power of visual images to provoke emotional responses also reminds us that part of visual literacy training should include teaching people to be skeptical about some images and to understand all the ways that an image can be manipulated to make things that are not real appear to be “documented.”


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