Memes and funny videos are popular things to share online with friends. However, sometimes these memes or videos are offensive to some cultures and can hurt people. This module introduces students to the concept of critically evaluating what they are going to post or re-share, and gives them the tools to help them decide if something is culturally appropriate or not.
The goal of this module is for students to acknowledge that although memes and videos can be funny, they can also be hurtful, and it is important to be mindful of the potential impact of what we are posting.
- The adoption of elements of a minority culture by members of the dominant culture. It involves a power imbalance or the presence of a colonial element, which makes it an unequal cultural exchange.
- A humorous image, video, or piece of text that is copied (often with slight variations or words added) and spread rapidly on the internet.
- Being aware of cultural differences and similarities between people without assigning them a value (positive or negative, better or worse).
- The use of electronic communication to intimidate or harm a person, typically by sending messages of a cruel or threatening nature.
- Prejudice, discrimination or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.
- Have you ever posted a meme? (Ask students to describe them)
- Have you ever made your own meme?
- What are some issues that could result from posting memes?
This module provides an opportunity to address curriculum expectations in Computer Studies, Character Education and Media Literacy. Students will be introduced to ideas of cultural sensitivity and bullying when using social media online. This lesson is geared to students in Grades 7 to 12.
- Computers with internet access (to access a meme generator)
- Meme print-out cards – Download Assets Folder (ZIP)
Begin by reviewing what a meme is (definition is in the vocabulary section). Using the print-out cards of the four memes included in the assets folder (ZIP) of this module, students look at the memes and decide if they are appropriate or not.
This could be done altogether as a class, or in smaller groups, depending upon the size of the class. First ask the students to categorize the memes as either Appropriate, Inappropriate or Unsure. Then discuss the memes as a group and ask students to explain why they think the memes are appropriate or not. Optional: you can print out the Cultural Competency Self-Assessment Awareness (PDF) and have students go through this while they look at the different memes.
Key questions students should ask themselves are:
- Is this meme poking fun at or making jokes about a particular culture?
- Are there any elements of this meme that could be considered racist?
- Is there any chance someone might find this offensive?
- Are there any elements of cultural appropriation in this meme?
- How should we react to stereotyped imagery and statements?
- Do these memes make fun of or make light of any historically significant events, worldviews or challenges of any culture?
Discuss the different vocabulary words such as racism, cultural sensitivity, and cultural appropriation, and how posting a meme that may offend somebody’s culture can be considered a form of cyberbullying. A key point to emphasize is that it is still unacceptable to post a meme, even if the person posting it identifies with the group being made fun of. Because of the public nature of the internet, students cannot control what audiences will see the post, be hurt or offended by it, or who might repost without thinking. Even if something is posted with positive, non-harmful intentions, once it is on the internet, you cannot control the path it takes.
Once students understand the importance of cultural sensitivity when posting memes, allow them 20 to 40 minutes to create their own cultural-appropriate meme with an online generator (two are listed in the Additional Resources section). Then have students share their creations with each other and discuss the significance of their meme.
Once all of the key concepts have been discussed, ask the students to write down (on individual sticky notes, or on a whiteboard/chalkboard/large writing pad) what they have learned about cultural sensitivity when posting online. Remind students of the importance of critically evaluating a joke, meme or video, before sharing it or reposting.
- The Ubyssey – Why is the meme one of the most important means of modern communication
- Prezi – Memes and their influence on pop culture
- Meme Generators – memegenerator.net or imgflip.com/memegenerator
- ISTE – Five ways to use memes with students
- Fractus Learning – Using classroom memes to connect with your students
- EdTech – Make memes and quotes with your class
- PDF Document – Cultural competency self-assessment awareness checklist
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