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27 Oct, 2022

The Politics of Special Education: The Information You Need Right Now

The Politics of Special Education: The Information You Need Right Now
20 Mar, 2022

Diversifying Your Crypto Investments

Diversification is already a known concept in the investment scene. Especially if you are involved with stock investments, you already know why it is such an essential aspect of making investments. And considering how volatile the cryptocurrency market is, the importance of diversification has just increased.
20 Aug, 2021

Internet Literacy (part 2): Memes As Communication

We’ve all had that experience where one day our students come in using some phrase or word that seems to make no sense, and giggling about it while we as teachers are confused and unsure whether to laugh with them or send them to the principal’s office. I could list some examples here but by the time anyone would read this article those terms and phrases would already be passing out of use. If you have spent any amount of time on the internet you have come across a meme. Searching for definitions for the word “meme” produces a list of stale explanations that fail to properly capture what memes are and how they function. At their simplest, memes are an idea communicated through the internet, often through unconventional means. But a more useful explanation might be something like an inside joke, but spread across a larger network of individuals through the internet. Imagine if you had a few jokes or sayings among your close friends that you repeated all the time and that took on extra meanings through their use. Another person who isn’t as steeped in the microculture of that friend group would be utterly confused. Memes are like that, but the “friend group” is broad and digitally connected. Memes are so varied that they effectively make up their own language and it's a language that evolves at an almost absurd pace. These memes also compound on themselves and can be combined to produce even deeper meanings. One thing should be noted, though, that while often memes are rooted in humor they should not be treated as just some foolish nonsense that the kids are using these days. For as long as the internet continues to be an important facet of our lives, the use of memes as communicative shorthand will continue and will grow. No teacher really has the time to stay all the way up to date with everything that is happening on the internet nor is it necessarily a good idea for teachers to try too hard to use memes as a means of connecting with students. Just by nature of being an adult, our use of memes often makes students cringe at how awkward it seems. This is both because we’re just older and it seems weird to our students when we do it, and we’re likely to do it very poorly. However, it is a good idea to understand the language that our students are communicating in so we can properly determine when someone is making a playful joke and when some is ruthlessly bullying another student. Or so we can be a little less confused about whether to share a laugh with our students, or to send them to the principal’s office. So, here are some helpful tips you can use to stay afloat in an ever-shifting sea of confusing jokes and ideas. Its ok to ask If you have a young person in your life, get them to explain a meme to you. Get them to show it to you in its original context and then to explain how it is used. Also, you can google most memes. Websites like knowyourmeme.com are made by internet historians to help those of us who are confused by them and because it's genuinely interesting information to see how a meme started and how it's used. If you hear a new phrase or sound or something in your classroom, google it and try and understand what it means. Know The Platform Social media platforms are generally where memes are born (particularly Twitter and Reddit, though TikTok’s current popularity makes it a good source as well). It would be exhausting to try and deeply understand each platform but it's good to at least have a working understanding of how each platform functions so that you can understand the basics of what your kids say. For instance, a phrase that is still used on occasion is “don’t @ me” where “@” is pronounced “at.” This comes from the idea that someone could see a meme online that reminds them of a friend of theirs who they would tag in that meme using the “@.” It's a way to jokingly call someone out for their odd behaviors or ideas. Knowing how people are tagged on various social media platforms informs this use of the phrase. Knowing which apps are being referenced when a person “stitches”, or “quote-tweets”, or “shares a post” helps us understand the nature of that particular idea being stitched, or quote-tweeted, or shared. It can also be helpful to know how each platform is viewed. For instance, knowing that historically tumblr has a reputation for being a place for sad people and niche fandoms whereas twitter is a place where people go to get mad about politics and share hot takes, color’s our perspective on what is being said on those platforms and the intended audience. This article will likely date itself because each of these platforms is a community that is changing and is full of countless subcommunities. It can honestly seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Just get a small taste for how these platforms are used and viewed by your students (maybe even by having them show you) and you’ll have a much richer understanding of how your students are communicating. Its ok to use a meme, even with some cringe It's not worth spending the time and energy to stay on top of every new trend and going out of your way to constantly use slang or jokes your students use may make it seem like you’re trying too hard to be the “cool teacher.” However, if you feel comfortable that you understand a meme and find yourself with a good moment to use it, go for it. Referencing the occasional meme, like cracking the odd joke here and there, can let your students know that you ARE a real person (with access to the same internet they have) and that you are more in touch than they might have thought. All in all, don’t be too afraid of memes and take the time to familiarize yourself with the language that your students will be using.
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