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William Sprankles @wsprankles

What Education can learn from The Harlem Shake

Screen Shot 2013-03-06 at 8.48.55 AMOver the past month, the video craze of “The Harlem Shake” by Bauuer has essentially done just that, shaken-up cyberspace via thousands of youtube videos being filmed in schools, offices, firetrucks, shopping malls, dentist offices and more.  If you can think of something crazy it pretty much happened –  from The University of Georgia Men’s Swim Team filming an underwater version, to Lebron James and The Miami Heat filming a locker room scene.

Students from all over the world participated; from middle school classrooms, to high school students in recreation centers, to multiple college-aged students in various settings – the participation level is at an all-time high.

Some powerful themes jumped out to me based on such a strong sweeping trend of this Harlem Shake craze:

1. Students love MUSIC.  The song “Harlem Shake” by Bauuer is energetic and brings people together for a comedic purpose.  Get your playlist together. Use music in your lesson plans, classroom culture, school settings and recreation centers as much as possible. Music is one of few universal languages and should be an integral part of the educational experience.

2. Students enjoy SURPRISES. Thirty-seconds into the song when the beat drops, everyone begins to dance crazily with a surprise prop or off-the-wall costume. This should be a reminder that students enjoy when principals, coaches, counselors and teachers switch things up, change the pace, and ultimately – deliver the unexpected.

3. All students want to PARTICIPATE – The sheer volume of students around the globe that wanted to make these videos and participate is ridiculous.  Use this to your advantage; let students work in teams to film, edit, produce and showcase their creativity for a different purpose – they will not let you down! Some students enjoy being the center of the video, while others are comfortable being in the back doing their own dance – but they all want to be included.

4. You Must Use SOCIAL MEDIA. Many students had already watched hundreds of these videos and recorded their own versions before many adults even realized what the video was.  We need to understand and respect the speed at which trends take life in the culture of our youth. In addition, we need to embrace the power of social media in our classrooms and schools to properly teach students how to share, research and interact globally.

5. Students simply want to have FUN. It’s easy for us as educators to get lost on the whirlwind of legislation reform, policies, standardized testing and new evaluation systems. I will be the first to admit that all of these changes often impact my attitude and interactions with others. We must remember that students are still kids and they deserve to have fun. And as adults, we need to make sure we never lose our own youthful spirits.

Here’s 5  simple ways to apply this article to your own setting:

  • Ask a student walking by in the hallway what’s playing in their ipod  and watch the expression on their face.  See where the conversation takes you…
  • Film a Harlem Shake video with your colleagues….perhaps at a staff meeting.
  • Think of a surprise for an individual, group or classroom of students that you can deliver to change things up. It can be small-scale or something huge.
  • Take 2 minutes to ask a few students how much fun they have recently been having at school or in classrooms and listen to their responses.
  • Finally, find a student that you know is not involved with anything at school – and simply invite them to participate in an activity, club or group.   The simple fact that you personally took the time to ask a student to get involved will change your relationship with that child.

Onward and Upward,

William T. Sprankles III

Princeton City School, 6-12 Principal

@PHSViking

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One comment on “What Education can learn from The Harlem Shake

  1. Randy Wilhelm
    March 6, 2013

    YES. Education is a participation sport! Learning follows engagement, always and exclusively.
    Well said.
    Onward with innovation.

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