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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Five-Minute Film Festival: Best Education Parodies of 2012

The end is near! The end of 2012, that is -- and the retrospectives are plentiful, from Google's tear-inducing annual Zeitgeist video to lists upon lists of the best books, movies, and music. YouTube went all out for its year-end celebration -- with the YouTube Rewind channel, featuring the most popular videos of 2012, an interactive timeline, and "Rewind YouTube Style," a video with YouTube's most viral stars parodying themselves. Meta-mashup bliss? You got it.

As fans of The Onion and The Daily Show can tell you, satire can be a powerful cultural phenomenon. With humor, you can speak more frankly than you would in serious media, garner attention from crowds you wouldn't usually connect with, and generate buzz around topics that don't normally spark the collective consciousness. And creative educators see opportunity here -- to make great remixes themselves, or to assign them to their students. These sometimes become viral themselves by riding the wave of popularity a viral hit can bring. And so, I present to you: my favorite educational parody videos of 2012.

Video Playlist: Edu Parodies, Mashups, and Lip-Dubs

Keep watching the player below to see the rest of the playlist, or view it on YouTube.

  1. "Molecules Gone Wild (Bio Style)" - Macromolecules Song (03:42)

    2012 has clearly been the year of "Gangnam Style," and the number of spinoffs is staggering, like the popularity of the record-breaking original video, which passed one billion views today. An industrious high school science teacher put a lot of thought into this version for his biology students!

  2. Study Maybe? (03:13)

    Carly Rae Jepsen's ear-worm pop song "Call Me Maybe" started inspiring endless spoofs in March. My favorite is endearingly low-fi, made by teachers at Tavares High School as a back-to-school anthem for their students. An honorable mention to this version from Three Rivers School District.

  3. Bad Romance: Women's Suffrage (05:08)

    It's true, Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" came out in 2009, but this must-watch parody on the 19th Amendment and women's right to vote was released in 2012. This phenomenal video's maker, digital publishing house Soomo Publishing, also offers teaching resources to accompany it.

  4. Martin High School Lip Dub 2012 (12:54)

    This video wins the prize for most-ambitious-single-shot-lip-dub video of 2012. Nearly 4,000 students, faculty and staff choreographed everything perfectly for this unbelievable one-take video. And it's for a cause: when they found out a classmate had a rare form of cancer, the school made this to raise money for cancer research.

  5. Chemistry Dubstep (02:39)

    Okay, this one isn't a parody, but the dubstep genre got a boost when Lindsay Stirling's epic dubstep violin video "Crystallize" took the world by storm. Then, PeriodicVideos collaborated on this awesome video made entirely from noises from the lab. Get behind the scenes, or see PBS Idea Channel for why dubstep might actually be Avant Garde musical genius.

  6. Shake You Down (The Association Song) aka the PTA Rap (05:41)

    The PTA goes gangsta in this clever video, where suburban moms get serious about school fundraising by forming a racket. It's actually a teaser for a web series out of Los Angeles called "The Association," intended to raise awareness about the education budget crisis.

  7. We Are Hungry (04:19)

    Students and teachers made this parody of another power-ballad hit of 2012, "We Are Young" by Fun, to protest a new federal calorie limit on school lunches -- and it worked. Also worth watching: this special-effects-heavy lipdub of the same song from a high school in Montreal.

  8. Some Study That I Used to Know (Gotye Parody) (02:49)

    Gotye's original video went viral in summer 2011, but the covers and remixes just keep coming. Though not teacher-produced, the one I love most is from typically-lowbrow (but intelligent!) comedy outfit College Humor. It's funny and pointed, and inspired a great TED-Ed flip.

  9. Smith vs Marx. Epic Rap Battles of History Parody (02:56)

    Although the originals are mashups to start with (and usually not terribly safe for school), the Epic Rap Battles of History (ERB) format is ripe for school assignments. Here's an ambitious ERB between Karl Marx and Adam Smith, made by two high school students for an economics project.

  10. Spartan High School Style (04:18)

    I've chosen this one as a cautionary tale -- the poor students who made this "Gangnam Style" parody for a class project have had their video universally heralded as the "Worst Video on the Entire Internet." And Rebecca Black is dethroned. One never knows when one's video may go viral -- choose your uploads wisely.

Resources for Fair Use in Education

Speaking of Rebecca Black, no need to thank me for not including any parodies of "Friday" (which was actually released on March 14th, or Pi Day... you know where I'm going with this, I'll bet you can hear it in your head already). And that's so 2011, anyhow. But hopefully my selections got you excited about making some high-quality mashups with your colleagues -- or your class.

As valuable as it is to encourage kids to be creators and not just consumers of all that media, it's equally important to open the conversation around intellectual property rights and legal issues when you're remixing pop culture. Some understanding of these issues is part of the toolkit of every good digital citizen. It's complicated stuff, so I've listed some links to resources about copyright and fair use for education to help you and your students develop good legal practices for your projects. I hope your holidays are restful and re-invigorating. See you in 2013!

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