Vlog Brothers make learning fun in the classroom

IMG_0511By Rachel Parks

Staff Writer

With five successful novels and numerous smaller works, John Green has become popular among teens and young adults. Many students may have heard about Green, author of “The Fault in our Stars,” which is becoming a movie in June. However, he also has another passion: teaching history and literature.

Brothers John and Hank Green, also known as the Vlog Brothers, teamed together in 2011 to make videos on YouTube to educate the public. The channel, named CrashCourse, currently has over 1.5 million subscribers and is animated by another YouTube channel called Thoughtcafe.

On the Crash Course channel, John Green teaches subjects such as world history, U.S. history and literature. Brother Hank Green teaches topics like biology, ecology, chemistry and psychology.

World history teacher David Schnell has been using John Green’s world history videos for the past three years about once every two weeks as a review and study aid for students. He shows his regular world history students the videos in class, and assigns the AP students to watch them for homework.

“I think [John Green] is entertaining,” says Schnell. “I like the way he does his videos. I like the  professional quality of the videos, [and] I like that he keeps the format the same for each of the videos. You’ve got the thought bubble, you’ve got the open letter segment, so I like how he’s doing it.”

Although Schnell loves the videos, he says that his regular world history students dislike them because John Green talks too fast and they don’t find it funny. On the other hand, the AP students seem to understand it more because they already have learned more of the material that he talks about.

Those who have read his books seem to enjoy the videos in particular because they understand his sense of humor. Sophomore Zach Fyke has noticed this behavior.

Sophomore Luz Analitis has read “The Fault in Our Stars” and notices that her classmates who have read the books connect to him because they think he is a good writer.

“He’s pretty sophisticated, he makes little jabs so you have to kind of know what he’s talking about,” says Schnell. “[The students] are not fully exposed to some of the ideas that he’s making fun of.”

U.S. History and American Studies teacher Frank Mirandola uses Crash Course videos before teaching the material, unlike Schnell. He assigns a worksheet to students for homework, similar to a flipped classroom situation.

“They’re very dense with content, so it allows us to go ahead and get a lot of good, holistic ideas out that we can use as a foundation, or jumping off point, in class discussions and class lessons,” Mirandola said.

Mirandola thinks that if he doesn’t assign the videos too often, his students will continue to appreciate them.

“I like to go ahead and [assign a video] maybe once a unit,” says Mirandola. “Philosophically…if you go ahead and [assign them] too much, like anything else, it’s not something that people will really go ahead and enjoy.”

Mirandola is indifferent to John Green’s growing popularity and says that if anyone else were to narrate the lessons, they would be just as good.

However, both Schnell and Mirandola agree that John Green talks very fast, too fast for some students to fully understand what he is teaching. Fyke says that it is hard to pay attention since he talks so fast.

Fyke also says that some of the students in his class don’t like the videos not only for the fast rate that John Green talks, but because they don’t like the humor.

“A lot of [my classmates] think that it’s really annoying and frustrating, because it’s kind of childish in some cases, with some of the cartoons and segments he has,” says Fyke.

“Whenever [our teacher] says we’re going to watch them, our whole class retaliates,” says Analitis.

Although many students dislike the videos, Analitis say that they can be helpful. She watched one of John Green’s literature videos in order to write an essay. She says that the videos are a good review, but since she doesn’t usually watch them outside of class, they don’t help her that much.

“I think they realize that it’s a valuable tool, as opposed to just something else that we’re doing in class,” says Mirandola.

Subjects on Crash Course youtube channel:

Hank Green:





John Green:

-World History

-US History

-Literature 1 & 2