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Here’s something that actually happened this week: Two of my students were hanging out in my classroom working on a project after school. I had just assigned a research project to introduce The Great Gatsby. One student, Mary, asked me if I subscribe to John Green’s vlog. She asked because she does subscribe to his vlog and she wanted me to know that he had vlogged about Gatsby.

For those of you who don’t know John Green, he’s a YA author. He and his brother started the vlog called “vlogbrothers.” In the vlogs, they have conversations about all kinds of things, from literature, to the births of their children, and more. As they describe their project: “Hank and John Green are nerdy brothers who make videos. Really, it’s not about anything in particular. Whether we’re talking about our lives, making each other laugh, or trying to get something more important across, people seem to enjoy it.” You can view and subscribe to their vlog here:

Now here’s how I personally found out about the vlogbrothers: A teaching friend of mine from years ago sent out a mass email with a link to a particular vlogbrothers video, titled “I Am Not a Pornographer.” In the video (which I hope you’ll watch), John Green defends his novel, Waiting for Alaska, which was in danger of being banned in a school district in upstate NY. You’ll have to watch the video if you want to learn the details, but suffice to say, it was really troubling. I have a friend who teaches in a nearby district, and so I sent him the link, urging him to mobilize teachers to stand up in defense of the book. In the meantime, I contacted some folks I know who work at NCTE, which has a whole division that deals with censorship issues. NCTE immediately got to work by sending a letter in support of the teacher who wanted to teach the book. (She had cleared it in advanced with parents and administrators; the folks who tried to ban the book didn’t even have kids in the school! They just didn’t want their tax dollars supporting “pornography.”

So, long story short: subscribing to a vlog through an RSS feed can help mobilize people for an important cause. And students who love authors can subscribe to the author’s blogs and vlogs as a way of participating in larger discussions about things that matter to them.  For example, here’s a link to the blog of another YA writer whose books have been recently challenged: Laurie Halse Anderson. Kids love her, and she speaks to and for them. Teachers might link such RSS feeds to their class websites, and librarians might link them to their homepages. so, I don’t think RSS feeds are dead.  At least not yet!


10 Responses to “VLOGS”

  1. Mary –
    This is amazing! 1) – I love that your students subscribe to a Vlog (and a educational one at that!) and 2) – The Power of that Vlog is just inspiring! Many moons ago (ha – like when I was in high school), this inter-connectivity would never have occurred. A author defending his book in a public forum would have been very different, and you would have probably never found out about it. It is that little spark that sets off the next in a marvelous chain of events!

    • Denice,
      I know! I know! When I was in high school, we didn’t even have VCRs, computers, or internet. I went to college with a manual typewriter and change for the pay phone! But my kids–just a generation later–are completely socially connected through technology. They study with their friends via Ovoo and Skype. They connect on facebook and via texting. YouTube is a go-to source for them on all kinds of educational matters. So cool, right?

  2. That’s amazing your students were already subscribing to vlogs and related it to coursework! The Great Gatsby is my favorite classic!

  3. Mary! I agree vlogs are such a cool tool to use in the classroom! Especially for kids who really engage more when they are watching something vs reading something. I love that students can watch videos of their favorite authors and really see the person behind the book they love! And from experience at the FFL library I work at where they have a “meet the author” Skype series, I feel that with the power of vlogs the author can even personalize a vlog to the student which would make any kids day! Having vlogs in an RSS feed is smart too! thanks for the post good ideas!

    • I LOVE FFL. What a great library. Who are some of the authors you’ve featured? I learned about a few skyping with authors programs the last time I went to NCTE. Such a cool thing!

  4. Hi Mary – Thanks for sharing “I am not a Pornographer.” Hearing John Green talk about this situation has so much more impact than reading a letter from him. I can see how appealing this is to young people, and how you can feel more connected to authors this way.
    It is pretty cool how the Vlog Brothers have built a community around their vlogging. Have you seen a recent post? They talk so fast, I think it is another sign that I am old.

    Also, love the recipes!!!


    • Hi Joy,

      Thanks! They DO talk fast! You know, when they started this vlogging project, I think they were just going to try it out for a year. But then they kept going, which is pretty awesome. I love the idea that all kinds of topics are open for discussion. One of the vlogs is about whether or not they believe in god. Kids talk about that kind of stuff!

      When I lived in Illinois, one of my best friends was a stay-at-home dad. We did all kinds of projects with our kids in the summer. (We even made beer once–NOT a project for kids!) Anyway, Rob would often call me or one of his far-flung siblings at about 5:00 which just one question: What are you making for dinner???? Thinking of what to make on the fly is the worst part of being the primary cook in the house. (That’s your husband, right?) It became a joke that inspired my blog.

  5. Oops. Just realized that I misidentified the title. It’s LOOKING for Alaska, not Waiting for Alaska. I’m going to teaching Waiting for Godot to my AP students. Guess that was on my mind!

  6. I find it refreshing to hear of educators who stand up and take action like you did, Mary. As if you are not busy enough, but you took the time to mobilize others and write that letter and it resulted in support from NCTE.

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