True Life: I’m addicted to educational vlogs

My high school teachers sucked.

Okay, they didn’t suck in the conventional use of the word: they weren’t those evil teachers you see in most high school-themed sitcoms who are always yelling or speaking in monotone. They just didn’t seem to know how to prepare us for tests. One day we would be eating M&M’s and watching a movie instead of having a lecture, and then before we knew it we’d be handed a college-level calculus exam covering all of the things we should have learned while we were slacking off.

So, it was up to us to find ways to learn things like anti-derivatives and graphing trigonometry. We all turned to different things, but the most effective way I found to learn the course material was through educational vlogs.

I started out watching the “khanacademy”, an older tutorial site run by a man with a passion for all things math and science. I nearly memorized all of his calc-related videos in preparation for my final, and I began to feel a strange sense of familiarity every time his voice started explaining the mathematical concepts that blew my mind.

My obsession with vlogs grew when I realized that I could find videos for every subject. I used them in all of my classes, cramming on YouTube until the day of the exam, and my grades improved as I spent more and more time watching movies online (ohhh, the irony of web videos actually increasing knowledge…)

My love for vlogs then led me to watch them outside of simple academic purposes. I found John and Hank Green’s Vlogbrother channel, and I started to watch every video for fun, along with most of ZeFrank and other popular vloggers. I stopped watching so much television and instead spent my time in front of the computer.

I can’t even begin to say how much information I’ve learned from the free time that I’ve spent on YouTube. These days, all good vlogs seem to come with a promise for laughter and an even greater promise for knowledge.

Because of the time I’ve spent watching these videos, I can sit here and tell you things like why the universe has no edge, how the Syrian revolution came to be, and how to write a moving essay on Holden Caulfield’s journey in The Catcher in the Rye. I grew in my understanding of almost every subject imaginable, and I even know a vast array of nerd jokes thanks to my devotion to my favorite vlogging channels.

But, these lessons are more than just random pieces of knowledge. My love for vlogs has led me to become a part of a community, one with inside jokes and funny tshirts and strange sayings: an intangible place where my thirst for knowledge is welcomed.

The Vlogbrothers call their followers “Nerdfighters”, and it is with pride and honor that I associate myself with the fandom of intellectuals that watch every Vlogbrother video the second it gets released. It’s made me smarter, funnier, and a lot more comfortable with being a total nerd.

Isn’t that what we want from the future generations?

Vlogs are the future of education. Popular vloggers tell a joke into their computer screen and people thousands of miles away laugh in response. Even better: vloggers tell an idea into their computer screen and the hundreds of thousands of viewers nod along and discover their own ways to improve the world.

The power of vlogs is rapidly growing, and I, for one, demand to be a part of it.

Educational Vlogs: What the future holds

Vlogs have now become one of the most common video genres on sites like YouTube, and some vlogs are so popular that they even have dedicated fandoms, creating a cult-like follower base for these intelligent filmmakers . For instance, using an example that I have brought up before, “The Vlogbrothers” is one of the most famous YouTube channels, earning millions of views per video thanks to the fanbase, who they call “Nerdfighters”. John and Hank Green, who created an internet vlog to maintain their relationship when one of them moved across the country, became internet phenomenons thanks to their witty videos with intellectual ideas. They represent the entire genre of vlogging: vlogs start out small, and can be useful for things like keeping in touch with family and friends, but later as they grow the vloggers begin to address a bigger audience. As the Vlogbrothers found fame online, they slowly began to get outside recognition. They have been featured at conventions and have been on multiple tours of the country to meet their fans, and thanks to YouTube’s ads, they make a significant amount of money with every video that they produce. Their success has led to an entire webpage with a record label, a community of people who assist in the Vlogbrothers’ many charity events (they’ve raised over a million dollars for a site called Kiva), and a full merchandise store. Clearly, this channel is a prime example of the triumphs that can come from making independent, online videos.

The genre of educational vlogs has really skyrocketed in the past few years thanks to the popular vlogs that have led this revolution. Though this category of videos may seem like just a fad, it is hard to see an end in sight. In fact, I predict that vlogs will be a long-lasting internet phenomenon because of the opportunities they present.  Humans tend to be very egotistical and self-centered, and therefore they are intrigued by the fact that vlogs create a platform on which to voice their opinions and get attention from people across the world. People have noted the fame and fortune that comes from running a successful vlog, and as resources like cameras and computers become easier to get a hold of, more and more people decide to start a vlog in the vein opinion that they will change the world from their seemingly superior ideas. The younger generation also shows much promise in the continuation of this genre thanks to the many teens who dedicate their time towards vlogging. YouTube even created and entire new feature simply to target opinionated vloggers. There is a small bar below each video entitled “Responses to the Video”, in which people can post their own reactions or opinions about each video in a simple vlog. In a way, this now allows us to see a vlog about a vlog, creating a “meta” genre.

The idea of vlogging grew out of only a few video-based blog posts, but even after ten years, vlogs still take on the same format and goal. Though they’ve become more entertaining (many educational vlogs have started using visual aids and background music), vlogs still stay true to the definition of a single person addressing their audience and creating a self-made video which displays their own views and ideas. The one thing that has evolved over time is the size of the audience that most vlogs focus on. The origin of vlogs, as we’ve established, was when a man wanted to show his family where he’d moved to. Vlogs originally were geared towards smaller, familial audiences until the quest for fame took a hold of the vloggers. As a vlog grows, it begins to target larger audiences, becoming more of a soapbox on which to voice ideas and reach a large group of people. This idea alone makes it easy to see why so many people take interest in vlogging: you can talk into your webcam and have thousands, if not millions, of people hear your voice and listen to your ideas. Even more interesting is the fact that each audience member gains a sense of importance by the intimacy of a vlog: it feels like having a one-on-one conversation with somebody, and it’s easy to ignore the fact that so many other people are watching the exact same video and feeling the same sense of intimacy. So, while the audience of vlogs has drastically changed throughout the years, they still contain their same sense of personal, intimate conversations in which to share ideas and voice opinions.
The one threat that vlogs do face is the notion that superior vlogs belong outside of digital media and instead should be featured in more visible places, like television and radio. The Vlogbrothers’ success story is not all that unique: many educational vloggers have also gained fame in the world outside of the internet, and the television networks do their best to scout out prominent vlogs and offer the vloggers their own contract. Though the TV networks do pose a threat to the future of vlogging, it is doubtful that any prominent vloggers will accept the offers from the greedy networks. The style of vlogging is so drastically different from television because of the creative space that the filmmakers have when they are able to edit and produce their own videos. John Green recently posted a video about why he and Hank turn down offers from television shows, explaining that the entire point of a vlog is to create your own work and make it more personal. Using a television show as a medium from which to address a group of people is not nearly as effective as making your own YouTube video because the television networks will control what the vloggers say and do, making for a more edited, scripted show instead of the natural flow of a YouTube video. So, while this threat is still applicable, it is not likely that the greediness of larger corporations will put and end to online vlogs.

History of Educational Vlogs

To understand the origin of educational vlogs, it is first important to note that the true meaning of “vlog” stems from the contraction of video and blog. Thus, in order to trace the history of vlogs, we must first look at how blogging came to be such a prominent pastime. Since the beginning of time, humans have found pride in writing things down. We record everything from accomplishments to food recipes, and the idea of journaling thoughts and ideas goes back hundreds (if not thousands) of years. Even the Bible is mainly just a recollection of events, told from the perspective of different witnesses. It’s only natural that in the shift to the digital age, we move our paper journals into digital formats, and eventually publish them online.

With the shift from personal diaries to blogs comes a huge lack of privacy and an assertion of vulnerability; it took a while for people to really get used to the idea of publishing their thoughts online. This shift from private to public journaling is said to have occurred on a very specific date: the earliest blogs claim that they originated during the events of 9/11. The news stories were so overwhelming that people began searching for explanations online, and thus started the idea of spreading information through more personal narratives. According to educause.edu, the genre of blogs was named by Jesse James Garrett, the editor of infosift, who compiled a list of websites that were link-based commentaries. And thus began the popular genre that remains incredibly prominent in this digital age.

The first official video blog created was made by in the year 2000 by a man named Adam Kontras, who wanted to journal his move to Los Angeles for his friends and family to see. Adam still uploads vlogs on a regular basis, and recently wrote about starring in a documentary about the history of vlogs because of his revolutionary video. Another key figure in the evolution of video blogging is Adrian Miles, who wrote his own short manifesto coining the term “vog” (later to be changed to vlog) and defining what the videos should consist of. This became the template for others to follow, and helped start the idea of vlogging before YouTube even came into existence.

Though vlogs existed before YouTube did, vlogging did not become popular until nearly 2006, when the world-changing video site came into picture. The site YouTube was founded in February of 2005 as a free video-sharing place, and encouraged people of all ages and backgrounds to publish videos for the public to view. People began to become entranced by the idea of digital videos as a means by which to spread ideas, and the genre of vlogs skyrocketed. Now, famous vloggers get millions a views a week and earn money from YouTube’s ads. Many popular vloggers turn down offers from big TV networks because the television salaries cannot compare to the money and freedom that YouTube has to offer. The success of vlogs and those who create them was unexpected, yet they continue to get more and more popular in our internet-obsessed world.

Educational Vlogs: Introduction to the Genre

I’ve chosen to write about the genre of “vlogs”, specifically those created for educational purposes. In this digital age, it’s become increasingly popular for people to create and upload their own videos, and the endless collection of these projects is constantly expanding with new ideas. One of the most recent fads is the idea of a vlog. The word itself is contracted from “video blog”, meaning that people basically talk to the camera in hopes of reaching a larger audience. In order for a video to be classified as a vlog, it simply needs to contain a narrator whose main purpose is to address other people. Vlogs must also be filmed and edited by their narrators instead of other people, because they are meant to be individual projects Many stand-up comedians use this as a tool by which to spread their work, but vlogs are also used as a way to spread ideas, opinions, and knowledge between people who care to take the time to watch these short digital videos.

Many of the popular educational vlogs are targeted towards students. The narrators explain certain subjects in detail, usually using more fascinating examples and visual aids, in order to convey information and help a student cram for an exam. John and Hank Green, known on YouTube as the “Vlogbrothers”, have created a channel called the “Crash Course” with over 100 videos that all discuss some type of educational topic that would likely be covered in a high school classroom. The videos each describe scientific topics or parts of world history (depending on whether it is Hank or John making the vlog), and usually are humorous, insightful, and much more intriguing than your stereotypical monotonous high school teacher. The channel has earned about 22 million collective views, and its popularity demonstrates how grand of a phenomenon these types of vlogs have become.

While the Vlogbrother Crash Course videos tend to be more formal in introducing their topics, other YouTube figures take a casual approach and create more relatable videos. YouTube user “CGP Grey” has a channel entitled “Grey Explains”, which discusses various topics in depth from an educated standpoint. The Crash Course videos are usually given specific units, such as “World War I”, which are not as intriguing to people other than students looking for that particular information. Grey’s videos, on the other hand, contain more interesting and broader subject matters, such as “5 Common Historical Misconceptions”. His audience is built of people who are simply curious enough to watch his videos, and he uses animation and witty commentary to maintain their full attention. Along with this, there is a popular YouTube channel called “Brain Scoop”, run by a zoologist at the University of Montana, which talks about interesting and weird animals with the intent to be entertaining but educational, similar to the “Grey Explains” videos.

The true “blog” factor of the vlog genre is seen in videos where the narrators speak directly to their family or friends instead of to a wider audience. For instance, many kids going abroad will create short vlogs every week to send to their families as a better demonstration of what their program is like. Long-distance friendships or relationships are also often the subject of vlogs, because the short videos give the narrators more time to really be creative and unique. People sometimes just use vlogs as a personal journal, talking about their daily lives in interesting ways with the desire to just be heard by other YouTube fanatics. All of these different subgenres of vlogs are educational because of the way that they spread ideas and information. No written message or phone call can be as creative, intriguing, and personal as a short video can be, which is why the idea of vlogs is becoming increasingly popular.

Example videos:
Crash Course

Grey Explains

Brain Scoop

Relationship/Friendship Vlogs- Brotherhood 2.0

Abroad Vlog