John Green says that he’s writing these days, but, he adds, he’s not far enough in the process to “quite know what I am writing about yet.” A year after the film adaptation of his 2012 novel, The Fault in Our Stars, opened to critical acclaim and commercial success, and two months before the film adaptation of his 2008 novel, Paper Towns, opens in theaters on July 24, Green admitted during a telephone interview with PW last week that it’s been "a little hard" to write “towards anything.” He ascribed this to living “in the shadow of all this hullabaloo” that comes with being a bestselling author whose books are being adapted into blockbuster movies.
While Green may have put fiction writing on the back burner for now, he’s not resting on his literary laurels. Not only was he actively involved in the production of Paper Towns, which wrapped about six months ago, but he’s also promoting the film on the eve of its release, including participating on a May 30 panel discussion of the movie at BookCon at the Javits Convention Center in New York City.
Green, who is involved in various projects, including the PBS web series The Art Assignment (hosted by his wife, Sarah Urist Green), is also building upon the Crash Course educational YouTube videos that he and his brother Hank launched in January 2012. The videos, which begin with Green focusing on history and literature, while his brother focuses on the sciences, feature one of the two elaborating upon a specific topic in each fast-paced, eight- to 15-minute webisode. A partnership with PBS Digital has allowed Crash Course to add additional hosts while Green takes a break from hosting this year, and also to expand its offerings for more than three million subscribers, many of whom are high school students and educators.
When asked if he’s aware that there are high school students who watch Crash Course videos in lieu of reading textbooks that can be out-of-date long before they hit the classroom, Green’s response was adamant: “They should read their boring textbooks.” Crash Course videos, he emphasized, are meant to supplement textbooks, not supplant them.
“I see Crash Course as an introduction, as a way to get kids excited about learning,” he said, “not as an attempt to replace traditional classroom materials” – although he does recommend that perhaps students could read the textbook and “then criticize it.” Or even, if it promulgates “great man history,” they could “make fun of it” with Crash Course videos.
While Green admitted that he himself often finds textbooks dull, and has no intention of ever writing one, he disclosed that the Crash Course team is developing curricular materials to supplement the videos. The materials will be available without charge to students and to educators. The hope is, he said, that “more people will have access to contemporary approaches” in their studies in the humanities and the sciences.
While there will always be a place for text-based educational materials, even as videos like Crash Course gain popularity among students who’ve grown up in a digital age, what ultimately matters most in the learning process is the personal touch, Green noted. “Teachers will always be the most important resource in the educational system,” he said.