What is TikTok and Why Do Teachers Need to Know About it?
TikTok is one of the largest social networks in the world and is used by students every day. For those unfamiliar, TikTok is a free app that encourages users to create and edit short videos (about 10 to 30 seconds) to share with friends and the general community. A few facts about TikTok to put it into perspective:
- TikTok Has More Than 1 Billion Active Users
- TikTok is the Most Popular App Among US Teens and Young Adults
- TikTok Has the Highest Social Media Engagement Rate Per Post
- More Than 1 Billion Videos Viewed Daily
- 60 percent of TikTok users are between the ages of 16 and 24
- Around 34% of all users post each day on Tiktok.
- The Tiktok app is available in over 154 countries
- The average user spends 52 minutes per day on TikTok
And why should teachers give heed to TikTok? Because it is so prevalent with students and holds both learning opportunities but also raises alarming issues.
It is Very Popular with Younger People?
There is no denying TikTok’s wide reach, particularly with younger people – and younger teachers. According to a 2022 Pew study of 13- to 17-year-olds, “About two-thirds of teens say they have used TikTok with 16 percent of those saying they use it almost constantly.”
For better or worse, TikTok caters to kids’ shorter attention spans. It is second only to YouTube in social media popularity. Meanwhile, the share of teens who say they use Facebook has plummeted from 71% in a 2015 survey to 32% today.
Perhaps surprising to teachers, a general survey of TikTok users also found that 1 in 4 use the platform for educational purposes (Study.com). And 69 percent of those who use TikTok for educational purposes said it has helped them complete their homework.
So what’s the net-net? TikTok has grown rapidly as one of the most used apps by teenagers.
Many Teachers Love It and Use it Regularly, Too
A growing number of educators are diving into TikTok, either for personal use or to understand its implications for learning.
Some proof? The hashtags #teacher and #teachersoftiktok have a combined 72.1 billion views on TikTok. Many of these videos feature educators simply discussing their job and others take place inside the classroom and include student projects and schoolwork. (EthicsandSoxciety.org)
According to TechLearning, “Teachers can also use TikTok to create short videos on specific subjects that students can watch. This is great for explaining lesson concepts. You can create a short and to the point video that can be watched multiple times so students are able to revisit the guidance when working on the task.”
More proof? 5th Grade Teacher Josh Monroe entertains an audience of over 1.3 million followers with his love daily posts. Teacher Phil Cook has amassed 3.8 chemistry-curious followers by uploading quick easy science experiments/ English teacher Claudine James offers daily grammar lessons that are watched by over 3 million around the world.
There are Serious Privacy Concerns, Too
You cannot discuss TikTok without understanding the controversy that swirls around it. First and foremost are the ongoing concerns about the privacy and security of TikTok data. It starts with TikTok’s past and current ownership.
TikTok is owned by the Chinese company ByteDance. Chinese national security laws can compel foreign and domestic firms operating within the country to share their data with the government upon request, and there are concerns about China accessing sensitive intellectual property, proprietary commercial secrets, and personal data. However, TikTok has long said that it stores U.S. user data within the U.S. and does not comply with Chinese government content moderation requirements.
The issue has caused the head of the FBI to say that the bureau has “national security concerns” about the U.S. operations of TikTok.
Many are concerned that TikTok can track users’ locations and collect internet browsing data even from unrelated websites. — adding that Beijing could develop profiles for blackmail or espionage purposes.
This is an ongoing issue in terms of privacy and how the US operators of TikTok will address these concerns.
What Precautions Should Teachers Take?
First and foremost teachers should check with their school or district to see if TikTok is allowed to be used by teachers and students for educational purposes.
Secondly, teachers should also familiarize themselves with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It does not outright prohibit recording in schools or posting these recordings online, provided they don’t include Personally Identifiable Information (PII) about students.
If teachers are posting any class activities or projects on TikTok, they should seek parents’ permission to post videos of their children. Colin Sharkey, executive director of the Association of American Educators (AAE), says teachers who want to create TikToks should “err on the side of caution” and “ask permission rather than forgiveness.”
And finally, when students are using TikTok for projects or homework, they should be taught that video misinformation can be a problem. A recent study from NewsGuard found that roughly one in five TikTok videos contain misinformation, whether the topic is COVID-19 vaccines or the Russia-Ukraine war.
Where Should I Start?
If you are a teacher new to TikTok, you might first start by seeing what other teachers are creating. Check out these popular teachers on TikTok (https://newsroom.tiktok.com/en-us/ten-standout-teachers-on-tiktok)
You might checkout TikTok hashtags for learning including: #edutok, #learnontiktok #creativity, #creativityforgood, #edutokxcampus, #bucketlist, #createkindness, #tiktokart, #tiktokphotography, #mathematics, #poetry, and #tiktokpoetry.
You might also consider these ways to incorporate TikTok into your classroom
- Teach a short lesson with TikTok and make it available to students
- Use TikTok to provide class information for absent students
- Teach students basic videing, video editing, and publishing videos
- Teach a lesson on videography & directing skills
- Unleash student creativity and challenge them to create a lesson
- Use TikTok For Project-Based Learning
- Use TikTok on a build a class webpage
- Use TikTok to compare and contrast ideas
- Have students create a final project using TikTok
How do you feel about TikTok in the classroom?