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From Nuisance to Learning Platform - How Teachers are Transforming TikTok into an Edtech Tool

Griffin Jaeger
September 1, 2021

TikTok has pretty much taken over the world at this point. While your students have been stuck at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve likely spent a great deal of time scrolling on their FYP (for you page), learning the newest dances, discovering trends and even creating content of their own.

Pre-pandemic, it’s possible that teachers saw mobile devices as a distraction, taking students away from classroom content and discussions. However, rather than discouraging what could be a creative outlet, what if we switched up the narrative and met students where they are? Right now, that’s on TikTok.

Some teachers have already hopped onto the trend. It’s worth a shot.

Last summer we spoke with Ty Cook and Brooke Rogers about how teachers are fostering a community and feeding into student trends to create connections through TikTok.

Since then, the trend has only grown, bringing all sorts of ideas and perspectives to light.

Here is how teachers are transforming the ever-popular mobile video platform, TikTok, from a nuisance to the ultimate learning tool.

Using TikTok for creative lessons

Think of it as a classroom extension. Only this time, rather than a few extra desks and chairs, you’ve got the whole world in your hands.

Using TikTok, many teachers have begun creating condensed versions of their classroom lessons. Whether they are teaching science, English, math or even physical education, this gives students the ability to refer back to lessons they may have missed in class or if they require a refresher.

@mrs.b.tvHow does that even fit in you!? 👀 ##learnontiktok ##tiktokpartner ##humanbody ##sciencefacts♬ original sound - Mrs. Nancy Bullard

The platform initially only allowed up to 60 seconds for each video created, forcing teachers to stick to the main ideas to get their point across. Now, TikTok has implemented a 3-minute video feature for creatives. Thus, allowing teachers to pack in even more content within their digital micro-lessons.

There are tons of ways you can go about this. Some teachers choose to recreate condensed versions of their lessons for students to refer back to. Others use the platform as an extension to the day’s lesson, encouraging students to engage in learning outside of school.

It's even possible to create a TikTok to remind students of important dates, upcoming deadlines, or to share tips concerning productivity or course content.

Whatever format you decide to create your lessons in, your students are more likely to engage with your content given that it’s being provided in one of their favorite forms of mobile entertainment.

Just wait and see the kind of classroom engagement you can encourage.

Using TikTok to increase student engagement

There’s nothing teachers love more than an engaged classroom. Luckily, TikTok is incredibly interactive, offering countless ways to grab students' attention and get them excited about classroom content.

There are multiple ways you can go about this via TikTok.

First, through the comment section. Easily encourage students to comment on any questions they have on your videos. Through the respond to comment feature, you can then create a video response to their question or concern and share it directly with your following.

@iamthatenglishteacherReply to @mandamag253 #English #ESL #spelling #vocaulary #teachersofTikTok #englishasasecondlanguage #Lost #middleschoolteacher #Loss #Lose♬ original sound - MsJames

In doing this, each student benefits from the information being provided and you're providing personalized responses to meet your learners' needs.

As we know, some students may not feel as comfortable raising their hand in class as other students, and that’s okay! This feature provides students who may feel more comfortable typing their questions a way to engage in classroom discussions. Who knows, after doing so, they may even foster the courage to begin speaking up in a classroom setting.

Another way to encourage student engagement is through the duet function. On TikTok, users are able to make video responses with the videos you post. For example, say you create a TikTok with some practice math or French questions, finishing off by asking students to “duet me to answer these questions" or "duet me to practice your French". Your students can then create videos following along with your video and showing their work. If they aren't comfortable posting on the app, they can save it to their device and send it to you directly or show it to you in class the next day.

Using TikTok as a creative assignment

It’s no secret that TikTok fosters creativity amongst today’s youth - and they are excited about it.

Why not hone in on this excitement and allow students to blend their love of TikTok with their classroom assignments? For example, perhaps you're teaching literacy and you're having students write a summary of a week’s chapter in the novel they're reading in order to highlight the main points. Some students are excellent writers, but others prefer oral communication. As a means of differentiating, you could offer TikTok as a potential format for the assignment. In this form, students who may excel in oral communication, or those who are excited about multimedia, can create their summary via the app. It encourages students to flex their creative skills while being concise and to the point.

This idea will work for practically any classroom subject. Why not have your students take the role of teacher and create a short-form lesson? Or perhaps have them take inspiration from current trends and songs and adapt them to their classroom learning? You’ll be enlightened by what your students can come up with when they can blend education with applications they are excited about.

Combatting potential issues on TikTok

With any form of digital communication, such as TikTok, users run the risk of various issues. Before deciding to use the platform for all of the great features it has to offer, it is important to take note of these issues to decide if using the platform is a good fit for your classroom.

Harmful behavior and cyberbullying

Cyberbullying is a persistent issue on social media that we’ve been seeing for years. Being that TikTok is an open forum, we need to ensure we are doing everything in our power to prevent these harmful behaviors.

Luckily, Tiktok has implemented features to prevent cyberbullying like the ability to filter your comment section and hide any comments that include harmful language or behaviors and a notification that urges commenters to reconsider what they are posting if they attempt to post anything that isn't appropriate.

While these are great steps forward, it remains important to have a conversation with your students about the weight and significance that language can hold and the consequences that come with misbehavior. We want to ensure that using TikTok in the classroom only encourages students to engage, and doesn't steer them away.

Ensuring student safety on TikTok

User Privacy

User privacy is important to consider. Every student and every parent has personal comfort levels that need to be taken into consideration when using any form of social media, like TikTok.

Before deciding to use TikTok in your classroom in any capacity, you must have a conversation with your school administration to discuss any rules your institution may have and to get their permission to use the application.

It’s also a great idea to give notice to your student’s caregivers, asking them to get permission from their parent or guardian to ensure that consent is provided in all capacities.

TikTok has also addressed user privacy with a variety of features outlined below.

Private accounts and friend lists

On TikTok, you can make your account private. In this way, any account that attempts to follow you or your students on TikTok must put in a request and be accepted by the account owner. This is highly recommended.

In doing this,  you can ensure that only your students can interact and view each other's content.

By making your account private, it does mean you're unable to create TikTok content catered towards a wider audience. If that is your overarching goal, we recommend you read #teachersoftiktok: How to effectively use TikTok in your classroom.

Comment restrictions

In TikTok, you are able to tighten restrictions on comments for youth users. Accounts are able to restrict comments to just friends, or even prevent all any comments from being added.

Duet and stitch settings

This same feature goes for dueting and stitching videos. You can change your settings so that only older students, above the age of 16, can duet and stitch videos. Alternatively, you can restrict duet and stitch to just friends - keeping it within your classroom.

Not posting, just saving

If students are not comfortable posting at all, that’s perfectly okay. Any TikTok viewed or created within TikTok is available for download, even before posting.

If a student plans to make a TikTok, they can download the video after editing and save it to their device without posting. From there, students can share it with you in person, by email, or by uploading it to your online class environment, such as a digital portfolio.

For students who are not comfortable downloading the application at all, that’s no problem. You can download each one of your TikTok lessons and then share them directly with your classroom by providing links or video files.

TikTok as an edtech tool: Yay or nay?

In implementing any new edtech tool, there are different points to consider.

While many teachers across the world are using TikTok as a way to engage with other educators and turn what could be a distraction into a powerful learning tool, you may have a different opinion, and that’s okay.

So teachers, what are your thoughts?

Are you eager to meet students where they are and turn TikTok into a classroom engagement super-app, or is it still not for you?

In whatever capacity you decide to use it, remember to have fun, be creative and stay safe.

It’s time we meet students where they are and use their interests and excitement to the classroom’s advantage.

Griffin Jaeger

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