Students turn to TikTok for homework help. Is that a bad thing?

Students are increasingly turning to social media platforms when they need to research topics for school.

One such platform is TikTok, a popular video-sharing platform among K-12 students of various ages. Kids ages 4 to 18 spend an average of 91 minutes per day watching TikTok videos, according to data from the parental control software manufacturer Qustodio.

In fact, a general survey of TikTok users in the United States found that 1 in 4 use the platform for educational purposes, according to a new survey from the online learning platform. And 69 percent of those who use TikTok for educational purposes said it helped them complete their homework.’s analysis also examined which academic topics had the most views on TikTok. English came first, followed by history, science, and math. Respondents who reported using TikTok for educational purposes said they used it most frequently for English classes.

Teachers who spoke to Education Week said they weren’t surprised that so many people use the platform for educational purposes.

“It’s the app where most of the students are,” said Chris Dier, a high school history teacher in New Orleans and the 2020 Louisiana Teacher of the Year. “So it makes sense that a lot of them get their information from TikTok.”

While TikTok could be used to better engage students in lessons, it has also been a major distraction. a string of viral challenges on the platform have caused headaches for educators. And as with other social media platforms, TikTok could be a forum for bullying and misinformation, along with data privacy concerns. The platform is owned by the Beijing, China-based technology company ByteDance.

Additionally, many experts remain critical of the use of social media platforms, such as Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter, for educational purposes. They say the platforms emphasize rapid learning, rather than deep discovery and analysis.

“It’s also important to distinguish the learning that can come from a TikTok video from that of a book or a longer article or even a long-form video,” Christine Elgersma, senior editor of learning apps at Common Sense Media, said in a statement. email. “We like it short, and sometimes that works when it comes to homework—kids may just want to know if they need a comma or how to cite a source.”

“But when it comes to critical thinking, opinion and value formation, or understanding key moments in history, surface learning just doesn’t do the subjects justice,” he added. “It may be able to provide a piece to a larger puzzle, but it’s not suitable for deeper thought.”

Students bring information to class from TikTok

Still, some teachers say they use TikTok to meet students where they are and then engage them in deeper learning through other approaches.

During the pandemic, when Dier was teaching remotely, he was making long content videos for students. That’s when his students told him to try TikTok.

“At first, I thought, ‘I definitely don’t want to join whatever this app is. It’s for kids,’” Dier said. “But when I started teaching, I noticed students bringing in information from TikTok. I would ask them, ‘Where did you learn this information?’ They’d be like, ‘Oh, I heard about that on TikTok.

Eventually, Dier created One account and started sharing quick history lessons. “As teachers, we’re supposed to meet students where they are, to engage and bring our content to life. What better way to do that than to use the app? [where] Are students already viewing content? he said. (Dier’s TikTok account now has more than 146,000 followers.)

Claudine James, a middle school English/language arts teacher in Arkansas, also started a TikTok account after realizing her students weren’t watching the grammar and vocabulary video lessons she posted on YouTube.

During one stretch in the fall 2020 semester, he had more than 25 students absent due to COVID quarantine protocols, yet his YouTube video lesson only had seven views.

When the students returned to class, James asked them why they weren’t watching the YouTube videos. His students said they don’t watch videos on YouTube because they don’t spend time there.

“Someone said, ‘You should put them on TikTok. [Students will] be there and they will just see [the videos]'” James said.

Two years later, James said his TikTok videos in grammar, spelling, and other English lessons have been helpful to your current and former students. “I’ll have an alumnus send me a message like, ‘If you haven’t already, do a lesson on this, because I want you to explain it to me.'” (James now has 4.5 million followers on TikTok.)

For better or worse, TikTok accommodates children’s shorter attention spans

When asked why they use TikTok for educational purposes, 60 percent of respondents said the app is easy to access, 57 percent said it’s easy to understand, 51 percent said there’s a lot of content, and the 47 percent said it’s free, according to the poll.

TikTok “introduced a new way of delivering information that matched the attention span of students,” Dier said. “Attention spans are getting shorter. And now there’s an app that lets you create content that caters to the attention span of younger generations.”

TikTok could also be used to share information that is often left out of textbooks or the curriculum and that students would never otherwise have heard of, Dier said. For example, Dier put together an educational TikTok video after discovering historical records about a Reconstruction-era massacre orchestrated by white residents against blacks in a Louisiana community in 1868, fueled by white fears that blacks They had obtained the right to vote.

But since anyone can post a TikTok video, misinformation can be a problem. The majority of TikTok users judged the trustworthiness of the content by its number of likes (55 percent) and views (53 percent), as well as the number of followers the creator had (51 percent), according to the poll. Less than half, 44 percent, said they had verified a video before considering it credible.

“[Misinformation] it’s a problem because I’ve heard students repeat things they’ve heard from TikTok that are definitely not true,” Dier said. But when he corrects them, he said the students are “really receptive.”

“As history teachers, we teach students how to analyze the source, how to contextualize the information, how to corroborate the information with other sources. So in many ways this push to TikTok also highlights the importance of teaching these kinds of skills in the classroom that can transcend what we learned in class,” she added.

Elgersma echoed those sentiments.

“Likes and follows doesn’t mean a creator really knows what they’re talking about, so it’s always best to check and check multiple sources,” he said.

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