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Learning with TikTok: Is Social Media the Future of Education?

Source: Kaspersky

For a number of years now, various Western nations have called for reforms to their education system. In 2018, demonstrators in the US campaigned for the reversal of tighter budgets, charter school expansions and pension cuts. Meanwhile, Finland continuously outranks its Western counterparts in the realm of education. Finland has no standardised testing, besides the National Matriculation Exam (an optional exam). Finland grades its students on an individualised standard set by their teachers, tracking overall progress throughout the academic year. Meanwhile, most other countries create a blanket testing style, usually encouraging students to cram large amounts of information in order to pass. Perhaps it is time for a less results-oriented approach?

The trending ‘#LearnOnTikTok’ has a strong message: education can be obtained via social media. Amongst young people, self-education on social media has increased. For example, current affairs such as Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ and climate change issues are all a click of a button away. Seeing the demand and the opportunity, caused by increased screen-times during COVID-19 lockdowns, TikTok has been expressly funding and facilitating education.

TikTok’s Learn tab is intended to showcase a diverse range of ‘how-to’ and informative videos. For instance, learning via YouTube videos is not new. However, TikTok has gone above and beyond to push the education agenda ahead, partnering with educational institutions such as the University of Cambridge. Individuals such as Rachel Riley, developing maths skills, Bill Nye, ‘the Science Guy', and Sean Sagar, training in acting skills, have all been contributing towards this initiative. This has also augmented the platform’s content reliability and quality.


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As TikTok’s videos are short and direct, they result in ‘microlearning’. This means that the content is focused and engaging, perfect for those with a fast-paced, busy lifestyle. The biggest power of social media has always been its accessibility and connectivity of communities, via sharing features. In contract to YouTube, TikTok allows you to discover new interests and knowledge in an organic, simple and brief way. Whereas, YouTube requires more time, focus and, generally, an intentional keyword search.

TikTok is, and will be, a powerful tool for education because it is both a learning platform and a social network. With 500 million active users, TikTok barges ahead of its competitor platforms: LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat. This creates the opportunity for users to find groups with shared interests as well as like-minded individuals. Within an educational context, group learning can be utilised and education can become motivational.

Nevertheless, there is the risk of being immersed in misinformative (unintentionally inaccurate information) or disinformative (deliberately false or misleading information) content. At times, this content can be dangerous to users. For example, the ‘garlic nose’ challenge went viral on TikTok this Summer. The videos suggested that putting garlic up your nose and waiting for a while would clear up congestion. However, in fact, doing this frequently irritates the nostrils and makes the use of the noseless effective. TikTok may benefit from including labels of verified and reliable educational content. As with fact-checking organisations, such as Full Fact, TikTok may wish to implement its own fact-checking systems.

It should be noted that TikTok has launched a video series, the ‘Be Informed’, to help users detect misinformation and disinformation. Media literacy is on the UK government agenda with the wake of the ‘Online Media Literacy Strategy’. The idea is to give the public the skills to think critically about what they see and read online as well as to help children navigate the internet safely.

What does this mean for the future? No more schools? Education via only social media? This might be a bit too far-fetched. Qualifications obtained via social media universities or colleges might be more plausible. After all, it was only recently that Google launched its university, with courses based on Google Career Certificates.

Another issue to consider is what all this means for schools’ social media policies. Usually, schools are an institution with strict protocols on staff members’ use of social media. However, more and more students are scrolling through TikTok and recognising their teachers.

Ultimately, we must be realistic about these claims. Can TikTok really take on its rival, YouTube, in the educational sector? YouTube has had years to establish itself, with well-known channels such as Khan Academy, Edutopia and TED-Ed, all dedicated to teaching. YouTube’s popularity is heavily linked to the fact that 90% of the information transmitted to the human brain is visual. In fact, YouTube ranks the highest as a preferred learning tool and is frequently incorporated into a lesson plan by teachers. Nevertheless, TikTok’s appeal derives from its 1-minute videos as well as its simple videoing features. When you factor in the fact that a 10-year-old's attention span is 20-30 minutes whilst a 16-year-old's can go up to 48 minutes, having a curriculum with short bursts of informative videos seems to make sense. Also, TikTok can be utilised to produce simple, group projects, perhaps, proving a more convenient creative outlet than producing a YouTube video.

Dilara Devin – Writer/Editor
A recent law graduate, with a passion for writing, reading and all things media. A lover of music and a growing interest in cooking.
LinkedIn: Dilara Devin

Learning with TikTok: Is Social Media the Future of Education? Reviewed by Dilara Devin on Saturday, September 11, 2021 Rating: 5

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