Starting a TikTok Fact-Finding Mission The (Online) Education Of TikTok, Part I
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Here in this new, experimental section, we publish facts and arguments and evolve our understanding alongside evidence. So is TikTok fundamentally good or fundamentally bad? Let’s find the nuances together.

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Previously on TikTok FactFinding

This week’s premise may sound like a trick question, and intentionally so. As a place of gathering for people, prepubescents and teens most of all —or if you were to take TikTok for Business’ own words, “the” trending subcultures— the video-intensive social network deserves at least as much attention as the usual suspects.

Self-aware, TikTok responds with a series of initiatives seeking to attract educators as creators (EduTokers?) and boast some of the names you can run into. If the almighty algorithm has it in its grace.

TikTok encourages learning in its app with the #LearnOnTikTok. Here are some accounts that share their knowledge:

  • @mathswithmisschang This math professor gives its users tips on solving math problems
  • @physicsdude Posting fun and eye-catching content, this profile has a video where he describes interesting concepts of physics and mathematics in a clear way.
  • @mrs.b.tv This profile is of a teacher named Mrs. B, she joined TikTok in order to help her students during the pandemic. She uploads videos of fun and simple experiments.
  • @neildegrassetyson One of the best known physicists, shares his opinions and scientific questions.
  • @med_kelvin This profile shares medical data about rare diseases
  • @history.time_ Learn about history with videos of important events in history and their perspectives.
  • @blondiebytes  A woman in the world of engineering and software. Learn about basic issues and even complexities that have happened to her.

TikTok on Research

Could TikTok be the killer app when it comes to increasing engagement, encourage civic participation or even raise awareness of climate change?

  • It is well known that not all the content found on this social network is purely educational. There is also eye-catching and attractive content that the user likes. But have you thought that TikTok works as a tool to encourage citizen participation? According to Wei Zhang and others (Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2021), there are factors that can influence citizen participation. These researchers focused on the TikTok account of the National Health Commission of China during the onset of the COVID-19 crisis. Collecting over 300 videos with more than 3 million views and high engagement rates, it offers early suggestions that TikTok, and TikTok-style content, can play a role influencing citizen awareness and participation.
  • If TikTok works for governments, could it help raise awareness of climate change? According to research by Samantha Hautea et al. (Social Media + Society, 2021), TikTok can enable self-expression and social activism for the young population. Through an analysis of a sample of popular TikTok videos with the hashtags #ClimateChange and #ForClimate, it was examined whether these videos were viewable, editable and how easily they could engage viewers. The research concluded that a large number of non-experts take advantage of the application to show their concern and frustration with other people. And it is possible that they do not have a clear practical solution, but these videos raise curiosity, and sometimes concern, among the community.
  • Finally: As a method of adapting and updating to the generations and teaching methods, can TikTok be play a role for self-expression in Higher Education? This study by Paloma Escamilla-Fajardo and colleagues from Universitat de València (Journal of Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism Education, 2021) explores the educational impact of TikTok in a body expression course. It is clear that university students are in a stage of growth in digital life, where social networks have an influence on this population to the point of becoming essential. In educational terms, digital platforms can become drivers of innovation that offer new perspectives to teachers, help evolve learning models and optimize learning workflows.

The basics: History, size and reach

  • Formerly known as Musical.ly, TikTok is a social application created to share and create short videos on any topic.
  • TikTok is used to share content of the user’s preference: From educational videos with topics such as mathematics, physics, languages, astrology —I could keep going—; to even advice on how to create a CV and how to build a professional profile.
  • TikTok has a main target audience of people between 13 and 60 years old and currently has more than one billion monthly active users.
  • A great majority of public people such as actors, actresses, youtubers and influencers use this application and therefore their followers. That’s why TikTok is growing, because of the diversity of content that you can find, and with which you can learn and entertain.
  • According to the most recent data Comscore shared with Adweek, the United States has more than 130 million active users. TikTok attracted 22.2 million mobile visitors in January 2021, while in April this figure increased to 39.2 million.
  • Taking a trip to China, Douyin is China’s version of TikTok and currently has 600 million daily users.
  • Despite the banning of TikTok in India, in June of this year it was disclosed that the application could return with a new name “TickTock”.
  • Moreover, according to Statista, Europe has 842.2 million users this year.
  • And in Latin America the TikTok users are 64.4 millions approximately
  • For TikTok anyone can be a content creator, even the application facilitates the creation and editing tools.
  • In addition, in TikTok any video can go viral, for this reason many users use it to try to have popularity, regardless of age.
  • TikTok has different privacy policies, for example if you reside in the US you will have one privacy policy, if you reside in the UK or Switzerland a privacy policy will apply and if you are not located in the above locations another privacy policy will apply. It even has a privacy policy for children.
  • The data collected by TikTok are data that are provided by the users themselves, including the users giving their authorization for the processing of such data, possibly in ways unacknowledged as such by said users.

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