Social media has become increasingly prevalent in our daily lives and can help students feel more present and engaged in their learning. For example, Dunlap et al. (2009) found that students who used Twitter within their course participated in immediate and natural learning experiences with their peers. This brought social presence to the forefront of the classroom and positively impacted student learning (Dunlap et al., 2009). Similar research has been done with other social media platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook. The New York Times reported that Gen Z learners now use TikTok as a search engine to learn and find information (Huang, 2022). Teachers also use this platform to share information, teaching strategies, and classroom management tips. Several teachers have become “influencers” on TikTok and have anywhere from thousands to millions of followers. Teachers have also started using TikTok to post “micro lessons” for their students as a way for students to connect with classmates and share their learning (Tutt, 2021).
I teach an online course on technology integration for undergraduate preservice elementary and secondary teachers. This course was designed by a senior faculty member in our department. I asked for permission to redesign the course activities and assignments, and felt significant pressure to succeed. As part of my course, I wanted to model how to use and incorporate technology and social media in the classroom to encourage student interaction and participation. As part of the asynchronous discussions within the course, I strayed away from the traditional discussion board format and instead provided students with several rotating options including Flip videos, blog posts, and sketchnotes. Halfway through the semester, I decided to introduce TikTok as an option for engaging with the content and their peers for the week. I allowed students to choose between creating three visual sketchnotes or creating two 30–60 second TikTok videos. I envisioned my students creating short TikTok videos with music, images, and text to share their learning. To measure its effectiveness, I gathered survey data and student submission data.
This instructional experiment was a total flop!
I began the TikTok implementation, and at the end of the weekly module sent out a survey to gather the students’ feedback. Of the students who responded, it was 50-50 to keep or ditch it. I continued to offer Tiktok as an option for the next module but saw very little participation (see Table 1). Due to the lack of participation, I opted not to offer the TikTok activity for the rest of the modules. At the end of the semester, I sent students a survey where they were asked to sort each learning activity from the semester into “keep it” or “ditch it” categories. Just under 80% of students (21 of 27 students) provided feedback. Over half of my students said to “ditch it” (see Figure 1). Students also ranked our four learning activities (blog post, Flip video, sketchnotes, TikTok) on a scale of 1–4 (most favorite to least favorite), and 81% of students rated the TikTok activity as either the 3rd (24%) or 4th option (57%) (least favorite).
I was surprised that students were generally not interested in the TikTok option. Also, the five students who made a TikTok submission in the first module did not create content I would typically see on TikTok, nor did they model the examples I provided. There was no text, graphics, or music. They treated it just like our Flip video discussion and shared an oral reflection of the content, so there was not much difference from our Flip assignment, other than three short videos rather than one long video. It was clear this part of the assignment was a total flop! A traditional discussion board format, as the senior faculty member had designed, was much more effective in garnering student participation. I felt embarrassed when I had to let the senior faculty member know it did not work out. I am also grateful for the flexibility I was given to try something new, and then pivot when it was not working for my students.
Despite being such a flop, I learned quite a few lessons from trying to implement TikTok in my classroom. First, after receiving the feedback and talking with my students, I have learned that students do not like mixing their “personal” and “school” lives on social media. I found that I get a much better response with participation from students using alternative forms of technology, such as Flip, that are not used in their daily lives. Additionally, students appreciate choices. Several students told me in the end-of-semester feedback that they were glad I did not make TikTok mandatory and that there were other options other than TikTok available. Lastly, I have learned that student feedback is valuable when making course corrections. My students did not enjoy the TikTok option. However, I was able to learn from their input and make a change to the course moving forward.
Since this TikTok experience, I have realized there is value in failure. As a graduate instructor, it is worth the risk to make changes to a course! I have learned how informative (and easy) obtaining student feedback is in helping move forward in my teaching practices. I have been able to implement feedback at the end of new assignments I have given in other courses I teach, and students have provided me with great suggestions and feedback on how to improve. I have also learned that students recognize and appreciate it when instructors incorporate the feedback given. I have had positive experiences in my courses as I obtain and implement feedback from students more frequently. Their feedback has helped me improve the clarity of several assignment descriptions as well as realize where I need more explicit examples or additional material to help students become more successful. While I would prefer not to fail as a teacher, I now appreciate that failure is part of the process and is an opportunity for growth.
Dunlap, J. C., & Lowenthal, P. R. (2009). Instructional uses of Twitter. In P. R. Lowenthal, D. Thomas, A. Thai, & B. Yuhnke (Eds.), The CU Online Handbook Teach Differently: Create and collaborate (pp. 45–50). Lulu Enterprises.
Huang, K. (2022, September 16). For Gen Z, TikTok Is the new search engine. The New York Times. https://edtechbooks.org/-UVeE
Tutt, P. (2021, March 19). From headache to helpful—Teachers on using TikTok in the classroom. Edutopia. https://www.edutopia.org/article/headache-helpful-teachers-using-tiktok-classroom