Is TikTok a teaching tool or classroom nightmare?

Tik Tok: Powerful teaching tool or classroom management nightmare?

Over on Education Week, there is a fascinating article on teachers using Tik Tok as a teaching and assessment tool in classrooms – TikTok: Powerful Teaching Tool or Classroom Management Nightmare? – Education Week. So, is TikTok a teaching tool or classroom nightmare?

What’s TikTok?

Haven’t ‘hit the woah’ or engaged in a duet on TikTok (go on over, you’ll see what I mean)?  If you haven’t seen it, TikTok is a social media app. Users make looping videos limited to 60 seconds. They can choose from a vast library of music excerpts or record their own voice, and add filters and text. If you ever used the now-defunct Vine app or even made an Instagram story, you’ll see some similarities with TikTok.

You may have seen my TikToks on how to use the Australian Guide to Legal Citation (AGLC) – the required form for citation in Australian law schools. It’s a common source of lost marks on assessment. I decided to try it for AGLC since  I can demonstrate each citation method really quickly with text instructions. Most law students have access to it. And, unlike Snapchat, because it loops, and it doesn’t disappear after watching, it doesn’t need to be paused or played again if a student misses something.

I share the TikToks on Twitter as well – and I have to acknowledge the invaluable assistance of @AGLCTweets who check that I’m right!

Having had some contact with the infamous ‘Blue Book’ in US law schools, there isn’t any reason that the same thing couldn’t be done there.

TikTok for assessment?

I haven’t asked law students to use TikTok as a method of assessment. However, the Education Week article includes some inspiring examples of how to use it.

I can see some useful links to the Australian law school curriculum. LLB Teaching and Learning Outcome 3 encourages creative thinking. Outcome 5 also requires that law students demonstrate the ability to communicate concepts in different ways having regard to their audience.

No lawyer is ever going to provide legal advice on TikTok. But using the platform as a way of improving access to practical information might be a great thing to explore. Maybe a Tik Tok on ‘They fined me for not having a tram ticket. What do I do?’

The short format might also suit a short professional reflection piece on a law student’s experience in a clinic – subject to some clear guidelines on confidentiality.

Problems with TikTok for students

That’s not to say that TikTok isn’t without its own dangers. The article points out that there are issues with privacy, bullying and adult content. The content is public (which is a problem for some assessments), although you can share private links. The music excerpts aren’t the censored ‘radio edits’ of songs. Users can also be anonymous, which means that derogatory comments can be made without censure.

Some of these dangers are greater for students in primary or secondary school. Law students are adults and are less vulnerable. However, these dangers are still worth considering.

So, TikTok: powerful teaching tool or classroom management nightmare? In the words of one teacher in the article using TikTok for assessment:

I don’t know if the best way to challenge that in the classroom is to say ‘never use these things.’ Kids are going to use them anyway. So how do we start engaging in the conversations about the dangers of it if we’re not willing to tell them, ‘there are some positives to this thing that you’re using and that you’re spending all this time on as well?’


About Andrew Henderson

I am a lecturer, lawyer and researcher in Canberra with an interest in the 'hidden' or informal curriculum of law school. I am passionate about developing engaging and authentic educational experiences for law students.

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