Claire’s Column: TikTok and tech for teachers

Claire Harrison, Editor

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Hello, my name is Claire Harrison, and I am a teenager. It seems like an unimportant detail, but you would be surprised by the daily impact it has on my life. I am supposed to be grown-up enough to do my three hours of homework without any help, yet I am too young to be worried or tired. That is the beautiful cacophony of being a teenager.

Anyway, teenagers are living in a much different time from any other time. Today’s technology is virtually unavoidable (see what I did there?). From Google Classroom to Instagram, technology follows you wherever you go. Although this instant access is always convenient, it can sometimes be overwhelming for all parties involved. 

So, what are all of the whippersnappers of my generation actually doing?

In order to answer this question, I must explain my objective: to give the world insight into the minds of teenagers living in the digital age. I will be answering comments, concerns, and questions sent to me from the RB staff. Following this exclusive print edition, my responses will come in the form of a bi-monthly commentary posted on rbclarion.com. 

By far, my most requested subject is TikTok. So, let’s begin there! Well, what is TikTok?

TikTok is a Chinese-owned video-sharing app, comparable to Vine at the height of its power. TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, bought the former king of this category, Musical.ly, in 2017, causing former Musical.ly accounts to merge with TikTok’s database.  

Musical.ly was incredibly popular around 2016 where many of today’s social media stars got their start or furthered their popularity on Musical.ly, including Loren Gray, Jacob Sartorius, and Ariel Martin (BabyAriel).

Similar to Musical.ly, journalists around the world have expressed concern regarding the privacy of the app. Cyberbullying, sexual predators, and addiction are just a few additional concerns of parents and law enforcement.

On TikTok, you can post short videos of anything. Popular categories include lip-sync, comedy, and dance. One key aspect of TikTok is the challenges: dance, acting, comedy, and art. These challenges spread through the internet like wildfire. Even something as small as a popular creator liking or recreating one of these challenges can make it go viral. 

These dances and such are often mocked yet are still quite popular, which perfectly describes TikTok itself. Many ridicule it and deem it stupid but still choose to create similar content. Even more confusingly, TikTok seems to be rising in popularity, which I personally do not understand. 

A majority of RB’s TikTok users only watch videos; however, a few students are creators and are actively gaining popularity, some even having over 10,000 likes. 

Although TikTok poses the aforementioned concerns, the website is not blocked on RB’s GoGuardian like all other social media outlets.

My next question comes from a teacher under the pseudonym of PolarBear: “Is there a way that students can use social media to cheat during tests? If so, what policies do some (if any) of our teachers use that keep students from doing this? Or do you have suggestions as to how we could thwart this?”

To begin, I don’t condone cheating, but I will be revealing some methods that I have personally seen or heard about students using. 

There has always been cheating and will always be cheating, but technology has taken it to a new level. Students can now post answers to test or actually use their phones during the test.

In my personal experience, the relationship between technology and assessments is usually pretty harmless. The extent to which I have seen should not raise any eyebrows or cause any headaches for teachers.

Typically, students are just sharing the difficulty of the test. This communication would come from a student who has the dreaded first-period math class between a student who has math after lunch and wants to know what to study. Although some may choose to deny it, actual test questions are occasionally shared between pupils. More often, however, the subject matter or the difficulty of the assessment is distributed.

I don’t think any teachers should worry about this. More often than not, when students share answers, it is for the sole purpose of comparing answers with others to reaffirm confidence. If a teacher really wants to ensure that every student is taking a test on an equal playing ground, the best solution would be to have different tests for different periods. Several teachers have already put this policy into effect, some even having different tests within each period. 

Once a teacher chooses to adopt this policy, students may terminate test-related communications. Additionally, a teacher then has the ability to cross-check answers between different classes. If students, no matter what test they are taking, choose the same answer (being correct for one test but not the other), that teacher can then confront the students in question individually.

Overall, teachers should not stress about students cheating using social media or technology in general. If this issue arises within a specific class, I would recommend that teachers address students individually and directly. Also, a general, class-wide threat could possibly scare some rebellious students into shape.

Thanks for joining for the inaugural edition of Clarion Columns! Your eagerness to learn more about teenagers in the digital world is encouraging. Don’t forget to read next week’s column on rbclarion.com, following its posting on Thursday. 

Because it is Halloween, I would like to end this edition with a spooky dad joke: Will clear coffins become popular? Remains to be seen!