Anna Blakney shimmies and slides in front of a green screen, showing a graphic of a cell membrane. As she breaks into the can-can, she points to pops of text on the graphic, and explains the difference between antibodies built up from infection versus those acquired from a vaccine. She claps her hands and pumps her fist, while information about the COVID-19 spike protein pops up.
It’s an introductory biology class, if that class took place at a nightclub.
Of course, Dr. Blakney isn’t teaching her students in the middle of a dance floor. She’s creating a video to post on TikTok, the latest social media channel that has captured the attention of young people. Dr. Blakney has created hundreds of videos that explain scientific concepts in just 60 seconds.
Using TikTok as a teaching tool does come with reservations, though. Kate Tilleczek, a professor of education at York University, and director of the Young Lives Research Lab, says relying on apps can put more pressure on students. For one thing, many students are experiencing Zoom fatigue, exhausted from having a slate of virtual courses to keep up with. Dr. Tilleczek’s research has also found that students have privacy and addiction concerns when it comes to social media.
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