Tik Tok, Do Stop*

I’m sure many of you saw the headlines about TikTok being “the new search engine” for Gen Z. And if your colleagues are anything like mine, they wanted to talk to you about what it meant, how search works on TikTok, and if I would be changing any of my teaching strategies as a result. I had had several of these conversations before it suddenly occurred to me – was this even true? How was this determined? Why were we all so ready to believe this?

So I did what I tell students to do – I applied some SIFT strategies to this information. The first step, of course, being to Stop and pay attention to what my reaction to this story was – a reaction which can probably best be summed up by grandpa Simpson.

Okay, I’ve accounted for my biases. I saw this story in the New York Times and other publications I’m familiar with, so I didn’t spend much time Investigating the source. I did, however, have an inkling that my emotional reaction to this information might have been shared by some of the people (likely similar in age to me) who were reporting on this story. 

My efforts to Find trusted coverage were also pretty brief. This story had been in a lot of places – though I did notice that a lot of the stories relied on anecdotes. Hmmm…

Finally, I decided to Trace these claims to the original source. The source seems to be an interview with Google Senior Vice President Prabhakar Raghavan in which he said:

“In our studies, something like almost 40% of young people, when they’re looking for a place for lunch, they don’t go to Google Maps or Search,” he continued. “They go to TikTok or Instagram.”

Which is interesting! But is also very much not what was typically being reported. The story I linked to also goes on to note that the data isn’t public – another red flag. 

Mea culpa. 

Luckily enough, I was recently invited into a Chemistry class to do a lesson on evaluating popular science reporting and applying SIFT strategies to all those articles about what “a recent study found.” I was able to use this experience as an example, and talk to students about how my own biases and assumptions got in the way of my critical thinking. I love being able to talk with students about how I use the strategies I teach in my own day-to-day life. 

My own SIFT example I shared with students

The SIFT strategies are tremendously useful and I teach them all the time, but I’m realizing I often give short shrift to the Stop part of the process. For the lesson I did with the Chemistry class I asked student to specifically note the reaction they had to the story before doing any of the other steps. Looking at student reflections was fascinating, and gave me lots of insight into how students react to the sources they encounter – I will not, however, be turning these anecdotes into a story for the New York Times. 🙂

  • With apologies to Ke$ha

One thought on “Tik Tok, Do Stop*

  1. Love this, Sara! I also find students love when I tell them why I really like a source or tie it to a real life activity they can relate too. Your students are lucky to have such a thoughtful librarian!

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