Pull up the TikTok profile for Boston-area public television station WGBH and you'll see a series of short science-themed videos featuring a familiar face: Milken Educator Dan Adler (MA '17), a sixth-grade science teacher at UP Academy Leonard in Lawrence. As a WGBH educator ambassador, last spring Dan led interactive science experiments via webinar and appeared in a commercial touting the station's distance learning resources. "In early May, WGBH reached out and told me they were looking for a science teacher to investigate gross science facts at home," says Dan. "I had been thinking about making TikToks for my students, given how interested they are in the platform. This seemed like a good opportunity to get started." For his screen test, Dan investigated whether the old food in his refrigerator was still safe to eat. He got the role, but "my family was a little frustrated I breathed all over the cold cuts."
Through his partnership with WGBH, Dan spent the summer creating videos about bacteria ("There's poop on your phone!"), dust, pollen, bugs, and flatulence, topics he brainstormed with the WGBH team. While the TikTok app makes stitching together video snippets and adding fun on-screen graphics and text relatively easy, WGBH handled that part after Dan sent them video files recorded with his phone. His students loved his videos: "They keep commenting, 'That's my teacher!' "
Dan's not the only educator who's jumped into TikTok. Teachers are using the platform to connect with students, using popular music tracks and trending formats to show they speak the students' online language. They're also connecting with other educators, commiserating over common challenges and exchanging tech tips—especially important as many schools start the year with remote instruction.