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McGraw Hill is Turning Its Textbooks into TikToks

Earlier this week, I wrote a note about how all digital communication platforms are converging on the same interface, and the only thing that changes is the context/content of the platform. Ironically, McGraw Hill (the education publisher) just launched a TikTok-style study app called SHARPEN, further proving my point.

SHARPEN helps students learn faster with short videos, mini quizzes, and practice problems. The interface combines the best of TikTok and Duolingo. Previously, I wrote about Duolingo’s streak tracker and how it forms people’s daily habits, and it appears that SHARPEN has picked up this trick from Duolingo.

Breaking down the McGraw Hill textbooks into consumable TikTok videos is a brilliant idea. Especially considering TikTok users have already shown huge interest in “edutainment” content:

The tag #LearnOnTikTok is one of the most popular hashtags on the app, and videos with it have been viewed more than 412 billion times, according to analytics company Pentos. Since Pentos began tracking #LearnOnTikTok in July, the number of videos with the hashtag has increased 15%—faster growth than the #dance, #meme, #comedy, #makeup and #storytime tags have seen in the same time period. – Forbes

Taking people’s eyeballs away from TikTok will be difficult, considering the average user spends about 95 minutes on the platform daily. However, behaviorally it seems that a platform like this is desired. McGraw Hill also has some interesting data supporting their decision to create a “social media” for educational content:

  • 78% of students reported turning to social media when studying to find supplementary content for their classes.
  • 19% of students spend six or more hours per week searching for study content and help with classes on social media.
  • Nearly three in four students (74%) say they would study more if their course materials matched the convenience of resources they access via social media.

Overall, I’m a supporter of any educational innovation. I care deeply about the reading epidemic in our country and feel we need to dedicate more time to creating better Ed Tech. That’s why I launched a social token and DAO called 1Q9X to gather bright minds that can help create this change.

I think about education reform from a three-pronged perspective. To engage kids in a learning experience today, we need to focus on engagement, entertainment, and enticement.

  • Engagement. What technology and design hacks are we employing to engage attention for long periods of time, as social media platforms do?
  • Entertainment. How are you bringing current interests into the curriculum to make lessons relevant?
  • Enticement. What are you doing to inspire kids and make them want to self-learn after class?

If you can’t create solutions that address all three of these ideas, then you’ll have no chance against the mindless entertainment of TikTok, YouTube, Twitch, and gaming platforms.