News

Snapchat and TikTok Might Be Great Education Platforms

no boring meetings

  • Snapchat’s ASL Lenses teach you how to use American Sign Language
  • Viral social platforms can be an ideal way to learn about accessibility and more
  • Some worry it’s more propaganda than education

Someone using sign language while on a video call on a laptop.

Suriva Utsurya/Getty Images

Snapchat wants to help you learn American Sign Language (ASL).

The new ASL Alphabet lenses allow people to practice ASL letters, learn to sign and play games. Based on Signal technology, it uses AR and cameras to read and translate sign language. But is Snapchat, TikTok or something like that a good educational platform? Or is it just using deaf awareness as a PR stunt, kind of like greenwashing, but for accessibility?

“Apart from the kind of symbolism you get, learning anything doesn’t seem like a serious effort [Apple’s] Fitness+,” Deaf designer and author Graham Ball told Lifewire in an interview.

learning time

Not everyone is that cynical. Several respondents to Lifewire’s request for comment noted that the influence of Snapchat and TikTok makes these platforms good for education; if you can reach a small percentage of users, that’s a good thing.

“For Snapchat, it doesn’t hurt to teach more people about ASL and regulate their use of ASL. The biggest concern is whether Snapchat consults the deaf community about their program and ensures proper gestures are taught,” Disability Advocate Ceasarae Galvan Tell Lifewire via email.

Screenshot of the American Sign Language filter on Snapchat.

Snapchat

and snapchat it is Consult the deaf community. Snap’s team calls itself “Deaf,” which may be a crime against the English language, but is run entirely by deaf and hard-of-hearing team members. The idea behind this lens is not necessarily to teach everyone to sign, but to raise awareness and make it easier for signers to communicate online.

aggressive accessibility

From a technology standpoint, I pay close attention to the accessibility issue, which seems to have taken off and entered mainstream consciousness in the last few years. Even this year’s Best Picture Oscar winners are mostly deaf actors. But the reasons for this accessibility wave are probably well known.

“Accessibility is all the rage right now because of the pandemic,” Deaf accessibility consultant Meryl Evans told Lifewire by email. “Companies are being forced to do more digital work and are seeing them exclude large numbers of people with disabilities. A Forrester survey found that 80% of businesses are working on digital accessibility.

Digital communication goes hand in hand with accessibility because you always have your camera and computer as part of your setup. Technologies like Signall’s AR sign language translation work in one direction, while auto-generated captions work in the other. And because this is a real-time communication, rather than those auto-generated subtitles that are often erratic on YouTube videos, any translation errors can often be corrected with context or re-asking.

People using sign language to communicate via video chat on a tablet.

Sports/Getty Images

In this context, it makes perfect sense that a platform like Snapchat would familiarize us with things like sign language. It may not be a college level education, but it is more direct and can be the perfect way to promote sign language.

“The algorithm is great on TikTok,” Galván said. “It puts disabled creators in front of people who really want to listen to them and support them, making it easy for them to find a community. We speak out against oppressive systems and barriers and demand change, and social media provides us with the means to do so platform.”

We think of TikTok and Snapchat as social or entertainment platforms, but their reach, immediacy and younger demographics make them ideal places to sow educational seeds. Educational resources can be packaged in a variety of ways, including viral videos or hilarious Snapchat lenses. And when TikTok’s famous algorithm gets involved, as Galván says, suddenly a receptive audience will be drawn to a more diverse world of creators.

“Frankly, I don’t see any downside to tampering with ASL,” Daivat Dholakia, vice president of medical regulation specialist Essenvia, told Lifewire by email. “The more people know about it, the more accessible the world is. I think Gen Z and beyond are generally more focused on accessibility. This is a generation that is empathetic and hungry for change, and that could be the “accessibility trend” “s reason.”

If it’s a trend, it’s welcome. But it could also set a new standard for online communication, which is good news for everyone.

Content

Snapchat and TikTok Might Be Great Education Platforms

No more boring lectures

Snapchat’s ASL lens teaches you to use American Sign Language
Viral social platforms might be ideal ways to teach accessibility and more
Some worry that it’s more about publicity than education
Suriuawaut Suriya / Getty Images

Snapchat wants to help you learn American Sign Language (ASL).

The new ASL Alphabet Lens lets people practice the ASL alphabet, learn to sign their name, and play games. It is based on technology from Signall, which uses AR and cameras to read and translate sign language. But is Snapchat—or TikTok, or similar—a good platform for education? Or is this just using deaf awareness as a PR stunt, kind of like greenwashing but for accessibility?

“It doesn’t seem like a serious attempt to teach anything beyond the kind of tokenism you get on [Apple’s] Fitness+,” deaf designer and author Graham Bower told Lifewire in an interview. 

Teaching Moment

Not everyone is as cynical. Several respondents to Lifewire’s request for comment pointed out that the reach of Snapchat and TikTok makes these platforms good for education—if you can reach even a small percentage of users, that’s a good thing. 

“In regards to Snapchat, there isn’t a downside to teaching ASL to more people and normalizing the use of ASL. The main concern is if Snapchat is consulting the deaf community on their program and ensuring that proper sign is being taught,” disability advocate Ceasarae Galvan told Lifewire via email. 

Snapchat

And Snapchat is consulting the deaf community. The team at Snap calls itself the “Deafengers,” which may be a crime against English but is led entirely by team members who are deaf and hard-of-hearing. The idea behind this lens is not necessarily to teach everybody to sign, but to raise awareness and make it easier for signers to communicate online. 

Radical Accessibility

I follow accessibility issues closely, from a technology point of view, and it seems like it has taken off over the last few years and entered into mainstream awareness. Even this year’s Best Picture Oscar winner has a predominantly deaf cast. But the cause of this wave of accessibility might be quite familiar.

“Accessibility is hot right now because of the pandemic,” deaf accessibility consultant Meryl Evans told Lifewire via email. “Companies were forced to do more business digitally and saw they were locking out a large number of people—those with disabilities. A Forrester survey found 80 percent of companies are working to achieve digital accessibility.”

Digital communication is well-suited to accessibility because you always have a camera and a computer as part of the setup. Technologies like Signall’s AR sign-language translation can work in one direction, and automatically-generated subtitles work in the other direction. And because it is live communication and not, say, those often-wonky auto-generated subtitles on YouTube videos, any glitches in translation can often be overcome through context or asking again. 

Motortion / Getty Images

With this background, it makes a lot of sense for platforms like Snapchat to familiarize us with things like sign language. It might not be a university-level education, but it’s way more immediate and may be the perfect way to promote signing.

“The algorithm is incredible on TikTok,” says Galvan. “It places disabled creators in front of people who actually want to hear them and support them, making it easier to find a community. We are speaking out against oppressive systems and barriers to access and demanding change, and social media has given us the platform to do so.”

We think of TikTok and Snapchat as social or entertainment platforms, but their reach, immediacy, and younger demographic make them ideal places to plant pedagogical seeds. Educational resources can be packaged in all kinds of ways, including viral videos or fun Snapchat lenses. And when TikTok’s famous algorithm gets involved, as Galvan says, suddenly receptive viewers will be swept up into a more diverse world of creators.

“I honestly can’t see any downsides to gamifying ASL,” Daivat Dholakia, VP at medical regulatory specialist Essenvia, told Lifewire via email. “The more people know it, the more accessible the world becomes. I think, in general, Gen-Z and beyond are more focused on accessibility. It’s a generation with a lot of fierce empathy and drive for change, which may be the reason for the accessibility ‘trend.’”

If it is a trend, then it’s a welcome one. But it could just as well be a new normal for online communication, which is good news all around.

#Snapchat #TikTok #Great #Education #Platforms

Tài Chính Kinh Doanh

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