TikTok: How it Started
This week I chose to explore TikTok. Prior to 2020, the only TikTok I was familiar with was the song by Kesha however, when the app really became mainstream in 2020, I remember downloading it at the beginning of the pandemic. I was very cognizant of how much time I was spending on TikTok when I first downloaded it, particularly before bedtime. After getting in bed, I would scroll through my phone and find myself mindlessly on TikTok scrolling through videos of cats, puppies, and comedic content. About an hour or two later, after watching endless amounts of short video clips I would panic as I then realized that I was not going to get enough sleep that night. This pattern continued and I eventually decided that enough was enough and delete the app for my own wellbeing.
How it was going…
For the last few years, since deleting TikTok, I would still see videos and watch them however only on Instagram. This tweet from Gareth Waugh describes exactly where I have been in my relationship with TikTok:
Honestly, I was very content with my decision to not be on TikTok. However, I certainly was aware of the fact that there were references made by my coworkers and friends about TikTok trends that I was not familiar with. That being said, I never felt like this hindered my ability to socialize or do my job.
TikTok Take Two
My new EC&I 831 challenge for this week was to redownload TikTok and see what it is all about. I tried to come at this second attempt with TikTok with an open mind and a new lens. Instead of looking at TikTok as a toxic space, I wanted to see how the app could benefit me both personally and professionally. Here are some of the things I noticed about the app:
Some of my major personal interests are pottery and Taylor Swift, which both bring me so much joy! After looking up both of these topics on TikTok, watching a few videos, and following some related accounts, it did not take long for my algorithm to adjust and for related videos to pop up on my stream. That being said, there were still plenty of random videos that would pop up on my feed that would try to reel me into a new algorithm. These were often highly watched or liked videos that were trending at the time.
I always wondered how people (of all ages!) were pumping out what seemed like endless videos on the TikTok app. Once I tried it myself, I realized how user-friendly the app is in this regard. The tools that can be used to edit, add sound, or add text or other features is very straightforward and easy to use. I did not even need to google or search how to create a video and was able to wing it and successfully make two TikTok videos for my learning project.
Wow, I am blown away by how many resources and ideas there are on TikTok for educators! It is certainly a way for educators to expand their PLN. Some simple searches that I tried were:
- Teacher Resources: this brought up anything from strategies used in the classroom, classroom organization ideas, useful websites, and free or accessible worksheets
- Special Education Activities: this search provided specific routines and activities for students with diverse needs, such as sensory or mobility needs. It also showed some activities specific to some diagnoses, such as autism. I initially tried to search ‘inclusive education activities‘, as I prefer the language, however, fewer relevant videos came up.
- School Art Projects Kids: a variety of different art projects were easily accessible! It also displayed different modes of art such as painting, clay work, drawing, etc. I also tried searching some specific art forms with different searches and plenty of options popped up. Therefore, if you know you want to do a specific art form with your class (ie. watercolor painting) you can narrow down your search easily!
In addition to accessing a variety of professional resources, TikTok could be a great differentiated way for students to show their learning. With the video editing portion of the app being so user-friendly, students would easily be able to create a video to demonstrate a skill or knowledge they have acquired. They can even do all of this without posting their video to TikTok and instead simply downloading the video to a device that can then be shared with a teacher.
Some major concerns that I personally have about TikTok still are that it is so easy to go down a rabbit hole of videos that can impact a person’s social connections, sleep patterns, and access to sensitive or inappropriate content. To learn more about TikTok and some of the considerations of parents and educators that need to be taken, I accessed Common Sense Media and TikTok’s digital well-being for some assistance! Here are some of the tools that TikTok has that help manage these concerns:
- Family Pairing: Under settings and privacy you can use the family pairing feature. It allows parents or caregivers to sync with their child’s account to set and monitor their use of TikTok. With this feature, you can control the privacy of the child’s account (ie. private or public), access safety settings, restrict private messaging, and monitor screen time. As I don’t have anyone to practice this with, I would love to hear if anyone has experience using this setting and how it worked!
- Screen Time: Within the settings, you can control how much daily screen time you have on the app. In this feature, you can also set break reminders if you are using the app for long periods of uninterrupted time or you can set sleep reminders for different times of the day. This can be useful, however, they can be easily ignored or worked around. Therefore you need to have some self-discipline to actually stop your own use.
- Restricted Mode: This is a feature under settings that will restrict sensitive content. This seems to be based on what other people have reported. Therefore, you may still come across inappropriate content that has yet to be reported.
My Future with TikTok
Although I have certainly learned that there can be value in the use of TikTok, it is still not something I plan to access regularly. This is largely due to wanting to limit my own screen time, which I will try to do with the screen time setting on the app. I do think that it is a resource that I will come back to for professional purposes, such as getting ideas for my classroom, assignments, or projects.