TikTok Rabbit Hole

Initial Thoughts

Okay, so I’m super late to the TikTok party. Better late than never, as they say. In the beginning, my only experience with the app was through my 5th graders. During class parties, my students wanted to put on TikTok videos via YouTube to dance to. I let them and we had fun. Note: I only allowed ‘clean’ versions. They knew how to search for them so I let them. So that meant that I thought is was for dancing and learning new dances. While I love dancing, it wasn’t an interest I had so I ignored it and brushed it off. That, and I thought I was too old for the app. Yeah, that was a stupid thought.


Fast forward a year or two and I stumbled upon TikTok creators showing how they create optical illusion videos. Now this is something I am interested in. Not that I want to create them, but I appreciate the time it takes to create them and appreciate the creativity in general. My curious mind also likes knowing how it’s done. This phase began earlier this year in 2020. Let’s face it, we had a lot of time on our hands this year, at least I did. I didn’t always handle the pandemic and all its restrictions in the healthiest ways. This got me curious about all the other things that might be on the app.

Then, I watched as Holly Clark began to explore the app. I watched as she began to explore and share out some thoughts on other social media pages. As she is an educator that I greatly respect and know that she is an innovative educator, I was official starting to think about exploring this app even more. Dare I say, signing up.

The final ‘straw’ was a close friend and educator signed up. She began sharing her experiences. There were a variety of people on there and it was positive and welcoming. There were so many people (BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, BLM, and more) sharing their experiences, educating others, and having a voice that I hadn’t heard on other types of social media (admittedly, that is on me).

Taking the Plunge

Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

So a few days ago I took the plunge. I signed up. I am hooked! As I’ve stated, there were so many people sharing their experiences and helping others. I also have seen that there can be a great deal of racism and hatred on the app (some of those I follow report on it). So I don’t want anyone to think this app is all sunshine and roses; it’s not. However, I am choosing to follow those that are helpful, educational, and bring love and light to the world. As such, I have found myself following those that belong to the following communities: BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, Indigenous, Black, disabled, women, educators, and GenX to name a few.

Some things that I have noticed – based on who I follow. Remember, I am choosing to follow those who educate and bring positivity to the Internet. There are so many videos that have a closed caption feature. This is great for so many individuals, not just those with hearing impairment. So many people are sharing experiences and/or their culture. I’ve watched videos on how a woman with a non-verbal autistic 3-year-old son is helping to create a safe place for him and channeling his creativity into stickers. I watched an Indigenous man share how he handmade his headdress and bustle. I’ve listened to a non-binary trans person share simple ways I, and others, can be better allies. There is this beautiful Black woman who helps others understand how to care for curly, kinky hair (regardless of race). She even explained why young Black girls get beads in their braids. Clearly, I am learning a lot and enjoying my experience. I’ve also learned that as a white person, I can help elevate the voice of these wonderful individuals. I am trying to do my part.

Educational Potential

Of course I see educational possibilities in this. Many educators have talked about harnessing the power of this app in their classes. Many secondary teachers talk about allowing their students to show their learning of a subject matter via the TikTok app. Being an elementary teacher, this isn’t good practice as the app isn’t COPPA or FERPA compliant. Luckily, Matt Miller has created a safe mock version of TikTok using Google Slides. I used this with my 5th graders and they were very open to the experience.

Lots of educators are on the app sharing tips, tricks, extensions, and other useful resources. Thank you to all of you! But this got me thinking. What else can we use this app for? How can we harness this for classroom use aside from having students create videos? I will admit as a noob, these ideas might not be ‘new’ to those who have been on the app. But nonetheless these are my thoughts.

As I’ve stated, there are many people sharing their experiences and cultural history. These are things that I didn’t learn in the textbooks. Why not use the videos as sources to learn from? Hear me out (and I’ll explain how to share the videos with elementary/middle school students without using the app in class). I watched several videos on Indigenous people and their heritage and experiences. In 5th-grade students learn the four Indigenous regions across the United States (let’s ignore for the moment that within each ‘region’ the tribes that existed were unique and held their own traditions, customs, and language). What if…A teacher collected information from Indigenous people sharing this information? Yes, this can also be found on YouTube. However, part of the genius behind TikTok is that each video is one minute or less. Short, quick, to the point bits of information that students can easily digest. Another advantage of this app is that it’s visual. It’s engaging and because the videos are short students are less likely to ‘zone out’.

So how can one collect videos and share them without having students use the app. As I’ve stated, I’m super new to this so there might be an easier way. There is a feature to copy the link of any TikTok. There is also a feature to copy the embed code, but this will not work with Google Sites. Sites needs the HTML code and the code you will copy from TikTok is iframe. So, personally, I would copy the link and create a list somewhere. It can be on a Google Sheet, Doc, Slide, Wakelet, or your choice. I would NOT share this resource with students. Reason being, once the link is clicked not only does the actual video you want them to see appear, so do others that may/may not relate to the topic appear if they begin to scroll. Therefore, the viewing would be as a whole. Which has its advantage: class discussions. Is it a perfect system? No, so if you have a better idea please share out.

Edited to add: Contacting the creator to get their permission might not be a bad idea. From what I’ve seen, I would guess that most creators would be willing to allow permission and possibly even help you out.

Final Thoughts

Just like any social media app, it is what you make of it. If you want feel good material, follow those creators. I am. While I don’t have any content posted, I am gathering my courage to give it a go. There is so much to the app and there are so many on it that are willing to help and answer questions. If you were like me and thought that it was for young people and dancing, think again. While it is that, it is also so much more!

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