Category Archives: networked learning post

Algorithm on Steroids: A TikTok Story

The closest I have come to using TikTok was during last spring’s class when I used my wife’s account.  I decided to join for the purpose of this post, but made sure to do something I rarely do.  Read the terms of service.  I focused on the privacy portion.  TikTok says the only information they gather is what you provide in your TikTok profile and the information in any profile you use to login.  For example I used my google account (after the first week), my profile only has my age and name. No mention of gathering contacts (unless you link them, which I did not). I did not put on a vpn to get a true sense of what the app would do with my isp address. Initially it leads you to think that they will only gather other information if you give permission, then later on it says browsing history for advertisers. Sneaky.  This was not something I noticed until later (as you will see in my point form reflections).

My screenshot of one of TikTok's terms of service.
My screenshot of TikTok’s terms of service.

As TikTok is a series of short videos I have decided to present my initial findings in point form.

Week 1 (just using app as a guest, not signing in with an account)

  • First few videos are all of a hill on fire in Edmonton.
  • Fires in Alberta.
  • Lots of Indigenous creators.
  • Animal videos.
  • Lots of weird cooking videos.
  • Indigenous content (specific ones on cultural appropriation).
  • Comedic animal videos.
  • Comedic kid videos.
  • Watch one comedy video on hockey and then…
Screenshot of Coach Chippy video.
  • ….Lots of Canadian centred content (heavy Canadian accents)

Week 2

I reread what info they take if you make an account from a third party (nothing about the content you use just profile info).

  • Sign up with google (same email as YouTube)
  • Almost immediately creatures I follow on YouTube shorts start showing up (coincidence?).
  • Still lots of indigenous content (mention of indigenous TikTok).
  • Started following Lewis Capaldi.
  • Turns out the YouTube connection was a coincidence.
  • Animal and kid videos have combined.
Screenshot of Zesty Newz video.
  • Told them not to track contacts and then the first person they recommended to follow was my wife (she does not make videos).
  • Started to follow Hank Green and felt sad
  • My dog is quite sick, so I’ve been up late scrolling through TikTok, feeding the algorithm.
  • Forwarded my first TikTok video
  • I’ve heard of this happening- where did the past half hour go?
  • Following Lewis Capaldi was a mistake (dog video)
  • It knows I’m a teacher.  Getting a stream of teacher related content.…which means the few teacher TikToks I was sent before I downloaded TikTok are floating around somewhere and TikTok has access to the part of my phone. I didn’t give it access to…or it’s kept track of my isp from watching videos before I had the app.
Screenshot of TikTok terms of service. I guess TikTok considers itself a Third-Party advertiser.
  • It is teaching me slang.
  • After my dog died it has become an easy distraction. Far too easy.

Throughout the second week I started interacting more, using hearts forwarding three videos and following a few creators.  TikTok was much better at figuring me out than YouTube.  Even before I started liking and following it got a very quick sense of my politics.  With YouTube I watch one conservative video to try and balance my bias and then that is all I get recommended (no matter how many-“do not recommend” buttons I click). This, along with how much information it seemed to have without me giving permission, was frightening.

At the same time I see the benefits.  I am getting a broader amount of content that is providing useful information.  For example as a CIS white male I have worried about how well I will be able to speak out on anti-lgbtq+ issues.  TikTok has provided me with allies that have added to my vocabulary and done so in a compellingly calm way.  YouTube thinks I am anti-trans because I watched Neil Degrasse Tyson on Joe Rogan.

While TikTok is far more comforting I am worried about how comforting it is to those on the opposite political spectrum.  Is it just one giant confirmation bias?  It feels that way and it is very seductive.  I don’t know how long I will continue using it, but each time I switch back to YouTube I am fed angry content.   TikTok just seems happier. I get fed self-affirming videos, creators that are not just white males, progressive reflections, and dog videos that make me feel sad.

Screenshot of Annakprzy video.

I hope I am able to find my way through the weeds and gain from the benefits while not pulling that comforting blanket of confirmation over my eyes.

Tik Tok in Education: Yes or No?

Cristiam Oliveira GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I’ll admit that I really had no idea what Tik Tok was when I created an account over a year ago. I kept hearing about it from colleagues and students so I thought I would check it out. However, fast forward a year, I still feel like there is a lot more to discover about the social media platform. First, I thought I would do a little historical research to figure out more about this worldwide app. Brandtastic’s blog gave a great overview about the history of Tik Tok. Some interesting facts I learned was that it was created in 2016 as a lip sync app in China. In 2022, over 60% of users were under the age of 25. Tik Tok is not without controversy as it has been pushed towards being banned in the United States and off of government employee phones. However, it continues to be one of the dominating social media platforms in the world.

Photo by cottonbro studio on

All I have used it for is watching videos which in the evening can turn into a full hour session in an instant! I still have not made my own videos and truthfully don’t think I ever will! If I were to take the plunge, this getting started video would be very helpful to those just starting out on Tik Tok, though.

I learned from this instructional video that to create a Tik Tok video it is a three step process of recording, editing and posting. However, the process of adding filters and music seems to be daunting. I am more in the discovery phase of Tik Tok. After downloading the app, I used it solely on a personal level to watch funny videos at the end of the school day or check out a trend a colleague or Professor suggested such as Pot Roast’s Mom.

However, recently I have started to explore it professionally as well. I have found many helpful tips and even funny videos on #teachertiktok. Some of my favourite accounts to follow professionally on Tik Tok include @farmerlovesphonics who has helped me research and provide strategies and instructional practices to staff that align with the Science of Reading. I also enjoy the tips and ideas regarding addressing challenging behavior and social emotional learning from @behaviorconnection. These accounts are just a couple of my top followers for professional use.

Something new to me as I explored Tik Tok further this week was creating collections. This is a feature I found very useful instead of simply saving them to favourites, you can create categories. This week I created a gardening category to support my major project for this class, a general school collection for professional ideas and a motivation collection that I could use with students and staff during discussions and meetings.

Speaking of students, I was thinking about how Tik Tok could be used safely, to support student learning. I would probably use some of the motivation videos in lessons with students to support social emotional learning. I might also use funny animal videos to increase engagement. As I currently work with younger students up to Grade 4, I believe this would have to be mainly teacher controlled. As I sit in my office at school, I can’t seem to get onto Tik Tok at the school which makes me wonder if it is blocked for usage at the school level. This could be a problem when trying to use it for educational purposes. However, with older students, perhaps you might engage them by challenging them to create a video for a project or topic they might be learning about. Again, strong guidance and safety protocols would have to be adhered to as many parents may not feel comfortable with their child using Tik Tok.

So, after reviewing the social media platform, I still have many questions about how to use Tik Tok appropriately in schools. As a mom of an 11 year old, I am working to teach my daughter digital citizenship and internet safety but she still believes a lot of what is out on the internet even though it might not be factual. Therefore, for the students I work with I would primarily use it as an option to share appropriate videos with them during a lesson or on google classroom. I will continue to use the professional ideas and accounts I have found within Tik Tok to support my role as an Administrator and Teacher. I will continue to use Tik Tok both personally and professionally as a place to watch interesting and humorous videos. I like to check out the newest challenges such as #skipping challenge. However, the next Tik Tok star will not be me!

I would like to know your thoughts on Tik Tok. How do you use Tik Tok on a professional level? Do you allow students to access it? What are some of your favourite Tik Tok accounts to follow?

Thanks for reading and sharing your answers!


Social Media: A Love, Hate Relationship But Mostly Love

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I have always been intrigued by social media and use a few different platforms both personally and professionally to connect, learn and keep up with the current world. The first social media platform I joined on a personal level was Facebook. I loved being able to see pictures and posts from family and friends. It was a great way to keep up with my sister and watch my nephew and niece grow up even though they lived five hours away from me. One of my favourite features on this platform is the memory section! It is interesting to see that I used to post a lot more and it has saved me on occasion by helping me remember birthdays of those I care about.

However, I have found in recent years, my use on Facebook has declined. I no longer post what I am up to. I find the feed to be quite sparse with posts from family and friends. Instead it has become filled with more ads connected to my searching habits. During the pandemic, I began to search for a sense of community professionally. While working from home, I enjoyed watching live talks from Dr. Jody Carrington who helped myself and my school staff through navigating online teaching and trying to feel connected during such a trying and isolated time. Recently, I have started using Facebook for more professional communities. I have a strong love of literacy and have joined several groups based on current research. It has been a great experience seeing what other schools across North America are implementing into their literacy programs.

Photo by Thought Catalog on

Instagram has been my go to platform for all things related to healthy lifestyles such as recipes, fitness ideas and a little fashion inspiration! I find it is a platform, I mainly use to scroll for ideas and not so much as a connecting piece with others. Once again, I do not enjoy how my feed becomes inundated with ads related to my searches. One look at a clothing website and suddenly several ads pop up daily related to this website.

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I’ll admit when I first heard of Twitter, I thought to myself that I didn’t understand it and was never going to join. However, I attended a conference in March of 2017 which I just looked up on my profile for reference and to learn my Twitter anniversary. George Couros was speaking and he challenged the audience to get connected to Twitter as a professional learning community. This platform has been my main professional outlet to connect and learn from other educators and scholars ever since. I am not good at creating my own tweets very often but enjoy retweeting a positive message and/or quote. Recently, I found myself watching an Ed. Tech tournament on the feed which had people voting for their favourite Ed. Tech tool. I watched and voted daily. I am proud to say that Canva which is one of my favourite Ed. Tech tools was the champion.

Photo by cottonbro studio on

Social media has allowed me to learn and grow from others based on my individual interests and choices. It allows me the opportunity to feel connected both personally and professionally with people I wouldn’t normally be able to on a daily basis. However, the downside is that I often find myself navigating through ads and have seen an increase in propaganda and political divides filling up my feeds on all of my social media platforms. I need to remember to unplug once in awhile because time passes so quickly when you are scrolling in the evenings! I am curious to see how these platforms change and which new platforms emerge in the future. As my thirteen year old niece informed me, “Auntie, Facebook is only for old people, you need to join Snapchat. I’ll send you my username so you can connect.” So far, I haven’t accepted her invite but who knows what might happen in the future! Which social media platform do you use professionally? Thanks for reading!


Social Media and Me: A Reluctant Journey

I am old enough to have been around for the early years of social media. Before sites like MySpace and Facebook we wandered through chat rooms and early group chats in ICQ. It was very new and we were not ready.

For the first time we could speak to random people throughout the world without the need of ham radios or waiting weeks or months for responses through pen pals.

Photo by Changhee Kim on

For me the novelty wore off quickly and I was lucky enough to avoid some of the dangers from sheer luck (and the speed of dial-up in a small town). MSN Messenger took off in my social circles and for the most part social media was just a series of group chats. The only thing that was close was playing online games like EverQuest where other players would ask A/S/L (age/sex/location).

Years later Facebook emerged, just in time to connect with friends I had lost touch with from university. In my twenties the feed was full of pictures of bars, birthdays, and making your life look better than it was. At the time I was not overly concerned and saw the whole thing as something frivolous. It was an easy way to keep track of people who a few years before would have just become parts of my memory. We no longer said, “I wonder what….is up to,” we knew and they just posted twenty pictures of their vacation.

For a long stretch this was my interaction with social media, interspersed with YouTube and the odd twitter quote I read in an article. When I went back to school to become a teacher, YouTube became a valuable resource; videos simplifying math or science concepts, old Bill Nye clips, and dance or music videos when students needed a stretch. I have a distinct memory of showing an OK Go video to a class I was subbing in to explain Rube Goldberg machines.

OK Go- This Too Shall Pass

As time moved on and politics have become more populist, social media became more toxic for me. Anonymity gave people the same mentality they had in a car when they swore at someone who cut them off. Posts that could be disproved with a little bit of skepticism and knowledge where shut down with shouts of “idiot,” and “sheep.” I gave up trying to have rational discussions and started to hide feeds. COVID and lock downs poured gasoline on the entire internet.

Listening to my students interactions did not help. Thoughts you might share with friends in private are now broadcast to the world. I am forever grateful that the stupid things I said to friends have been left in the past as an embarrassing memory of who I used to be. As the age of those going online continued to drop, those that pray on them have reached out. As a child I remember warnings of who to watch for in the real world, but at least at home I was safe. My students now need lessons on how to be safe from people in the virtual spaces we open in our homes.

Last year I took a step back. I stopped going on Reddit, hid Facebook in a folder on my phone and found my news from “reliable” sites on the right and left political spectrum. Then I took a class called Contemporary Issues in Education Technology. We discussed and debated and I started to see some of the positives again of social media. Those that were isolated due to location or identity had somewhere to reach out. Support groups, organizations, and caring people were there. Imagine that, someone using the internet and social media to help people and not just attack.

I have still taken a step back, only delving deeper for this course. I am still cautious, but I am better prepared to help my students and care for my own interactions on social media. So I’ll dance with the devil, but my mouse is hovering over that close account tab.

Photo by Vojtech Okenka on