Author Archives: Mike Gerrior

Summary of Learning

I wasn’t sure how I would summarize my learning. We have been using blogs all semester, however I have been integrating them into my classroom as well for my major project. It seemed fitting, however I did not want to be too repetitive.

I took the same limitations my students had (google slides) to design my blogs and chose the article “Ten Reasons Every Educator Should Start Blogging,” by Kathleen Morris, to base my presentation on. I took 8 of the 10 reasons (specifically the ones that applied to my students blogs) and attached my thoughts about our journey to each reason.

With that in mind I wrote 8 short blogs (which I have posted below) and then edited them into a video with some tracking to try and make them more visually appealing. A few additional images and text, along with digital themed transitions were added as well. Then I realized those transitions were behind a paywall and the giant water mark….so I now have a student subscription to Wondershare (democreator). Although I do have to say this is the one editing software I have used that I didn’t have to fight. I hope you enjoy my simple video, I look forward to exploring your summaries as well. Have a great summer!

Blog #1-Done on Google Slides
Blog #2- Done on Google Slides
Blog #3- Done on Google Slides
Blog #4- Done on Google Slides
Blog #5- Done on Google Slides
Blog #6- Done on Google Slides
Blog #7- Done on Google Slides
Blog #8- Done on Google Slides

All Blogged Out

My last writing prompt asked students to write about what they would change if they ran our school. While there was a variety of ideas, there was a number of that repeatedly showed up. We are the only school in the city that requires uniforms and while some students mentioned the benefits (no one makes fun of each other for your clothes, modesty, easy to identify students) this was the first thing that a majority of students would change. Next was use of cell phones. Our school has banned personal smart devices for k-8 students. I was not surprised by this, although reminding them that one student live streamed a class, was something that change a few minds. The third most common change they would bring to our school was gum. The amount of gum found on floors, desks, walls, etc., led to the school banning gum. Teachers are left to enforce it. In my class it has become a power play with one student, she refuses to stop, I have her get rid of it. It is a small but perpetual battle and it would appear the class has painted me (or at least the rule) as the villain.

Photo by Garrett johnson on

Overall this was the most interesting blog for me. It gave me insight into what each student enjoys or dislikes about our community. A number of them treated it like a persuasive letter. I did mention that I would read and reflect on their ideas, so this was probably my influence. It was a great way to end our project and gave them a chance to share their concerns in a calm and reflective way. It was gratifying to see my goal realized. We had created an online community where they could share different ideas and actually discuss it without filling the page with bile. A few students who struggle with this in real life were some of the best commenters. Imagine that! A social media project led to someone being kinder!

Photo by Lisa Fotios on

I ended this unit with a voluntary survey. By Friday night I received 13 responses, a little over half the class. I added an “other” option to each question which made the results more diverse.

Google Forms- Blog Survey Results- Personal Communication

I was surprised not to get at least one “I didn’t care” response. A majority didn’t think the assignment was hard, followed by technology issues and forgetting to finish it. As the teacher technology issues were my biggest struggle. Our tech is limited and a few students genuinely had blogs get lost somewhere in the digital ether.

Google Forms- Blog Survey Results- Personal Communication

I had expected the largest response would be how short the assignment was. One paragraph was the minimum. The fact that the majority enjoyed that it was something different is making me reconsider my assignments in the future. Two respondents enjoyed getting to know more about their peers. This was not an option I had posted and I found it oddly wholesome.

Google Forms- Blog Survey Results- Personal Communication

This was the survey question I was most curious about. I was grateful to see a majority of students preferred to post positive messages, but disappointment that 3 students said they had to stop themselves from writing something mean. While you might think this was a sarcastic comment, the previous survey questions did not indicate they were taking this as a joke. That is not to say I was surprised. We have had discussions in class around why we treat people unkindly and admitted that sometimes people think it is fun.

Photo by Keira Burton on

Finally I asked two short answer questions; starting with “What could I do better next time?” This question exposed me to a trap that I see my students fall into; miscommunication. My intention was to find out what I, as in the teacher, could do better for them, the students. They read the question as a personal one. Most responded with write more or be kind in the comments (breakthrough!). Two students understood my intention and asked me to open the blogs in front of them to avoid losing marks for missed assignments (which I had done a few times) and make the assignment longer so students could express themselves more (second breakthrough!).

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

I ended with “How was this experience different from regular social media?” A few didn’t notice much difference, however half responded with it was “safer” and “positive.” One student responded that they usually get bullied on social media and this project made them feel respected and listened to. I think these responses have ensured I will do this project again.

In the end I am very happy with the results of this project. It forced me to rethink how I assign literacy, acted as a media literacy lesson, and created at least one safe place for them to share and exist as digital citizens. My one regret is not adding the following question, “Did this project change how you use social media?” I want to think they would write about how they post kind things online, they stand up for each other and push aside the trolls. Maybe they would, I think I will live in that safe place for now.

Photo by Ana Arantes on

Remixed or Registered: Open Education

During last week’s class I kept making the connection with open education and pharmaceutical companies. What drives the development of new drugs? Corporations fund research, this results in life saving/life changing medications to be created.  Companies then charge for this medication to cover costs and make a profit (a lot of profit).  This money is then used to fund more research and create more lifesaving/life changing drugs. To ensure that those with less financial means can access those drugs, governments limit the amount of time companies can maintain patents on those drugs.  It then becomes public and any other company can make cheap replicas.  The initial run of medication encouraged by capitalism promotes innovation.  That is the idea, but obviously it is not that simple.  What about those that died because they were sick during the initial patent?  What about those that still cannot afford the pills after it is in the public domain? What about those that could survive with the latest version, but their insurance won’t cover this new pills cost?

Photo by Pixabay on

Now let’s look at textbooks.  Companies are paid by governments to develop academic documents.  Those companies then charge schools to pay for said textbooks. Updates do not make financial sense and schools will not pay for those updates because the initial costs of those books was so much. Jump ahead 12 years and we are using science textbooks that reference someone training for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics or the very current use of space shuttles.  Budgets are cut, publishers do not receive the funding, and new books are never made.  Teachers then take resources they can find, try to update and provide students with current information and are sued for violating copyrights.  We have been given the medicine and it is better than nothing, but it’s years past the expiry date. Our patients, our students are now suffering.

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We are in a world where we can take information and “remix it” to suit our classrooms needs. We no longer have to rely on that pharmaceutical medicine, that Pearson textbook.  Lawrence Lessig’s analogy of an airplanes flight path not violating trespassing laws is an interesting take on this remixing that we are doing. While educators may not be manipulating a piece of pop culture, we are manipulating research, texts, and a variety of other resources that are stamped with a circled C or R.  But how many of us have left the textbooks all together and now create our own resources from bits and pieces we have found online? How many of us share those resources? How far do we share them? In this way we are making our own open education, however it is within the confines of our institutional walls. I have not uploaded my ELA lessons, but maybe I should.

With access to the internet I have millions of lesson ideas to go through. I did not need to pay a fee to use them, or request them as part of a yearly order. I did pay to be educated on how to best use them, but some could argue that a few YouTube videos and some volunteer time in a class could have done the same thing.

I am currently using the next version of a textbook for math. MathUp is an online resource. It can be updated easily and I can decide what to use in the same way I could choose questions or chapters to assign from a textbook. To suit my needs I have begun to “remix” it. I take sections and images and compile them into my own lesson. Sometimes I follow the proposed outline, sometimes I abandon it entirely. Despite this, it is not open education. My division pays a fee to access this program, just as it paid for textbooks in the past. If I upload my version of these lessons I would be violating copyright laws; even though large sections are not recognizable from the program itself. I am soaring far above the ground, but I am trespassing.

A “remixed” Mona Lisa. Photo by Yaroslav Danylchenko on

So when do we abandon this? Open Education requires (as discussed in last class) an economy of sharing. Have we reached the point where we no longer need companies like Pearson to develop programs? Do we need them in the same way we rely on Phizer? Is the answer funding through taxes? In some ways what teachers are doing is exactly that. We are paid through taxes, we develop lessons and programs, we pass on those lessons to others. They in turn develop them and pass them on to someone else. But I feel like there is something missing. What is driving innovation? Is it an intrinsic need to share and do better? Do we need that first patented pill? Do we need that copyrighted textbook? Do we need that original song to mash up?

I’ve rambled on, but this is where my brain goes with Open Education. It seems like a dream at times and others it feels like we are already there.

Photo by Nadi Lindsay on

We come full circle…well 2/3 circle…

As the school year winds down and report card cut off looms I had to put a firm date for our last blog. That did result in more students submitting on time, but I was still missing about a third of the class. Thankfully these blogs do not take long to assess, so I can give them one more chance. I do that too often.

Our final topic was, “If you were in control of the school, what would you change?” The ideas varied however a large portion mentioned uniforms. I was not surprised by this as the number one question we have before an event or a trip is “Do we have to wear our uniform?” Bringing cellphones and personal technology was also a common talking point as was getting a cafeteria and new playground equipment. Surprisingly though the second most common suggestion was allowing gum. This is a school rule, but it is one I have to enforce. The past few weeks I have had to ask one particular student to get rid of their gum two to three times a day. For that student it has become a power move, for everyone else it has become a daily chore. At the very least it does show me that I have become the villain in this battle.

Photo by Miggy Rivera on

A Few Surprises

A number of students mentioned ways high school could be different. This shows me they are actually thinking of their future at our school and how it could be made better. They are also picking up on a few odd things we had to deal with this year and decided what we saw as a problem was an improvement. For example we had some students trying to sell items at school as a small business. One student saw this as a way to teach how to avoid scams.

Photo by Tara Winstead on

There also seems to be a disconnect between our school and what some of them think happens at local public schools. Some think that every elementary school has a cafeteria with hot lunches and every school has a better playground than us.


Students are becoming much more adapt at picking images that connect to their blog. In previous weeks a majority just used pictures from the school website. At least half of the entries used clip art that blended very well with their text.


Once again comments have been low. Only half of the students commented by the due date. Oddly enough a few of the students who did not submit their own blogs found time to comment. The comments that have been posted continue to improve. While most are quite short, they reference what they read and provide useful feedback. I’m taking this as one of the major successes of this project. Aside from reminding them to make their comments, I no longer need to remind them the expectations. They are more enthusiastic and more positive. I will be curious what they tell me about this when we review this whole process as a class.

Photo by Cristian Dina on

Next Steps

As we wrap up these blogs I will be doing a survey to see what they think went well and where I could improve next year. Overwhelmingly they voted to do the survey in our google classroom. Only one student voted to do a paper survey. They have gotten comfortable in this digital space. I can see how this would be a beneficial resource to start earlier in the year. We could return to it for various projects, possibly even creating a safe virtual hangout. It would require a lot of monitoring on my part, but what if I had student moderators? There is a lot of potential that can be explored. Now the fear of waiting to see what the survey says.

Did you get my blog?

Blog #3 was difficult to get in from a number of students. A list of missing entries on my whiteboard solved the problem for most students within a day. I also discussed the number of students missing comments for the week.  I was worried it would be a lacklustre week, with very little added to the group conversations.  Thankfully something switched and a few started asking for access to iPads to finish their comments.  That got everything rolling and it wasn’t long before the comments started popping up.

This also unexpectedly resulted in students asking me what the week 4 writing prompt was.  This continued and seemingly because they had to login to post comments, a lot of them decided to do their blogs at the same time.  Perhaps because most of the year I have not allowed them to use the iPads as frequently; they are enjoying the greater access.  Thankfully it has been mostly on task use.


A few of them are getting better at using slides to make visually interesting blogs. While this is largely my typically “strong” students, it is still nice to see.  They are also improving at writing beyond the simple responses. Many have found writing about positives and negatives a simple way to organize their thoughts.

Student Blog- Shared with parental permission.

Some students still struggled to get me their digital blogs.  While this is the new “my dog ate my homework” excuse, sometimes the dog actually eats the homework.  I had a few students share their blog in front of me and yet it never reached my email.  I reminded them I could put up physical copies and have students write their comments on post it notes. This actually resulted in greater effort to get me a digital copy.  I started to receive files from multiple accounts to ensure I received something.

Photo by Bruno Bueno on

Each morning has now begun with, “Did you get my blog? I sent it to you.” I’d like to think they are just eager to share their thoughts, but that is probably not the case. As the year is winding up we have much fewer assignments, which makes it easier for me to keep on top of this project.

Unexpected Benefits

Still I am very happy to see that my students that have struggled to submit work all year have been consistent with their blogs. There have also been a few, who rarely ask how they did, mentioning they are writing “good comments.” While I am enjoying the goal of creating positive digital citizens, I may just be realizing the benefits of mini assignments. Even one page may be too much for some students. I can do small assessments on a series of these short reflections, rather than a more traditional paper. On my end it is also much quicker to mark and easier to keep up with.

Next Steps

Photo by Wendelin Jacober on

With one blog left I am looking forward to celebrating this small accomplishment with them. I also let them know that I will be asking them for feedback on how things went. This will help direct this assignment in the future if I attempt it again. The final writing prompt also brings everything full circle. Our first prompt was the differences they see at our school, blog 5 is asking what they would do if they could change the school. It will be interesting to see what they would keep. Who knows, there might even be some ideas I could share with admin.

Online Activism: Awareness, Apathy, and Animosity

I do feel that online social media activism can be productive.  It can build awareness in a way that conventional media fails to by removing the authority figure from the distribution.  We do not need mainstream media or governments to forward the information. The public can actually go around those authorities to comment on movements they may shy away from or wish remained hidden.

Photo by Markus Spiske on

This does of course mean that those who wish to attack others can do so in a similar manner. My version of what needs to change may be in direct conflict with someone else.  Just think of the conflicting activism between those who promoted Covid precautions and those who railed against it.  What you view as activism might seem authoritarian to others.

This is where a productive conversation turns to a mess of personal attacks.  The internet provides a bubble of protection, like swearing at someone in your car who cut you off.  How often do you read a thread and actually see a divisive topic calmly discussed? Both sides see the anger but both are blind that the debate is over.  I think there is the possibility for civil discord, but it seems rare. At least in person there is a chance at expressing yourself calmly and less chance for misunderstanding.  Tone is difficult to get across in a comment.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov on

While the internet is full of vitriol it can provide a safe place for those to gather who would not be able to do so in reality.  This works in spaces that have strong and supportive communities, those that can rally around those that are attacked and maintain strong but fair guidelines. As I recall discussing in EC&I 830, social media allows those who have to remain hidden, a place to exist and thrive. Fear and bigotry may have halted someone from expressing themselves in their personal space. Safe online places provide much needed support and community.

The use of social media to uplift voices and stories, create awareness, and build and strengthen relationships creates a space for organizations, activists, and citizens to demand justice

A Guide To Activism in the Digital Age- Maryland University

These safe places provide the launching point for online and real world events. With social media people can get organized quickly. A rally that once relied on group meetings, a poster campaign, phone lists, etc., can now begin with one post. Word of mouth is a retweet that reaches thousands instead of whoever is in earshot. This global reach is one of the greatest powers that online social media has.

Photo by Anna Shvets on

The responsibility of educators in this field is something I struggle with. I am comfortable discussing how social media can be used in activism and how it has been used. I am still caught up in what we were told in the past, remain neutral. I will do my best to provide both sides of the argument, but I’m not oblivious that my own bias bleeds through. In the past I have chosen “safe” subjects to use social media to promote with my students. There are very few people who get angry at supporting those struck by a natural disaster.

Being a good digital citizen is about so much more than being safe and responsible online.

Dr. Katia Hildebrandt- July 6th, 2015

I do not think I am a good digital citizen yet. I stay silent too often. I see friends post hateful things and stay quiet. I avoid the confrontation because I know the hours of sleep I will lose over their replies. My own mental health can’t handle it. This is the reason I left twitter, reddit, and “snooze” so many people on Facebook. I have started to speak to these people directly, it’s easier to express myself and I have found they are far less defensive when there is not a digital audience to our conversation.

While I have participated in online activism it has been those safe subjects I discussed in class. I did the ice bucket challenge, and despite the backlash, it was not a bandwagon, virtue signalling act for me. My father died from a similar disease and it felt good to do something. I joined my friends Run for the Cure. In fact if you would like you can donate right here.

CIBC Run For the Cure Banner

Like anything online, social media can be beautiful or terrible. It’s a perfect place for activism to exist. The entire point of activism is to shine a light on that part of humanity. My goal is to turn on the light more often. The dark is much more comfortable; perhaps because in the light we are awake.

Photo by Dorran on

Building Blogs, careless comments.

This week was a continuation of their week 2 blogs as they were submitted and uploaded. Our topic was something that is often a hot button topic with my students, uniforms. 


The overall writing improved, and they seemed to take my instruction well on how to improve their blogs (less formal, don’t make a list, add descriptive/engaging words, include pictures to break up the text).

Some comments were more detailed and made good reflections on what was written.  A few even took my feedback and used that to recommend improvements on their peers writing.

There was an improvement with the visual aspect of the blogs and a few even played with the format.

Trending Trouble

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

While there was some improvement with comments, overall they were not as good this week.

Despite asking them not to write simple responses, there was quite a few “I agree with you,” comments. There was even a few students that wrote one strong response and then essentially copy and pasted it on other blogs.

There were far fewer comments this week. Perhaps because we had track and field, or I had a deadline for late assignments.  Either way, it has dropped considerably.

Something I had not considered when using a prompt that could be applicable to other schools, researching answers.  It was obvious when students were not just writing their own thoughts and a quick google search unearthed a few websites that listed the positives and negatives of uniforms.  While not quite at a plagiarism level, a few were dangerously close.

Submissions were also slow this week.  I had to extend the due date.  Many gave the excuse of issues with technology, although these same students sent other assignments to my email. As a result I did not have time to get permission to show any blogs this week.

Next Steps

I have to remind students that comments are an important part of an online community.  Reading alone does not create a dialogue; it also does not give the reader a sense of where they are within the spectrum of ideas and opinions in the group.

I also have to go over what is a “good” comment.  While I did project some examples, it might be good to brainstorm comments as a class.

Some blogs were submitted to me in a physical form.  While I will scan and upload them, I also should start to post them in the class.  Hopefully this will remind students of the project and may encourage students to complete their work more quickly if they remember a physical copy is an option.  In the past I have noticed how much they enjoy when others look at and discuss their posted artwork.

A quick discussion on using someone’s ideas to create your own will be needed.  While it can be a jumping off point when you are stuck, it is important to speak to your own ideas and opinions. After all, the point of this blog is to share our experiences, not some strangers.

The initial excitement is quickly leaving as we rush towards the end of the year.  I think celebrating the blogs in class will be a good way to remind them of the assignment and improve engagement.  They may pretend to be shy, but when there is an opportunity to share their work, most want to present.

Blog #3 will be especially interesting, we will be talking about teachers.

Photo by Min An on

Side-eyeing Twitter

I have had a twitter account in the past, but barely used it. Early on it was just to enter contests (retweet this for an entry), then to follow a few celebrities.  It had little impact and I often forgot about it, only popping back on when someone sent someone’s tweet to a group chat.  After a while it just became a way to check on local power outages ( #skoutage).

Saskpower Twitter-Screen Capture

My venture back has been reluctant. The fact that the first people I was recommended to follow were Elon Musk and Andrew Tate says something.  Maybe this is not the place for me. Still, this is a requirement and I am a rule follower.  I followed and liked and made a post.  Then I closed it.  Every few days I would open the app, scroll through what classmates had posted and open the odd link. I would think about what to post and then close the app.

Photo by Anna Tarazevich on

I have not been giving it enough of a chance. I started to search for education and mainly found comedy or advertisements. I returned to the posts from our class.  This is where the benefit of a PLN truly showed itself.  This group is doing the hard work, finding and filtering through all of muck that is Twitter and the internet.  It is inspiring and intimidating.  I am seeing far more resources and suggestions from peers than I have in years. I need to do better.

I post a few links, make a few comments and want to shut it off again. I click on the links and see the comments.  One person says that forcing reading is cruel and unusual punishment.  I am curious and click on their profile; they are selling a book on how to change your school.  Of course they are.

This is why jails have books- Screencapture from my phone.

I am reluctant to push twitter in my classroom. My students prefer discord and I’m sure something else will emerge in future years.  I do see how it could be used as a way to communicate to parents and the local community what is going on in your class and your school.  However Edsby (as flawed as it is) has become a more contained way for me to do this. It is a safer place.  Perhaps that is the problem.  Those things that make something a safer place are kept out of the chaos that is twitter.  This means more of the toxic things that keep making me leave.

I open it again and it is June. Schools are posting about pride, acceptance, support, and love.  I am scared to look at the comments. So I will avoid the trolls and focus on the bridge that is helping others get over them. I will try and add more resources, interact with those in class, add to the positive. In the same way we pick up trash in our school halls and smile at students who are not in our class; we can make it a better place.  The trolls keep climbing up though, they are pulling the boards from the bridge and they’re getting louder.

Screencapture- RBE pride post and the trolls.

Student Blogs Week 1 and 2

I was initially concerned with how my class would participate due to the slow submissions. Thankfully by the day after it was due I had most submitted. Having samples online made it easy to discuss what was successful and what they could implement into their own future blogs.

Photo by Canva Studio on

The first writing prompt was “What are the differences between public schools and faith based schools? ” I reminded students to be respectful, but encouraged honesty. In class we discussed the difference between observations and attacks on other schools. Like any assignment it was a mix of effort, however I had more submissions that showed some genuine effort than usual.

Student’s that were the most successful wrote in an informal style that had some engaging and interesting reflections. Others made lists of differences, which answered the prompt but lacked insight. What has impressed me the most is the amount of self awareness that has been brought up by giving students so much freedom. The following quote is from a student who discussed the typical answers; at public school you have to worry about harram food and activities, at an Islamic school you can be with more like minded people, etc. After this they brought something up that many of my students do not consider until they leave our school.

However, public school students get to experience how they are discriminated in society religious-wise often, meaning that in the future it won’t mind them that much because they grew up with that type of stereotype, but students in Islamic schools don’t get to experience Islamophobia which most likely causes them to adjust with society in a difficult way. For example, if you get stereotypes in a public school often about your religion, you will eventually know how to overcome that problem, but in Islamic schools, all the students are (M)uslims so there is a less chance that you will experience Islamophobia, so when you go out in public it will be unusual and it takes a hard time to adjust.

Student Blog referenced with permission of student and parents.

I was very impressed with how insightful this blog was, showing me how deeply they have thought through the topic. This is the type of response I had hoped for and I was grateful to see it appear in week one. The remaining blogs were largely successful, answering the prompt clearly. A few went for the simple list response, but at the very least everyone wrote a paragraph.

The comments were all short, but nearly everyone showed me that they had actually read the blog. All followed my requirements and provided constructive feedback or made their own connections to what was said. It does seem like my requirement for everyone to comment on different people has been effective. Some have enjoyed the ability to comment on each others work so much they have commented on most blogs. The engagement I have seen with some students that typically struggle has been encouraging.

Photo by Katerina Holmes on

Week Two has been a much slower start. I received far fewer entries on time, which lead to a number of students messaging me that they could not see everyone’s entry. While this is discouraging, it does show me that a number of students are still very engaged in this process.

Next Steps:

Photo by Cosmin Paduraru on
  • I need to have students who are struggling to finish their blog, write it in class so they are done and more likely to type it at home/at school.
  • I need to go over how visual elements can help break up text and make it more appealing.
  • While I have provided time in class with technology, I need to ensure I have enough ipads to allow students to work on their blog during downtime/study hall.
  • I need to have another mini-lesson on writing informally.
  • I think it would be helpful to also go through examples of effective comments.
  • I also need to remind them that part of the goal behind this is to create a positive online environment. While it has gone well so far, I do not want it to slip into the typical online interactions some of them have.

So far this has been successful, although the slow start on week 2 is discouraging. There is an interesting “fame” element I had not considered. Students are enjoying that recognition that the comments are giving them and the fact that I am discussing this project in my masters class has really motivated some. When I asked one student permission to reference their blog another student said “You’re going to be famous!”

Photo by Ekaterina Belinskaya on

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.