TikTok or Bust! - An Educator's Journey to Embrace TikTok

It's not really about TikTok so much as it is embracing the vulnerability it takes to learn something as public as social media platforms - and the need as an educator to do so...



This journey in particular is about TikTok, but it’s also about every new app or platform that comes out next. It’s about embracing something new, something our students engage with, something we may not really be drawn to. I decided to start this journey because I think it’s important for educators to learn how to support students’ digital lives inside and outside of the classroom. How can we do that if we don’t know about what platforms they are using? Or what types of skills are needed? This is what this project is about. It’s about embracing the new. It’s about pushing yourself for the good of your students. It’s about growth. And you might just find out it’s kind of fun, and oh, yeah, you can definitely go down the rabbit hole. Welcome to my TikTok journey!

My first step in this journey was to talk to an expert, so I reached out to social media strategist extraordinaire Christina Olivarez, the Social Butterfly Gal. She gave me insight into the algorithms of TikTok. She spoke to me about the creator communities and cultures that have come up around TikTok.

Watch my full interview here:



Want to hear more from Christina? Follow her here:

  • IG: @thesocialbutterfly gal

  • Twitter: @ChristinaSBG


Once I knew what I was in for, I invited educators and others to join me. I used the social media I was already comfortable with for this. I posted my video invitation on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook:

To see my greeting:


Then it was time for me to follow-through on my TikTok journey, so I signed up. I created my profile, chose my topic preferences, and even started following some friends who are on the platform. I started by watching a few videos at a time, just to check it out. I was really just getting used to what was actually happening on TikTok.

For a couple weeks, I was a passive participant. This is what Lave and Wenger (1991) would call legitimate peripheral participation which refers “both to the development of knowledgeable skilled identities in practice and to the reproduction and transformation of communities of practice” (p. 55). Little by little, I began becoming part of the TikTok community. I even went down the rabbit hole several times, watching videos for at least an hour. I definitely now have a list of favorite creators that I have started following. I mostly follow those that are entertaining. It’s a great escape. But to be a full participant, I needed to create and begin to understand how to use the technology, which is “more than learning to use tools; it is a way to connect with the history of practice and to participate more directly in cultural life” (p. 101).

So here we go! My first TikTok video:

https://vm.tiktok.com/ZM8qJ5Mgc/


And believe it or not, by the next day, I actually had some likes!



That gave me the confidence to post video #2!

https://vm.tiktok.com/TTPd2gdRr1/


Yes, my first couple of videos were cat videos, but it's an easy way to get started. And she's cute. I have since expanded my TikTok repertoire.


I have to admit that this has been more fun than I thought it would be. But, this is more than just fun and learning something new. This is about connecting with a platform that students connect with. Wright (2021) sees TikTok as a way to connect with and learn about students in their element. He writes that “educators who choose to sit idly or dismissively by miss out on opportunities to participate with them in the attempt render a more fulfilling, less cynical tomorrow” (p. 64). In addition, if we ignore these platforms we all leave students “fending for themselves” (p. 66) out in the digital world. Edwards (2021) also sees staying away from new technologies as a “missed opportunity” (p. 337). She writes about the potential of these new technology platforms in college communication courses. She sees them as places to help students engage with authentic audience, learn about ethical communication, and actually influence public discourse.


Just the other week, I was on a campus, and you can imagine how happy I was to see this:



Administrators embracing TikTok and creating them with students! How fun!


This is my call to action to you: take a chance and embrace the new technologies. Not only can you learn about your students and help them gain necessary skills, you may actually have a little fun. If nothing else, you can laugh at my TikTok video attempts!

Follow me! @klhenry80



In case you want to dig deeper, here the sources I cited in this blog:


Edwards, A. (2021). From TED talks to TikTok: Teaching digital communication to match student skills with employer desires. Basic Communication Course Annual. 33, 336-341.


Lave, J. & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. Cambridge.


Wright, W. (2021). Reality check: How adolescents use TikTok as a digital backchanneling medium to speak back against instructional discourses of school(ing). Radical Teacher. 119. 61-67.


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