Learning environment

Music teacher assigns homework to TikTok for teaching in distance learning environment

By Julia Duggan

TikTok is known to be a social media platform. However, a college professor turns TikTok into a learning platform.

Nicholson teaches at the College remotely from New Mexico (Photo courtesy of Dr. George Nicholson).

“I had to find a way to allow the students to do a little more organic homework compared to the work they were doing in class and the process they were doing at home,” said course teacher Dr. George Nicholson. of ropes. at University. “I just started to discover TikTok and realized that it is really artistic social media.”

From there, Nicholson began assigning TikTok homework to his students. The Nicolson Strings Course is designed for majors in music education to learn to play any stringed instrument found in an orchestra.

“I think (the students) liked it,” Nicholson said. “The most interesting thing for me that resulted was the difference I got with the assignments and I love it. I love when I give a mission and I see totally different things.

Nicholson explained that while his students don’t all have the same instrument, he is impressed by the variety he receives from his students doing Tik Tok homework.

“I’ll see students who will almost give a diary and (a narration) and just take the time to think,” Nicholson said. “Other students will play and talk throughout their game process. There were students who would do an art making process, it’s just a work of art in itself, which is really exciting and they are. all equally valid.

With TikToks for homework, students in the rope class seem more engaged.

“(Students) tend to like homework,” Nicholson said. “They feel like it’s a way of talking to myself and to each other and also learning from each other. I like that they come to comment on each other’s TikToks even if that is not part of the mission. I see they are starting to do what is exciting.

The students agree. When asked, most admitted that they were surprised and a little skeptical about using TikTok in a classroom. However, as they have seen in practice, they have started to realize how useful and beneficial it is.

“I was really surprised by the mission at first because TikTok is such a contemporary medium. I didn’t think a lot of college professors knew much about it!” Said Ryan Haupt, a major junior in music education.

As the semester progressed, students in the ropes class admit that they have become quite comfortable with using TikTok.

“Now that the time has passed, I actually think this style of homework could be a good teaching method,” said Kat Vilardi, a junior music education major and a music technology minor. “It allows students to be creative and comfortable making videos, expressing what they think they’ve learned during the week. Especially with this online course, with a teacher in a different state, it was beneficial to do something fun but educational so that our teacher and peers could learn more about us and our personalities.

(Photo courtesy of Dr. George Nicholson).

Currently, Nicholson teaches at both the College and the University of New Mexico. Since Nicholson lives in New Mexico, he teaches the remote string class for college and has to watch out for time zone differences. The most important thing that helped Nicholson keep track of everything is to label all the events in a calendar with the specific time zone next to the event.

The main challenge of teaching music related courses online is the lack of collaboration and response to what other students create in the classroom.

“What I realized is that the problem in creating music together is the timing aspect,” says Nicholson. “Not the pitch aspect, not the musicianship, but it’s the rhythm, so if you take out the rhythm, the students could actually make music together.”

What Nicholson is referring to when he says rhythm is the constant driving force musicians use so their parts can align and create music. Since the musicians are not in person, it is difficult for a group of them to set the beat for a specific piece of music, and then to align their parts correctly.

Nicholson’s idea is that if one chooses music that is not based on rhythm, then it becomes much easier to create using an online format. This led Nicholson to include more experimental and abstract music in his teaching, including the use of soundscapes and TikToks. Even teaching in an online format, Nicholson accepts the challenge and enjoys having to look at music in a different way.

“It allowed me to think of ways to make music with each other in a different way,” Nicholson said. “The ways we have barriers and how (we) decide to take things away, like we’re removing the rhythm. If we find out what the problem is and remove it, we could still make music; it is not a question of cutting everything.

Jacob Ford, a junior music education student, agrees that using TikTok is an effective teaching method.

“This is exactly what every assignment should be, simple instructions that are easy to complete and do not become a burden on the students while applying the skills we have learned in the classroom and demonstrating an understanding of the knowledge,” said said Ford.

Students in the ropes class expressed everything they learned using TikTok.

“More than anything, I believe these TikToks allowed me to learn more about potential future teaching skills rather than just learning stringed instruments,” Vilardi said.

The students also expressed how much they enjoyed the class.

“Learning string pedagogy with Dr. Nicholson this semester has been an incredibly memorable and enjoyable experience, and I’m sure my classmates feel the same,” said Nick Napier, junior music education student. “His teaching methods are inclusive, comprehensive and intriguing, and attending his classes (even remotely) is always something I look forward to!”

Looking at the semester overall, Nicholson expressed his enthusiasm for teaching students in the music department.

“I have been so consistently impressed with TCNJ students in particular,” said Nicholson. “I have worked with them and they are agile, enthusiastic and always eager to learn. “I think that’s what’s been amazing, is that we see the persistence and creativity of the students, so it’s been a joy.”

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