Getting the Toothpaste Back into the Tube: A Lesson on Online Information Lesson Plan

Level: Grades 6 to 8

Duration: 2 to 4 hours—Approximately two hours lesson time; work time for the assessment/evaluation task will vary.

This lesson was created by MediaSmarts for Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial privacy protection authorities.


In this lesson, students watch a short video that compares getting rid of personal information online to getting toothpaste back into a tube. After a short discussion of how visual analogies like this work, students discuss the meaning of the video (that information online is permanent.) They then read a series of short scenarios that help them identify four further principles of information online: that it can be copied, that it can be seen by unintended audiences, that it can be seen by larger audiences than intended, and that it becomes searchable. Finally, students create a simple animation that illustrates one of these principles.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Learn key principles relating to online privacy in the context of digital literacy and related subject areas, in particular that online information:
    • is permanent;
    • can be copied;
    • can be seen by unintended, and potentially much larger audiences;
    • and is searchable.
  • Understand visual analogies in the context of language arts and related subject areas
  • Create a media product in the context of language arts and/or media literacy and related subject areas

This lesson plan also addresses the development of several key privacy education competencies in the Personal Data Protection Competency Framework for School Students, including:

  • Understanding the concept of personal data;
  • Understanding the digital environment – technical aspects;
  • Understanding personal data regulations – controlling the use of personal information

This lesson and all associated documents (handouts, overheads, backgrounders) are available in an easy-print, pdf kit version.