The Invisible Machine: Big Data and You Lesson Plan

Level: Grades 8 to 10

Duration: 1 to 1 ½ hours, plus time for the evaluation activity

About the Author: Matthew Johnson, Director of Education, MediaSmarts. Sada’s Profile was developed by Grace Foran, Robert Porter, Valerie Steeves and Andrea Villanueva as part of The eQuality Project .

This lesson plan is a joint project of MediaSmarts and The eQuality Project, a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

This lesson is part of USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: A Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools.


In this lesson, students examine a fictional social network profile to learn how online platforms collect data about their users. They then read an article that explains how platforms use this data and explores some of the issues this raises. Finally, they create a mind map of their own online data profile and reflect on how the data they post may be collected and used by others.

Learning Outcomes

Students will:

  • Learn how and why internet platforms collect and use personal data
  • Understand the commercial value of their data
  • Learn strategies to help them control the collection of their data and the impact of algorithms on their online experience
  • Reflect on the impact of data collection and algorithms on their lives and on society and what governments and/or corporations should do to change things

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