The Nottingham UnBias Team has been working with children aged 3-13 years to help them to learn how the internet works and to reflect on issues of personal information and online filter bubbles, through creating their own “data gardens”. We attended a Family Discovery Day on the 16th June at the University of Nottingham and the STEM Festival at Bluecoat Beechdale Academy on Saturday 23rd June.
Creating the Data Garden
We asked the children to select a shape, number, colour, activity, and animal from the list below, and to fill out their preferences on a grid.
Once the children had made their choices, we used this information to give them the related creative materials to help them to make their own data garden. The materials included coloured felt, card, stickers and coloured pens. The children had lots of fun getting creative! The only condition to the activity was that they could only have materials relating to their choices, e.g. if their favourite colour was yellow then they could only have creative materials in yellow (although green was allowed to make the garden!). Here are some pictures of the children’s excellent work:
The data garden helped the children to:
- Learn how the internet works by showing that it collects information about the user, and uses it to decide what content to display (e.g. search results, recommendations, news stories, etc).
- Explore what people are willing to share online, and the relevance of personal data.
- Understand that the use of the internet can create a filter bubble, where the children only see certain content, and may never see other things that may be interesting or important to them.
As the children were busily creating their data gardens, we were able to chat to them alongside their parents and guardians about how the internet works and how the nature of the content that they view online often determines what is shown to them.
Each parent was given further information to explain the purpose of the data garden activity, and to suggest related discussion topics for them to bring up with their children at home. The parents and children were also given a take away leaflet that gave tips on how to stop companies from tracking them. Finally, the children were given some sweets and other goodies to take away with them!
We really enjoyed attending these Outreach activities, and we especially enjoyed bringing these, often complex, issues to life for the younger age groups, as well as having engaging discussions with their parents, guardians and teachers.