Empowering Tomorrow's Thinkers:

Workshop on Social Media Visualization with Public School Students ​as Part of the Trust in Science and Democracy (TruSD) Initiative

On June 15th, PhD students Laura Lotteraner, Regina Schuster, and Judith Staudner of the Visualization and Data Analysis Research Group hosted a workshop on visualizing social media data, climate change graphics and thinking critically about the data we are faced with in our everyday lives. The workshop was held at a public school, FMS im Zentrum, with a group of about ten students as part of the Trust in Science and Democracy (TruSD) initiative of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Research.

Our approach was to combine data visualizations about their own social media use with climate change data visualizations found on social media and to teach the class to critically question the data they encounter, for example, on social networks.

We started the workshop with a catchy TikTok video of singing the global temperature anomaly curve to set the scene right for some fun with data. After a short introduction about what we mean by data and what data are used for, we went right into our first learning activity by collecting some data in the classroom. We chose social media as our topic of interest and collected data about which social media channels the students use, how many hours they spend on those channels daily, and how many accounts they follow. Simultaneously, we introduced the concept of data visualizations in some hands-on activities.

Images: @Funk, @Klimaneutral

The second theoretical part of the workshop focused on climate change and climate change data visualizations on social media. After discussing some examples, the students got creative by drawing their very own data visualizations about climate change data, with some of them drawing very precisely and others enjoying more artistic freedom.

We ended by discussing how data visualizations can be used to lie or mislead and how we can critically assess the design of data visualizations. In the end, the federal minister of education, Martin Polaschek, made an appearance in the classroom to wrap up the workshop. Of course, we also took some selfies – for social media.

While the primary goal of the workshop was to teach the students about data and data visualization, it was also a great opportunity for us to learn more about data literacy in teenagers. Overall, we were amazed at both their level of knowledge and their enthusiasm and willingness to interact with us. Especially the first activity of collecting and visualizing our own data really engaged the students and motivated them to participate in the rest of the workshop. Apparently, the topic of social media was well chosen for the age group, as each of them had something to contribute.

We were particularly impressed by how well they responded to the questions and tasks regarding critical interpretation of data visualizations. They quickly determined which diagrams were misleading and were open to discussing our explanations, introducing aspects of the issue that we didn’t even think about ourselves.

All in all, the workshop was a great success, both from a teaching and a learning (and a fun) perspective, so we’re eager to do something similar again. We were also able to use some of our insights and learnings for our Kinderuni workshop that covered similar activities for elementary school kids. Thank you to the school for the invitation and to all students for their enthusiastic participation!


Reseach Group Visualization & Data Analysis
University of Vienna
Sensengasse 6, 1090 Vienna