A bit of hacking
Saturday, May 18th, 2013 | Author:

There are many tools that people get shown either via Twitter or at a Teachmeet and then they sit on the “to-do” list for ages. I know loads of people who haven’t got around to trying differentt ools for one reason or another. Voicethread is on my list, as is Storybird. I’ve dabbled with them, but not really used them in class much.

Hackasaurus is one of those tools for many people. I have shown it at a couple of recent Teachmeets and also at a conference I was at last week, but I hadn’t used it with a whole class until this week. So I thought I would share what we did with it and how it worked.

In case you don’t know, Hackasaurus lets you take a webpage and then edit the text and images that are on there. This looks like the site has been hacked, but in fact it’s just a (very clever) copy. This works best for news sites I think.

I first used it in class to create a stimulus for discussion. I took a Sky News page, hacked it a bit to add a photo of a hotel and then wrote 5/6 paragraphs about the new hotel that was being built in the Indian village we were looking at. The text gave different opinions from different sides such as the hotel company, local businesses and unemployed villagers.  I could have just said to the children “today we’re discussing a hotel development” but by having it as a news page that I have “found”, it made it more real.

So, on to the whole-class test. In the morning, we went down to the pond and took part in some pond-dipping. We took photos of the things we found and then later on, I wanted the children to write about what they had found.  Now, this wasn’t the main focus, it wasn’t literacy, these aren’t the best examples of writing at all, but they are examples of children exploring a new tool that later on will help them to improve their writing. Over lunchtime I uploaded the photos to a Picasa gallery meaning that the children could easily access them. I put the link to this gallery on the schools website (www.3x3links.com/stjohn) and also added a link to a Newsround site too. I find that working with Newsround is much better as it has less inappropriate news stories on the sides and is more suitable for children. I also added a link to a Google Doc (that was open for anyone to edit without signing in) and added this to the school site too.

For the lesson, I demonstrated how to add the X-Ray Goggles to the bookmark bar and then we looked at how to edit text. I realised that Picasa brought another bonus, as the images were stored online, they already had an image URL meaning that the children could copy the URL of the image and paste it into Hackasaurus and change the photo in seconds.

As I said, these aren’t the best examples of writing, but for 45-60 minutes with a new tool, they worked really well. I hope you like them and can see a way of using them in your class too.

The hacked pages that my class made are available here (for best results, right-click and open in new tab/window): http://stjohnsblogs.co.uk/class8/hacking-cbbc/

Word of warning, once your children know how to use Hackasaurus, they won’t believe any webpage you ever show them again. But maybe that’s a good thing? My children now question the information they see online a lot more than they did a few weeks ago!

A how-to guide for Hackasaurus is here: http://www.undertenminutes.com/?p=383