Get Hacking with X-Ray Goggles!

Mozilla has developed a pretty fantastic digital literacy tool called Hackasaurus. Hackasaurus lets you change and mash up any web site with its X-Ray Goggles bookmarklet. Just drag it onto your bookmarks toolbar. Once you’ve finished your mash up, you can publish it to a public URL, or grab the code to host on your own web site.

The purpose of Hackasaurus is to teach HTML in an authentic environment — the live web.  It’s easy to use. It’s entertaining (hugely). And it makes learning HTML a breeze.

But, when I was playing around with it, ideas for its use as an information literacy tool started flowing. Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Hack up sites with misleading information.
    • Host them on your own web site.
    • Create a game where students have to figure out what’s been hacked and what’s real (no cheating allowed!).
  • Have students hack up online news articles with their critiques.
    • Ask them to add comments on how the article could be made more credible.
    • Have them share and critique each others’ hacks.
  • Hack up a library database.
    • This could be a search results page or an abstract.
    • Ask students to find the errors.
    • This is a great exercise for learning how to read search results and citations.
  • Create a web site of a ‘worked example’ of what library research looks like.
    • A ‘worked example’ acts as a guide that models an expert researcher’s thinking process (like in math).
    • Start with a scenario, and follow through with the steps of the research process.
    • Give students their own scenarios and have them hack over the ‘worked example’ with their own work.
    • This would be a lengthier exercise that could also be used to assess the quality of students’ information literacy skills.

If you try out Hackasaurus in the classroom, I’d love to hear about it. Happy hacking!

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