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Website review by Common Sense Editor, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013
Hackasaurus

Hackasaurus

Puts the hacking power in your hands as you unlock, remix, recode

Learning rating
Editorial review by Common Sense Education
Community rating
Based on 1 review
Privacy rating
Not yet rated Expert evaluation by Common Sense
Grades
4–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Arts, Creativity, Critical Thinking
Great for

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Pros: It's highly interactive and useful for a broad variety of Web- and content-authoring goals in and out of class.

Cons: Without discussion, it's easy to forget about fair use and the real effort required to produce critical, satirical, or transformative works.

Bottom Line: The interactive and empowering remix tools help teachers and students learn the language and structure of websites.

The Hacktivity Kit (on the resources page) includes a rationale for teaching Web authoring, as well as a hack jam lesson plan, cheat sheets for using the Remixer and writing HTML, and badges to award hack jam participants. The lesson plan begins with remixing the popular Robot Dance so participants can understand hacking as a process that makes something more expressive, fun, and useful for them, and that it's not exclusively a criminal or destructive activity.

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Editor's Note: Mozilla's Hackasaurus no longer exists in its original form. Now known as Webmaker, the site offers a variety of tools including both Thimble and Popcorn Maker.

Hackasaurus teaches kids (and their teachers) how to read, code, and remix the Web. As a precursor to Webmaker, Mozilla's broader open-web project, Hackasaurus focuses on three major resources: the Web X-Ray Goggles; the Remixer; and the Hacktivity Kit, a how-to guide for hosting a "hack jam," a kind of workshop that teaches kids how to read the Web by writing it.

The Web X-Ray Goggles need to be installed for students to use the Remixer. You'll have to go to the Hackasaurus website to find instructions, but once they're installed in a browser's bookmark bar, they can be activated with a mouse click. (Users should make sure their browser preferences allow Java to run.) Kids then bring up the Remixer by pressing r, and let the hacking begin! (The "hacking" affects only a local copy of a webpage and doesn't in any way affect the original webpage.) Kids roll the mouse pointer over different parts of a webpage to reveal the underlying code. For example, if students activate X-Ray Goggles while browsing a photo set, when the mouse goes over an image it will highlight the picture and bring up the tag (the web's code for images) in the corner of that picture. On the right in the Remixer, kids see how the element looks on the page. Kids then edit, or hack, in the left pane. They can edit pictures, text, or any other allowable element. Students then press p to "publish" the new, remixed page on a Mozilla server for sharing, and click x to close the Remixer.

"Gameplay" can get complicated, but with direction and practice this can be a useful tool for teaching computer hacking, which is essentially coding, or re-coding. In addition to teaching coding, Hackasarus encourages deep discussion of fair use and the exploration of revision for bias, mood and tone, and satire as modes of online composition. The Remixer shows students how they can be Web authors in their own right.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

The Web-authoring possibilities offered by Web X-Ray Goggles and the Remixer are fun and interactive, but kids who don't immediately get how to use them will need help.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

If teachers go into a hack-jam-type lesson prepared to help kids learn about and remix webpages, they'll find fertile ground for discussion of fair use. Other lessons can address the power of revision to change meaning in writing.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

The hack jam lesson plan is sound, but teachers need to know how to code or bring in mentors who do.


Common Sense reviewer

Community Rating


Featured review by
Susan R. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Lebanon High School
Lebanon, United States
Young learners could become overwhelmed without significant guidance

Initially difficult to figure out because of the way the website is set up to focus on the tool known as "X-Ray Goggles" which allows for remixing a webpage.

The tool is a (primarily) HTML hands on learning tool for younger audiences.

Although I think adults might enjoy it too.

The objective is to load an "X-Ray Goggles"

"Bookmarklet" to you browser's Bookmark Bar, and when you want to "hack" a website you simply access the website you want to hack and click on the "X-Ray ...

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Privacy Rating

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