4th Graders Say: What is Hacking?


What is hacking?

Every year, as the final chapter to our Foiling Fake News unit, we pull back the curtain and dive into the HTML code behind a news website. Looking behind the scenes and manipulating headlines and photos using code checks to important boxes – first, it gives us valuable practice and experience with HTML tags, laying the groundwork for future creative web creations. And second, when students see how easy it is to edit or completely change news online, it makes them look at online websites and news in a brand new way. If you don’t know how a website is made, it seems impossible that that beautiful and formal looking website in front of you could be anything but a product of meticulous effort and research. But once you’ve pulled up the hood to see the code lurking underneath – and created an imaginary news headline yourself – you realize that misinformation can come in even the most polished of packages!

Think your nine-year-old doesn’t know what hacking is? Think again! These unprompted responses from 4th graders show that students are always watching, listening, and learning  from the world around them. Before we dive into our work using the free Mozilla tool X-Ray Goggles, we start with some conversation.

Watch the video above to hear what these nine-year-olds already knew about hacking, what they think it means to hack, and the way we’re turning the tables to make hacking into an empowering, positive experience online that can help people.

We’ve found that the best way to learn how easy it is for others to manipulate the news is to jump in and manipulate the news yourself. Check out some of fourth graders’ favorite hacked headlines below.


This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Interested in bringing information and media literacy lessons like this into your classroom or library? Try these resources: 

Foiling Fake News with Fourth Graders: A full unit focused on helping elementary school students evaluate the validity of online news sources in real time before they become independent social media consumers. This unit includes resources and links and is ready to be used in any library or classroom.

How Do You Know That? Critical Thinking in the Classroom: The outline of a semester-long student inquiry inspired project-based-learning course designed to help middle school students better understand and more confidently navigate the world of online news. This outline includes resources and links and can be easily adapted to fit any library or classroom.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s