Friday, September 18, 2020
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Can you hack Kahoot? Many can and do

Kahoot is an online tool that uses a technique called gamification, turning everyday tasks like classroom lessons and quizzes into games where students can win prizes. Many teachers use it as an informal review or quiz system in their classrooms; the app has about 70 million users worldwide.

As with many popular apps, the sheer number of users means not only that the app is a bigger target for hackers but also that hacking into it could bring a bigger prize.

Students have found ways to provide access keys to non-students, who then bombard the class quiz each day with irrelevant or impertinent traffic, the Fresno Bee reports.

“Recently, a lot of my teachers have been integrating Kahoot into our daily classes and rewarding those who get first place,” the paper quotes one online hack website as saying. “It was fun at first but it got boring really fast since there was always that one kid who always was in first. As a result of my boredom, I got the bright idea to create a tool that spammed fake users onto my teacher’s quizzes just to spice things up.”

Another common trick is to make up offensive names for these accounts and then flood the stream with them, just to get a kick out of it. This trick makes hacking as simple as posting an account key for the class on social media and telling outsiders when to log in.

And so it goes. The app makers don’t officially condone this type of mischief, but in classrooms, it’s harmless enough.

“These kids like to try and stay one or two steps ahead of the adults,” the paper quotes Brian Davis, who teaches a professional development class at Fresno State dedicated to using Kahoot in the classroom, as saying. “They’re growing up with technology in their hands as early as a year old. And the pros of that are that they have the entire world at their fingertips. As for the cons, well, is it a tool or a toy?”

Editorial

Technology in the classroom can certainly make kids more engaged: it’s a natural form of communication, which is the essence of education, as Mr Davis notes.

But it can also be overdone. That happens when kids spend more time trying to figure out how to use the technology—or hack it, just for the sake of hacking it—than they do using it as a tool for learning.

What is not important is the ability to use an app effectively—they come and go in the blink of an eye. But what is important is integrating technology into a complete program dedicated to learning, discovery, and exploration.

In addition, teachers who use technology to help “prepare students for the real world,” a world that includes lots of devices with screens and apps that run on them, are wasting time. The devices are ubiquitous, and our teachers don’t need to drive that lesson home any more than it’s already being driven home in kids’ lives.

Integrating it effectively into classroom instruction, on the other hand, is a good way to meet kids where they are. Used effectively by effective teachers, technology can encourage students (and educators) to work in teams, collaborate, explore project-based learning, and develop their creative thinking skills.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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