HyperDocs: Teaching Tools for the Pandemic and Beyond

Last summer I had the pleasure of meeting a new colleague who would teach the same subject on a different campus.  Danny is a dynamic educator and a curriculum design powerhouse.  When he graciously offered to share his files, it became apparent Danny was that teacher.  The one you love and are jealous of and hope never supervises you, but secretly try to convince to become your life coach.  Not only was he generous, he was organized and armed with a treasure trove of beautifully designed units that were ready to roll out at a moment’s notice.  I have always wanted to be that teacher.  I am not thatteacher.
This pandemic has forced us all to face a number of realities about our education systems, about teaching, and about ourselves.  Our greatest strengths in the classroom don’t always translate to distance learning platforms.  I personally pride myself on my intuition, adaptability and flexibility. What I lack in efficiency I make up for in student centered teaching that rarely feels stale and is always open to improvement. I think of myself as an educational curator.  I observe my students closely to discern their preferences and learning styles. I am really good at finding and integrating new resources; I switch it up all of the time.  I will throw out things I spent hours prepping over the weekend if Monday’s class illuminates a better way forward or a different need.  Something not working?  No problem. I have another idea.  Discussion reveals a tangent worth exploring? Let’s go! We will circle back eventually.
None of that is useful anymore. 
Now I only see my students “live” once a week. We are all craving normalcy, routine, and assurance. I have just enough time to walk them through an assignment’s location and directions, to make sure they have everything they need, and to answer questions.  We might be able to have a small group activity using video breakout rooms, but I concede they need that time for socializing, and I hold them marginally accountable.  They are doing most of their learning asynchronously.  Everything needs to be prepped and posted days ahead of time. Whatever I start, I have to stick with. Change causes chaos. I have had to become more like Danny.  More transparent. More organized. More intentional.
Enter the HyperDoc. 


There are several excellent guides to designing and using HyperDocs. I recommend checking out the work of The HyperDoc Girls and reading this.  A lot of what you see might look familiar because HyperDocs reinforce many best practices like cycles of learning and backwards design. 
I really love the concept of a tight package where all of the tasks, links, and instructions my students need are organized within our school’s “6Es” project learning framework and put into an intuitive workflow. I can easily transition between content acquisition, skills work, and assessment.  In some of the sections there might be a menu of options students can choose from, which gives them a voice in determining how they will learn material or demonstrate their understanding.  They don’t need me to tell them what to do next or when they are done.  It’s all right there. They document their progress and can see their knowledge and critical thinking skills grow.   
There are a lot of downloadable templates available for both Google and Microsoft apps. You can also make your own and play around with what works for your class.  Both documents and slides are great platforms depending on your visual preferences.  Hyperdocs work for any subject.  This folder contains a set I made for 7th grade Humanities students on World War 1 and World War 2 and a set that I made for 6th grade Math students to kick off our Algebra Unit.  It is really easy to link resources like Khan Academy, Scholastic, or Newsela.  It is also easy to integrate other digital tools like Padlet, Kahoot, and Flipgrid.
Hyperdocs are helping me design and deliver assignments in a way that supports my students’ organization, independence, and motivation.  This in turn increases the likelihood that there will be good academic outcomes even though they have to do more on their own.  So far I see students with a wide range of abilities navigating our studies with confidence and self-sufficiency.  I hope this comes as a relief to their overburdened families. 

There is nothing easy about teaching and learning in a crisis.  But we can make it easier.  Hyperdocs are working for me and maybe the silver lining is becoming that teacher after all. 

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