Thinking on HyperDocs for Flexible Teaching and Learning

I’ve been meaning to spend some time looking into the use of HyperDocs — sort of an updated version of Webquests in which a single document with hyperlinks provides students with multiple entries of engagement and exploration. It’s a concept that I have seen from time to time, and thought, yeah, someday, I’ll take a look.

But it was a post at Middleweb by a National Writing Project friend, Jeremy Hyler, another middle grade teacher, and then an interview on NWP Radio with Jeremy on the topic that provided me with a reason to sit down with HyperDocs with intention and ponder how it might be a good fit for a school year of remote and hybrid learning.

I quickly discovered that I appreciate HyperDocs as an approach of using a single document with multiple strands of activities for students, although it obviously requires, as Jeremy notes, work at the start by the teacher to think through sequences of learning activities and also choice opportunities for students to demonstrate understanding, with room for extension for those students who need a bit more.

While I come to the concept via NWP and Jeremy, I want to note that Laura Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis are prominent voices in the mix. The three educators facilitate and oversee the HyperDoc website, along with assorted course offerings, and they say they coined the term and concept in 2013.

At their website, the HyperDoc founders note:

A true HyperDoc is much more than some links on a document.

  • Creators deliberately choose web tools to give students opportunities to Engage • Explore • Explain • Apply • Share • Reflect • Extend the learning.
  • Digital collaboration is choreographed to give every student a voice and a chance to be heard by their classmates.
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills can be developed through linked tasks.
  • Students have an opportunity to create authentic digital artifacts to show what they know and connect with a wider audience.

In some ways, HyperDocs consolidates much of what teachers were already doing with research and online media exploration, but maybe doing even more so during forced closures due to the Pandemic. It leverages the resources of the Web, but also integrates well with any online platform, such as Google Classroom. Where I used to have multiple posts with different steps, spread out over a week, let’s say, a HyperDoc contains the entire sequence of activities, with media and text set explorations, in one document, allowing a student to move through the expectations at their own pace. The term “flexibility” comes up a lot with HyperDocs.

While there is no set structure of a HyperDoc, most seem to start with some essential questions and inquiry, leading to application of understanding, and then extension opportunities, with lots of places for reflections on process. Take a look at some samples to get a better sense of the HyperDoc concept. It’s important to note, I think, that you could easily design a HyperDoc as a simple website/blog post, in any text format that has links to the Internet, in Google Slides or presentation software, etc. It does not require a Google Doc, since the most important parts are links to follow, opportunities for reflection and sequencing of information.

The HyperDoc site has samples and lots of information, and I even ordered The HyperDoc Handbook from the HyperDoc folks just to have another resource handy. But there are plenty of other places on the Internet where teachers are sharing templates and ideas. I’ve “borrowed” a few (including the one that Jeremy talks about in the NWP podcast) and have been busy adapting for my own needs.

At this point, I have four different HyperDocs under construction for the start of the year: an icebreaker Back to School Hyperdoc, a literature-themed Hyperdoc focused on a short story and exploration of literary concepts, and a civic action HyperDoc that explores student agency.

HyperDoc Sample

Here is a link to a fourth HyperDoc I am creating as part of a Professional Development I am co-facilitating at the start of the year with colleagues on Project-Based Learning. This HyperDoc that I created utilizes the idea of the tiny Public Service Announcement (inspired by AJ Juliani) to show teachers a way to simulate PBL, and it can be adapted for the classroom, too. It has been built off a design that Jeremy had shared (thank you).

What’s great is that with some initial instruction and guidance for students (I even found a HyperDoc that explains HyperDocs to students), I can use HyperDocs for independent learning in both a Hybrid model (when I will see only half my students at a time but they are expected to be doing things the other half of the time) and for a Remote model (where none of us are going to want to be on the video screen for long stretches of time).

The flexibility and leveraging of online resources, plus the integration of other technological platforms like Padlet, Flipgrid, VoiceThread and others for reflection and sharing points, seems like it could be a winning way to use technology effectively for teaching and learning.

Peace (linked),

  1. Thanks for this, Kevin. I am doing a deep dive into HyperDocs myself. Part of that has been examining what teachers have done. I’m still reserving judgement, but perspectives from you and Deanna are valuable to my thinking.

  2. Hi Kevin,

    As always, you are ahead of the game and always searching for ways to best reach and engage your students and their learning.

    I think HyperDocs may be an excellent strategy for remote learning– if they are well designed and not just worksheet or information dumps.

    You’ve started a thoughtful progression of learning so students can learn, apply, and create PSAs while learning and applying media and communication skills.

    Through our work together in #clmooc, I know you will be including many ways for students to use online tools to discuss and plan, share and reflect, question and revise, apply and create.

    I know, if you were in the classroom, that you would have conversations together to share and clarify concepts in Explore and again after individual reflection in Explain. Think about how students might do that online– in shared docs/spreadsheets, Padlets, Flipgrid– whatever your district uses or may find useful to get for teachers now.

    Hyperdocs have the potential to bring the classroom community to the remote learner. They can be individual learning cycles and collaborative learning cycles.

    I hope you continue to share resources on this journey, because there’s so much variety available for hyperdocs. Sometimes, the variety is confusing. Like “Explain”– some say explain is for students and some say it’s the teacher’s direct instruction. I think it depends on the goal and context.

    Tracy Enos knows a lot about “Playlist” type of hyperdocs:

    Using Playlists to Differentiate Instruction
    Module 8: HyperDocs— a sample

    A while ago, I wrote about student talk in my classroom, and those strategies are what I’ve used with students.
    Technology as Accelerator — scroll down to “What technology could accelerate Student Talk?”

    I love the idea of the PSA and how you’ve organized how students learn about, appreciate, and analyze how to create their own.

    I look forward to the results! Keep sharing about this process– others will want to learn now that so many will be remote teaching and learning. ~ Sheri

  3. Here’s another resource people find helpful– It’s from the HyperDoc people, I think.

    HyperDoc Template/Suggested Apps

    And an interview/podcast with Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, which includes some great tips for success.

    How HyperDocs Can Transform Your Teaching

    Again, I’m looking forward to following your work; we need good examples.

    You mention PD– I know my staff appreciated the HyperDoc PD I created at my school district– so they could choose the path, the project, the reflection that best fit their needs.

    Best to you in this crazy year! ~ Sheri

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