Let’s Get Hyper About HyperDocs!

A HyperDoc is a Google platform to encourage deeper learning and ensure that sound pedagogy is at the centre of learning tasks. It can be in the form of a Google Doc, a Google Slide Deck, a Google Map or Google Sites. Recently educators have also been using other tools such as Book Creator and Deck.Toys (an interesting new tool that has been brought to my attention) to deploy their HyperDocs. Teachers are innovative beings and it is for this very reason that HyperDocs appeal to them. They allow for creativity in design and offer students an enriched learning experience.

Originally developed by Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, HyperDocs have been around for a little while. However, as with anything technological, especially in education, they took a while to gain momentum, particularly in South Africa. However, after attending the last Google Summit, I just knew I HAD to share HyperDocs with our teachers. I knew they would find them exciting, and I wasn’t wrong.

 

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My very own copy!

 

To prepare myself, I bought my own copy of The HyperDoc Handbook written by the three ladies I mentioned above. I was very excited when it arrived and I had reason to be. What a well-written, clearly explained, hands-on book it is. There is no way you can go wrong if you follow the steps in the book. There is solid pedagogy behind the concept of HyperDocs.

HyperDocs are NOT worksheets. They do not replace worksheets. Although they might sometimes look like worksheets, they demand far more from both the teacher and the student (if correctly constructed).

A HyperDoc is:

  • a launch pad or platform for engaging teaching and learning – almost like a stepping stone to deeper learning.
  • “A great interactive and engaging platform that should be used to launch a learning rocket!” – I loved this quote from one of my colleagues made after our first HyperDocs session. I think he summed it up beautifully.

HyperDocs should contain or reflect:

  • sound pedagogy.
  • a learning cycle – either the HyperDocs Learning Cycle or another of your choice.
  • the 4 Cs of 21st Century Learning – communication, critical thinking, collaboration, and creativity.
  • scaffolded learning in cleverly designed tasks – both on paper and including the use of various tech tools. Not everything has to be done on an iPad!
  • interactive opportunities for the students, including videos, texts, links and other resources.
  • possible differentiation for students to work at their own pace.
  • vibrant, attractive appeal for students – no more boring worksheets! The possibilities are endless.
  • adaptability to the needs of both the teachers and the students.
  • a greater understanding of the SAMR model and encourages moving through the different levels to Redefinition.

After the very first session in which I introduced our teachers to HyperDocs, I could see that I had offered them something that really sparked their interest, and that evening, even though I had not yet completed the HyperDoc training with the staff, I already had the first one shared with me by one of the teachers! That has never happened before. Since then we have completed the HyperDocs training and a number of the other teachers have also created and shared their home-grown HyperDocs with me. Are they perfect? No, they aren’t, but they are certainly on the right track and with guidance they will get there. Their lessons will evolve, problems will be ironed out and their teaching and learning will change in ways we never imagined. The important point to note is that the students enjoyed the new approach and enjoyed participating and completing the tasks set by the teachers. Should all lessons now be presented in HyperDoc format? No, I don’t think so. They lend themselves to a project-based learning approach and so themes and concepts that require deeper learning that can be spread over a longer period of time are most suited to this approach. Having said that though, there is no harm in creating a short, punchy, to-the-point HyperDoc to cover a single topic or smaller section of work.

The authors of the HyperDoc Handbook have created a website full of resources, examples, tips and advice for creating HyperDocs. I urge you to go and take a look, but beware – it’s like jumping down a rabbit hole! You won’t be sorry though.

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A very simple example of a HyperDoc about HyperDocs.

 

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Balance and Best Practice

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Our students use iPads in the classroom. From Grade 1 to Grade 3 they use class sets and share devices, and from Grade 4 to Grade 6 (at our Senior Primary School) each student has a privately-owned device in a 1:1 environment. This means that our students have the benefit of a very powerful device as an additional tool in their learning toolkit. And that is exactly what it is – another option, along with the books, paper, pencils and crayons they already have. The iPad does not replace any of these and it should not.

In our 1:1 roll out we have been very intentional in stressing to our teachers that basic skills such as reading and writing are still very important in the whole education of a child. In designing and planning their lessons, our teachers are tasked with ensuring that they make use of the best tools available for that lesson – the tools that ensure the best outcome for the students and the most learning. If that means that a more conventional non-technology lesson is what is required, then that is the way to go. However, since our teachers are also striving to use the technology to modify and redefine their lessons (driven by the SAMR model), it also requires them to rethink their own teaching methods and styles and reimagine their lessons. That is a good thing! In doing so they incorporate many of the vital basic skills into their iPad lesson design and so our students are still reading, writing, drawing, counting, discussing, debating, contributing and LEARNING.

We do not stipulate the number of lessons or hours we expect our teachers to use the iPads in their teaching. Regular teacher reflection (vital for successful teaching regardless of methods or tools used) and open discussion takes place to keep the balance. Balance is extremely important and in a world where children are glued to screens for a large portion of their free time, screen time in school needs to be highly effective and for the best reasons. Our students need to use their iPads to create, show their thinking, collaborate, design and showcase, so typing up of documents and filling in online worksheets is not high up on our priority list.

Our whole approach is about balance and best practice – and so it should be.