Online Degrees Blog The Impact of HyperDocs on Education

The Impact of HyperDocs on Education

28 June

HyperDocs, say their creators, are “digital lesson plans that are designed by teachers and given to students. They provide access for students to all content and learning in one organized digital space. It’s not about teaching technology, it’s about using technology to TEACH.”1

Educators Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton and Sarah Landis created HyperDocs and introduced them in 2013. Frustrated by a dichotomy often found in classrooms—students are asked to be creative, collaborative, critical thinkers and communicators while being told to sit quietly and create prescribed final products—they developed interactive online documents (including but not limited to Google Docs, Slide Decks, My Maps and Forms) intended to replace worksheets as a means of instruction delivery, with the goal “to engage, educate, and inspire learning.”2, the online extension of Matt Miller’s book by that title, notes:

  • “The beauty of HyperDocs lies in the creation of the doc itself. The creator considers the needs of the students, how they will engage in the content, what ways they can reflect on their own learning, and how they can show what they know.
  • HyperDocs LOOK engaging because they are. Kids enjoy completing them and while they are learning, collaborating, creating, and reflecting in their doc the teacher is given the gift of time to connect with students and engage in quality conversations with them about their learning.”3

The internet is replete with accounts of how HyperDocs have changed and are changing teaching and education. Before we sample them, however, here’s another point of clarification. As educator Summer Pettigrew notes, HyperDocs “aren’t documents with hyperlinks. They are so much more than that. We go from writing plans in a book for us to designing lessons in a shareable, editable document for the students.”4

Read on to explore HyperDocs’ impact on education.

Customized Learning Design

Pettigrew, who teaches fifth grade math and science in South Carolina, first encountered HyperDocs at a point when she was hungry to create personalized educational experiences for her students. She credits them with transforming her “from lesson planner to learning designer.

“My teaching game was forever changed,” she said. “HyperDocs are for all students. From your general population to your special populations, [they] will allow you to spend more time with students on an individual or small group basis, knowing the rest of your class is engaging with rich content that is carefully designed to meet their needs.”4

Educators can customize HyperDocs for individual students and protect their privacy in doing so.

“They don’t know that maybe their text … is at a different reading level,” said Hilton. “Or they’re able to use Read & Write for Google and just put headphones in, and that’s just a little agreement between [that teacher] and that student.”5 Further, HyperDocs’ interactive structure alerts educators to areas in which students are struggling.

Heightened Collaboration

Indiana technology instructor Sean Fahey wrote on his blog that, in 2015, “I was searching high and low for possible ways to use the new Chromebooks my students would be coming to school with for the very first time. I knew that I didn’t want to use the technology for the sake of using it. I wanted the technology in my classroom to be meaningful and benefit the students’ learning.”6

He watched a presentation on HyperDocs and “quickly realized I found a game changer when it comes to teaching with technology.”

He had always valued collaboration in his classes, encouraging it through activities that emphasize how teachers and students help each other learn. He configured students’ desks in groups to foster conversation, and had students complete most assignments by working in pairs.

After he began using HyperDocs, however, “a whole other level of collaboration began happening.” Students would:

  • Divide up sections to read aloud for their group
  • Share the workload by assigning each other the different links within a section of the HyperDoc to explore
  • Share what they learned with each other

In reading his blog, one can sense his delight at these changes.

“Students were teaching other students how to use the technology,” he wrote. “[Another teacher] shared how one of her students, who was sick and at home, signed into the HyperDoc assignment to collaborate and help the group with the work by making comments on a shared Google Doc. How amazing is that?”

Flexible, Student-Centered Learning

In her article, “Give students choice with HyperDocs,”7 educator Stacia Dirks acknowledged that, at first glance, a HyperDoc looks like just a Google Doc with links in it.

“But looking more closely, each link has a purpose. We aren’t just providing a list of web searches for kids to meander through. The links are intentional, creating quality inquiry-based learning opportunities.”

Rather than requiring students to read websites and spit out information, the HyperDoc format calls on them to “DO something with the information they are learning,” and that something strengthens the four skills that Highfill, Hilton and Landis have valued from the outset: communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creativity.

Dirks lauds HyperDocs for fitting smoothly into blended learning platforms, noting that their format allows for variety and flexibility, including:

  • Whole-group instruction time when needed
  • High-tech, low-tech, and no-tech activities
  • Independent, self-paced learning
  • Small-group instruction

Improved Student Engagement and Understanding

When he’s not teaching or maintaining his blog, Indiana’s Sean Fahey writes for In an article there,8 he gave examples of how HyperDocs can spark student engagement by utilizing the best learning tools from the web:

  • “Students used Google Maps Street View to discover and better understand the setting of a novel
  • Instead of a math practice worksheet, students completed a Quizizz game using homework mode; it was fun and competitive, but it also provided immediate feedback
  • Add a link to collaborative Google Slides so students are all creating and sharing what they have learned during the lesson
  • Use the embedded Google Drawing tools in Google Docs to create a drag-and-drop lesson-check activity

“HyperDocs have made me more of a facilitator,” he said, which “gives me more small-group and one-on-one time with students. These individual interactions allow me to know my students better, build relationships, clarify misunderstandings, or help students develop a deeper understanding.”

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