The world is a lot right now, even for the privileged, which means everyone’s cognitive load is hovering dangerously near overload at any moment and often takes very little to reach the tipping point. As teachers we need to remember this fact as we think about planning our classes now before the semester begins, but also as the semester progresses. We must build grace into our schedule so we do not burn out. We must plan for the days when we can barely function because tears, rage, panic, fear overwhelm us. This why I spent time this summer building my HyperDoc templates. I did the heavy lifting of this process while I was in the green zone of my stress meter so (hopefully) when things get tough this is one less decision sequence I need to make.
These templates are also my gift to my students. They too are experiencing off-the-charts levels of constant stress and they too will face days when their cognitive load cannot be managed. Being a college student has always meant struggling to learn how to prioritize demands and manage stress, but this current cohort is doing so during a pandemic. I hope the templates will make it easier for my students to make good choices about the work for my class and how it fits within their overall course load. I also hope that the routines established by the templates will make it easier to simply work on those days when they just need to get things done and don’t have the capacity to plan. I know that I really appreciate the opportunity to lose myself in a straight-forward task.
Both of these concerns were in the forefront of my mind as I created my lesson HyperDoc template. The third and final installment of the Hacking My On #HyperDoc Template series is focused on the true genius and core mission of the HyperDoc: creating a blended learning experience to support one specific lesson. If you want to learn more about HyperDocs (which are simply interactive Google docs) before diving into this post you should check out my blog post about why I love teaching with HyperDocs and if you doubt their flexibility check out this blog post from a colleague on Middle Web. I began my planning for the semester as I begin all my planning zooming way out to the big picture and looking at the theme and focus of the semester’s work as well as units that will offer the best opportunity to meet my goals as well as student learner outcomes. In Hacking My Own #HyperDoc Template: Part 1 (Unit Workflow) I trace my thinking from determining our focus to mapping our journey then directing our workflow which culminated in a unit template that will lead students through the process of developing a deliverable for that unit. In Hacking My Own #HyperDoc Template: Part 2 (Weekly Workflow) I shared how I decided to organize each week of learning activities by focusing on three goals: work, support, reflect. Now in Part 3, I will share how Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo inspired my lesson template which will hopefully in turn inspire joyful learning in my students. I know I find the process of building lessons with this template fun and relaxing.
Commit and Imagine
While not all of Marie Kondo’s tips are directly applicable to teaching, I am sure that there are many teachers like me who recognize their cluttered lesson plans in those overwhelmed homemakers (in the broadest sense of the word – as in people making a home) featured in Marie Kondo’s TV show and Youtube videos. I committed to a less is more teaching lifestyle some time ago, so step one of the KonMari method (commit yourself to tidying up) was easy and I began that process by developing my Four-Square Writing Plan that has served me (and my students) so well. I knew what my ideal classroom lifestyle would look like (KonMari step two) which made it easy to move on to the next step. The greatest gift you can give yourself and your students during this year of pandemic teaching and learning is to commit yourself to tidying up your lesson plans and focus on a vision of your ideal pandemic classroom.
Tidy By Category
This part of the process was more challenging for me as we teachers do not have the categories given to us by Marie Kondo and I suspect that our categories will vary greatly by our context (content, style, level of education we teach, etc.). They may also need to look different this year depending on your students’ experience in the spring. I found guidance in HyperDoc templates. In Part One of this series I noted that I have always been drawn to two learning cycle templates (one simple and one more complex) and that is where I returned to determine the three categories I will use with my students: explore, apply, share. As you consider your own categories consider these questions: What learning cycle do you prefer to use with your students? What learning cycle will work best for your students?
Spark Joyful Learning
A key part of the KonMari Method is to give every item a home. As I began shifting my lessons into my newly-crafted templates I found that the process made my lessons stronger and more focused and I suspect will serve my students much better (during and after the pandemic). Why? This process is very much what you see when you watch Marie Kondo lead homemakers through the process. You take each item up and ask yourself if it sparks joy. In my case, I specifically asked if it sparked joyful learning by helping my students explore the topic we were studying, apply their new knowledge in a demonstration of some sort, and then share/extend their learning with our community. Along the way I discovered and discarded items that were dead-ends that created more work than opportunity and found ways to adapt and combine other items from my teaching toolbox to make them better than before. This process of examining each item in turn for joyful learning first and then whether it fit into one of my three buckets was tremendously useful. When was the last time you asked the tools in your teaching toolbox if they spark joyful learning in your students?
My goal for this KonMari Lesson Planning Process is to keep each activity hyperdoc very focused. Just a brief introduction that explains how the activity supports the work currently in progress followed by some essential information and/or tips then jump right to exploration, application, and sharing. I hope the KonMari Lesson Planning Process can be an useful thinking tool for other teachers. I also hope that my three-part Hacking My Own HyperDoc process has been helpful as well. I have already found using my three templates so useful for thinking through the work my students and I will do together. I know during the coming weeks when I am struggling (because pandemic life) that I will find it easier to follow these templates. I also suspect that my students will find it easier to follow these familiar patterns as they cope with the combined stress of their first year of college and a pandemic. What strategies are you using to cope with pandemic teaching and learning? Have you considered using HyperDocs to support the online and blended learning so many of us will face this year?