Teaching with HyperDocs (Google docs guiding a learning cycle) continues to bring me joy and support my students’ learning (before and during the pandemic and hopefully long after). This work continues to be a journey and I want to share how one big change this semester has improved both teaching and learning. I also want to provide an update about my use of HyperDoc templates.
My love of HyperDocs began years ago and is well documented in my blog post Teaching With #HyperDocs — which also offers some powerful reasons why you should teach with HyperDocs too. Among those early posts I explain why I love HyperDocs and jumped into using them in my classes soon after learning about them. However, it was the pandemic that pushed me to take my HyperDoc use to the next level with the creation of my own HyperDoc templates designed to support my specific class organization and teaching style. Teaching with HyperDocs has always made me a better teacher, but teaching with my own Hyperdoc templates was a super boost for my teaching powers.
My HyperDoc work in the fall and winter terms helped me improve my system and so far this semester things have been working wonderfully. My first semester using HyperDoc templates did require some work to adapt old teaching plans to fit my new templates. However, I think revisiting and rethinking lessons and plans is always a good idea from time to time. I need to regularly re-examine my praxis to sift and sort what is really useful and practicable from what is merely interesting or fun. However, much of that heavy lifting took place in the fall and now updating HyperDocs is fast and easy. That is a real gift when I am struggling with pandemic malaise.
While HyperDocs worked for many of my students in the fall and winter terms, a few tweaks in my HyperDoc design and rollout at the beginning of the spring semester really improved student experience and positive reviews from students are peppered throughout their reflections. I’ve added course overviews to every doc (see above) with the exception of the activity (lesson) docs so it is easy to see how the work of the week fits within the unit and the work of the unit fits within the scope and sequence of the class. In addition, I made sure that each HyperDoc is connected with the others. My first iteration had a lot of dead-ends which was often annoying and sometimes confusing. However, one big change that supports both this understanding and the work of the class was the introduction of Logbooks.
For much of my work with Hyperdocs I have used various Google docs, slides, sheets, and forms to collect student work along the way. After a lot of experimentation, I have found that I prefer the interaction offered by a simple table set up in a Google doc. Students are able to add their materials to the doc and then use the comment tool to interact with their classmates and their work. However, because I’m clearly a foolish person, those docs had popped up like mushrooms throughout each unit with at least one per week (why would I sometimes have more than one per week – nobody knows). This often complicated things for students and caused me serious headaches. But working with my HyperDoc templates has forced me to think about my classes in new ways and inspired a simple fix that has so many benefits for my students and myself I kick myself every day because I was so slow to implement it.
The logbook serves as both a portfolio for each student but also a studio for the work currently in progress. The column headings for each unit logbook show the progress of our work starting with foundational activities (usually snaps for my general education writing students but vary for my professional writing students) then a workshop draft and concluding with a showcase of their final drafts (because my #ungrading model is focused on process rather than product). Each table cell does more than link to student work, students also share models, tips, and advice, and recognition of when their peers writing exemplifies these lessons. Logbooks are busy and messy with a lot of side conversations, some stalled efforts, and a few dead-ends, but that is exactly what a workshop should look like and I am happy to have found a way to replicate this work asynchronously.
As we wrap up the first unit of the semester, my students have noted in their reflections how much they have learned from and enjoyed seeing the work of their peers unfold. The logbook also offers students the opportunity to update or replace work that they decided (based on either feedback/observation or further reflection) was not suitable. Our logbooks have helped us create a supportive community of writers that is focused on the writing process.
As a teacher I have found the logbooks useful on so many levels. It is easy to see the big picture of each class and the work currently in progress so I know if it is best to nudge classwide or individually. But it is the work with individual students where I have found the logbook especially useful. When looking at the work of the week I have a students’ previous work easily accessible for reference. This also helps me to provide better targeted responses to student questions or reflections. I also love how easy it is to point to other student work or one of our crowd-sourced models as an example. I think the logbooks have also helped students gain confidence in their work as they build on early success and community response to their ideas. The work process supported by the logbooks also seems to encourage trust in the community as it deepens our connections to each other through our ideas and work.
One of the great advantages of HyperDocs is the agency they give students. I have always preferred to teach writing asynchronously because I know each writer has an individual process. HyperDocs allow students to work at their own pace and loop back when necessary without derailing or distracting the rest of the community. Students have control over when and how they work on their writing. The logbooks also offer students agency over their work schedule and focus. I offer students flexible deadlines and there are no firm due dates. However, I also stress that the schedule offered is to help them successfully complete the work and that failure to stay on schedule with the rest of the class means that they cannot support our community and are less likely to receive support in return. The logbook does offer a lot of information that can help students catch up on work, but it also helps students make informed choices about where to focus when doing so.
My HyperDoc templates have made my teaching life easier, support student learning and agency, and help us sustain our community of writers. There are many reasons to love and teach with HyperDocs, what is holding you back from trying them in your classroom?