By ANGELA ROMEO
“Here we go, again!” is often my thought at the beginning of the semester when preparing to teach Health to high school students. I feel excited and positive about a fresh new start with a fresh group of students! I love teaching, I love the content area, and (for the most part) I love my students. But recently, each time I dive into a unit, teaching it the same way I have for years, driving the class and feeding them the content, I wonder: Could it be better? Is “here we go, again” really the way I want to think about my experience in the classroom? Are my students saying the same thing, only with an eye roll instead of enthusiasm? And don’t they deserve the best I can offer?
Things usually go well, and students seem engaged and able to demonstrate understanding of a variety of health topics. So, I don’t often feel like anything is missing. But there are moments, like when I break them up into teams to research a topic and create a product, when I see a much higher level of engagement, communication, collaboration, and creativity. The entire atmosphere of the classroom shifts in these moments, and I feel a different, higher level of productivity and learning happening. It is because of these moments that I have decided to create a shift in my curriculum so that these moments become the norm. I decide to re-design each lesson through the use of HyperDocs.
According to HyperDocs.co, an online resource for teachers, HyperDocs 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” (Get Started | HyperDocs, 2021). In searching for a tool to use to upend my health curriculum and put it in the hands of the students, I found that HyperDocs provide the answer. These shared documents, full of activities and ideas, have given me the way.
So now, instead of directing students to open their devices to take notes as I proceed to give them all of the content I think they should know, they are exposed to the entire unit at once. They explore the content themselves, reading articles, watching videos, engaging individually through thoughtful responses and reflections, and working as a group through problem-solving and projects. Have we used all of the technology tools I include in the HyperDoc before? Sure. But to offer the tools as possibilities, choices, and ways to deeply experience the content redefines the way that students learn in my classroom.
So, what exactly is in each HyperDoc? It depends on the topic, but here are some examples of activities I’ve included for a few different health topics we study:
- Mental Health - Make a Flipgrid of yourself demonstrating a stress management technique. Use any strategy that works for you. Watch the rest of the class and learn some new strategies.
- Relationships - Create a Fictional Family in Imagine Forest. Tell me about their relationships with each other, and then give them a conflict. How does this conflict impact their relationships?
- Wellness - Working in a group, use the information you have found to create a Public Service Announcement in WeVideo for your peers, encouraging healthy choices.
One of my favorite things about using HyperDocs in my Health curriculum is the built-in opportunity for extending learning. It felt scary, at first, to put my students in control of their own pacing. Would they take forever? Finish too quickly? One way that I prevent my “high flyers” from sitting around waiting for everyone else to finish is through enrichment. Finding and offering extra explorations, activities, and extension experiences to each HyperDoc has actually benefited my own personal knowledge within each topic as well as giving my fast-moving students something meaningful.
I have started to really feel that “shift” I mentioned previously, and I am reminded of the “4 Shifts Protocol” developed by Scott McLeod and Julie Graber as explained in their book, “Harnessing Technology for Deeper Learning” (2019). The four shifts include Deeper Thinking and Learning, Authentic Work, Student Agency and Personalization, and Technology Infusion. Although I was just looking to shake things up in my teaching and give students more of a voice in their learning, I realized that using HyperDocs for Health actually addresses all of those areas. The activities I include in each HyperDoc give my students opportunities for using technology to think critically, participate in real world work, research, and decide how they want to demonstrate their knowledge. McLeod and Graber (2019) developed this protocol as a “down-in-the-weeds (re)design resource” (p. 12), and this innovative tool is the means by which I can use that resource.
I can hear you asking, “How do I start using this amazing tool?!” I highly suggest doing what any good teacher does - borrow! There are so many pages of HyperDoc templates shared by amazing and generous educators available for use. I picked through sites full of content specific and grade specific templates, found the ones that made sense to me, and adapted them for my classes. It’s so easy to switch out images, links, and activities once you have a basic structure. My students no longer sit down, pull out their devices and stare blankly at me, waiting to absorb my knowledge. Instead, they actively jump into each unit, ready to engage in the content in a fun and meaningful way.
To learn more about HyperDocs, check out the following sites.
Angela Romeo is the Performing Arts Department Chair, Dance Director, and PE/Health Teacher at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, MD.
HyperDocs Academy | HyperDocs. (2021). Hyperdocs.co. https://hyperdocs.co/
HyperDoc Templates. (2021). HyperDoc Templates. Google.com. https://sites.google.com/view/drivingdigitallearning/hyperdoc-templates
Mcleod, S., & Graber, J. (2019). Harnessing technology for deeper learning. Bloomington, In Solution Tree Press.
The HyperDocs Toolbox: 20 engaging example activities - Ditch That Textbook. (2020, September 17). Ditch That Textbook. https://ditchthattextbook.com/the-hyperdocs-toolbox-14-engaging-example-activities/