The Case for HyperDocs

The first thing that popped into my mind when I started thinking about this
HyperDocs post is that they are truly the gifts that keep on giving. I learned about HyperDocs a few years ago but only within the past year have I fully appreciated their potential for significantly amplifying student learning. Additionally, more than any other tool or strategy, I believe that HyperDocs have the potential for addressing every single ISTE Standard for Students.

HyperDocs are the brain child of Lisa Highfill (@lhighfill), Kelly Hilton (@kellyihilton), and Sarah Landis (@sarahlandis). While they might look like the webquests from days of yore, they are so much more than collections of web links. The foundation of a HyperdDoc is a Google doc (Doc, Slide, Sheet, Site), which encompasses an entire learning cycle from start to finish, whether it is a single day’s lesson or a weeks-long unit. According to the HyperDocs official website, “Creators deliberately choose web tools to give students opportunities to Engage • Explore • Explain • Apply • Share • Reflect • Extend the learning.” The teachers incorporates these elements into the HyperDoc, providing students with opportunities for choice, as well as for communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking (the 4Cs) as they work through the lesson or unit.

The best way to model a tool/resource for colleagues is always to give them an opportunity for hands-on experience. When I presented the HyperDocs model at staff meetings last year, I did it in the form of a HyperDoc. I began with a brief description of a HyperDoc, and then I asked staff to jump into the HyperDoc I created for them on the subject of “Positive School Climate at (Their School)”, which is one of our district’s “Areas of Focus.” The HyperDocs were structured with the Engage • Explore • Explain • Apply • Share • Reflect • Extend the learning format, and gave staff choice in which content to read/view, how to respond to prompts, etc. Staff could work together or in groups. Staff’s response to the HyperDocs often mirrored what students’ responses can be when confronted with something new: “What am I supposed to do?” “Which video am I supposed to watch?” etc. So often our students rely on being told exactly what to do and on being guided directly by the teacher, that when they are asked to be self-guided, make choices, and go at their own pace, it can be an unsettling experience. Once staff got the hang of it, however, many quickly realized the power and flexibility that HyperDocs offer.

Once students have completed a few HyperDocs, a next step to explore the structure and to provide students with even more opportunities for communication, creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, is for students to create HyperDocs for one another. This will require students to think like a teacher, and to consider learning outcomes, different ways in which their peers might access new knowledge, demonstrate their learning, etc. It will also give them an opportunity to explore different digital platforms, which they can then use themselves during future projects and learning activities.

Finally, I made a somewhat bold claim at the beginning of this post:
I believe that HyperDocs have the potential for addressing every single ISTE Standard for Students. How can that be? Let me break it down right here:

  1. Empowered Learner: HyperDocs provide students with choice. Choice in technology tools, content, ways to demonstrate learning, and opportunities to extend learning. The independent nature of HyperDocs also require students to explore and troubleshoot technology.
  2. Digital Citizen: HyperDocs often requires students to collaborate in shared online spaces, providing them with opportunities for positive digital interactions. Students will also often have to find media (pictures, videos, written information) online and must ensure that they do so ethically, complying with intellectual property and copyright laws.
  3. Knowledge Constructor: Students working through HyperDocs must often conduct research in order to curate resources and then construct meaning from them. Many HyperDocs are also linked to real-world issues, about which students must conduct research.
  4. Innovative Designer: Depending on the content, students may be asked to engage in the design cycle in order to solve a problem. Also, due to their independent and choice-based nature, students working through HyperDocs must practice perseverance and gain comfort with a certain degree of ambiguity.
  5. Computational Thinker: Again, depending on content, students may be asked to collect and utilize data to solve problems, practice algorithmic thinking, etc. when working through a HyperDoc.
  6. Creative Communicator: All HyperDocs should require students to choose platforms with which to demonstrate and explain their learning. There should always be elements of creative communication, for specific audiences, embedded with each HyperDoc.
  7. Global Collaborator: All HyperDocs should also provide opportunities for student collaboration. Students might collaborate with one another, with family members, or with those in the local or global community. Collaboration might look like the joint creation of a HyperDoc for other students, or the gathering of information from others, or responding to others’ thinking in a digital discussion space.

There are many ways to learn more about HyperDocs. The HyperDocs website is full of resources, templates, and examples; the HyperDocs book is a handy manual to help guide the HyperDocs design process; the Teachers Give Teachers site is a treasure trove of HyperDocs teachers have created and shared with one another; and both Facebook and Twitter have active HyperDoc communities. Once you get the hang of them, designing HyperDocs is a fun, creative endeavor. I challenge everyone to go forth and HYPERDOC!

Terms of Service + Privacy Policy: What Teachers Need to Know

Pop Quiz!

Q: Which of these fairly common digital resources is permissible to use with students under the age of 13?

EasyBib is a citation generator used in every school district in which I’ve ever worked. It’s a major time-saver when it comes to creating bibliographies and works cited pages.

Pinterest is a social, digital bulletin board used for saving and sharing images, recipes, websites, and ideas of all kinds.

Canva is a graphic design tool used for creating posters, flyers, digital graphics, and more.

Each of these resources is extremely useful, so it makes sense that you would be interested in having your students create accounts to be utilized with a variety of learning activities. What do you need to know first, however? How do you know if these websites are okay to use with students? If a website seems “legit”, or has some sort of educational value, it’s probably fine, right?

Not necessarily. What follows are my tips for determining whether or not your students are able to safely utilize and/or create accounts on websites.

  1. Check out the Terms of Service: This is my first stop. Terms of Service can usually be found at the bottom of most websites. I check out Terms of Service first because, if age restrictions exist for the resource, they would be stated here. If Terms of Service do not permit my students to utilize the tool, then my search ends here and I don’t even need to review the Privacy Policy.
  2. Review the Privacy Policy: If Terms of Service permit my students to utilize the tool, then I review the Privacy Policy, also usually located at the bottom of the webiste. Keywords I look for include “COPPA” and “FERPA.” Ideally, the website will clearly describe how the the tool is both COPPA and FERPA compliant. COPPA (The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) protects privacy of children under age 13, and FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) protects the privacy of student education records. The Privacy Policy should also explicitly state what student information is collected and for what purposes; how it is stored; how access to this data can be revoked by the user; what permissions, if any, are required for children under 13 to utilize the tool; and how users will be notified of any changes to its Privacy Policy.
  3. Check these Websites: Some educational resources have been “certified” as protecting student data privacy by organizations such as Student Privacy Pledge, iKeepSafe, and Common Sense Media. These websites are great places to find additional verification that a resource has been somewhat vetted. I say “somewhat”, because, ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure that any tools you use with students meet data privacy requirements.
  4. When in Doubt, Ask Your District Technology Administrators: The buck must ultimately stop at the top. If you have any doubts or questions about a tool, ask your technology team to take a look at the resource you’re considering using with students. They may even have a guidance document for your district. Here is our district’s Approved Digital Resource List. It’s a living document to which we continually add new resources. Each resource contains a description, indicates whether it’s free or paid, and, most importantly, states whether it can be used with student data (eg. student names, email accounts, etc.).

So what’s the answer to the Pop Quiz question?

A: Based on Terms of Service, NONE of these resources may be utilized by students under 13. I find the EasyBib Terms of Service particularly surprising, as it is such a ubiquitous tool in intermediate grades as well as in middle school. The Terms clearly state, however, that no one under 13 may use the service. Pinterest is another resource that I’ve had several teachers wanting to use with intermediate elementary students as well as younger middle school students. Unfortunately, Terms of Service prevent them from doing so. Canva’s Terms of Service also specify that use is reserved for ages 13+.

While Terms of Service and Privacy Policies look daunting, these two documents usually provide enough information within the first few minutes or so of review to know whether or not a resource might be considered for use with students under 13, and whether their Privacy Policies are written in accordance with COPPA and FERPA.

If you think that the resource likely DOES meet student data privacy requirements, I suggest you still have someone in the technology department review it. Let them know that you’ve already checked Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, but that you’d like a final review and “go-ahead.” They will appreciate your due diligence and commitment to the shared responsibility of keeping our students’ data private and safe.

Additional Resources: