The Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, Episode 70 Transcript

Jennifer Gonzalez, host


This is Jennifer Gonzalez welcoming you to episode 70 of the Cult of Pedagogy Podcast. In this episode, we’re going to learn about HyperDocs and how they can transform the way you teach.

If you’ve never seen a HyperDoc, let me try and describe it to you. In its most common form, it’s a lesson or unit written on a Google Doc (which is basically Google’s online version of Microsoft Word). The doc usually has some kind of a chart on it. In that chart are all of the instructions for the parts of the lesson. It includes some kind of introduction or anticipatory set, some kind of direct instruction, where students learn something new, some kind of application, and possibly an assessment, extension, or creative activity. For every part of the lesson, there is also at least one link that takes the student to a video, an article, a collaborative document, or some other interactive, online tool. The whole lesson is contained in one package, typically designed for students to work through on their own and at their own pace.

So what’s so great about this? A lot.

For starters, a HyperDoc is automated. Students work through it without needing you to guide them through each step. That gives you a lot more time to interact directly with students.

Second, it’s flexible. If one part of your lesson isn’t working, you can just change it in the HyperDoc and the change takes effect immediately; there’s no need to re-copy all your materials.

Also, HyperDocs are dynamic. Because they’re digital, they allow you to include all kinds of multimedia content: videos, slideshows, websites, podcasts, the list goes on and on.

Finally, HyperDocs are customizable. If each student gets a copy of a HyperDoc, the elements can be changed on each to meet individual students’ needs.

This idea of putting a lesson together into one package that students can work through on their own has been evolving in different forms in classrooms all over the place. My first introduction to this concept started when I met math teacher Natalie McCutchen, who showed me in Episode 30 how she sets up a system of self-paced learning for her students. In her system, students get chapter guides that they work through on their own. These guides include videos, skills practices, and assessments, and students access these all on their own. They decide how many skills practices they need and they take the assessments when they are ready. I loved this system and, judging by the response I got from my readers and listeners, a lot of you did, too.

Later, in Episode 50, I talked to Tracy Enos, a middle school language arts teacher, who showed me how she uses what she called playlists to organize a whole unit of study into a single Google Doc. She’d map out, step by step, what students should do, providing hyperlinks right in the Doc to the resources they would need. By setting everything up ahead of time, this allowed students to work independently and freed the teacher up to engage one-on-one with students.

Little did I know that right around that same time, another group of teachers in the San Francisco Bay Area was giving this same concept a different name. Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis called these digital lesson plans HyperDocs, and they believed so much in them that they wrote a book, The HyperDoc Handbook, where they explore all the possibilities offered by this format, show readers how to create them, and explain how a well-designed HyperDoc can make learning more interactive, collaborative, and personalized. What I really like about these educators’ approach is that they really push teachers to design lessons that aren’t just conveniently packaged, but offer opportunities for students to collaborate, think critically, and create.

In this episode, I talked with Highfill, Hilton, and Landis about all of these things, and about the online hub they have created where teachers share and remix their own HyperDocs, something you’ll definitely want to take a look at as you start your own HyperDoc journey. To find links to their book, their website, and everything else we talk about, go to, click podcast, and go to episode 70.

Before we get started, I’d like to thank Kiddom for sponsoring this episode. Kiddom is a collaborative learning platform that enables teachers to plan, assess, and analyze learning all in one place. With Kiddom’s new student dashboard, teachers can empower students to take ownership of their learning. Students have the ability to track their own progress on skills, access and submit work, and communicate with teachers on assignments. Kiddom is 100% free for teachers and students. To learn more, visit

I also want to thank you for the reviews you’ve left for this podcast on iTunes. Reviews really help to raise the visibility of a podcast, which brings more listeners in and gets these ideas into more classrooms. If you think more teachers need to be listening to this podcast, head over to iTunes, search for the Cult of Pedagogy Podcast, click on Ratings and Reviews, click Leave a Review, then tell me what you think! Thanks so much.

Now here’s my interview with Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis, the authors of The HyperDoc Handbook.

GONZALEZ: I would like to welcome Lisa Highfill, Kelly Hilton, and Sarah Landis to the show. Welcome!

HIGHFILL: Thank you!

HILTON: Thank you!

GONZALEZ: And just so that people, when they’re listening, can get some sense of what your voices are, why don’t we just take turns, Kelly, say hello so we can hear your voice.

HILTON: Hi, everyone. I’m Kelly.

GONZALEZ: And Sarah?

LANDIS: Hi, guys. Glad to join you.


HIGHFILL: Hi, I’m Lisa. Nice to meet you all.

GONZALEZ: OK, good. At least people will have some idea of who’s talking and when. If we could just start by having you tell us a little bit about what you do right now, work-wise, and what your current role is in education, and then we’ll get into talking more about the HyperDocs.

HIGHFILL: Right, I can share a little. We work full time in Pleasanton Unified School District, which is about 45 minutes east of San Francisco. I am currently an instructional technology coach for TK through 12th grade, but I spent the last 20 years in fifth grade, my favorite grade, as a classroom teacher. Right now we’re on temporary assignment and kind of enjoying working with adults.

HILTON: We all work together in the same school district, as Lisa mentioned, but we also have all been fifth-grade teachers, and that’s been a place that we’ve all spent a lot of our time in. After being in the classroom for 15 years myself, I shifted into an induction coaching position, so the last two years I’ve been working in our new teacher-mentor induction project as an instructional coach.

GONZALEZ: Great, and that was Kelly. And then Sarah?

LANDIS: Yeah, hi. My name is Sarah Landis. I was also a fifth-grade teacher for a long time and am currently working as a literacy coach, so I have an opportunity to work at all elementary schools in our district. It’s been an incredible opportunity to work with teachers and kids. Of course we do all kinds of PD on the side. That’s become our little passion. We have so many opportunities: We’re able to do some online work, and we work with teachers face-to-face in different districts around the country, sometimes travel outside of the country, so all kinds of good things going on there.

GONZALEZ: Did you all work together as fifth-grade teachers at some point?

LANDIS: Good question. We all kind of found each other somehow, just friends along the way, but we also kind of started with a passion for ELA and would just kind of start talking through things and realized that we loved to get together professionally and talk shop and share ideas and balance different thoughts back and forth, which is kind of how HyperDocs came to be. We were talking about paperless classrooms and thinking about all the new shifts coming in our district with Google Apps and different devices and all kinds of goodies. The three of us would get together regularly and just have fun talking through different things. And the next thing you know …

HIGHFILL: It didn’t even start around technology. It was really around thinking strategies and the workshop method of instruction. It all started around instruction, and then of course Google Apps came into our life and we just kind of blended it in.

What is a HyperDoc?

GONZALEZ: Right, right. OK. And so let’s just dig right into HyperDocs. I had sort of seen something like HyperDocs before I had ever heard the term, but I feel like the term that you all have come up with has made it really sticky, and it’s helped that idea spread way quicker than earlier iterations of it. So explain to us, what exactly is a HyperDoc?

HILTON: First of all, a HyperDoc is really more of a way of thinking. It’s a digital lesson plan for teachers for using all of the Google Apps, but it came out of our love of instruction. When we sat down to write the book, we wanted to share with everyone else our thinking of the pedagogy behind digital lesson designing with the Google Apps for Education. So that’s where we came up with our HyperDoc lesson design template. That even came from studying all of the other lesson designs that we’ve been using over the years as classroom.

So the HyperDoc lesson design template really came from a hybrid of all of the other ones that we had been loving and doing in our classroom with the 21st century learning and the four C’s and the SAMR that everyone was trying to implement in their classrooms, we decided, how can we help teachers understand how to do that in this new way with the Google Apps? So that’s where the formatting came from. So it shifted from what does that mean, what does that look like, and what do we call it? And that’s where HyperDocs came from.

The offset of that has been just helping teachers to be inspired, hopefully, to design lessons rather than just being out there and assigning what they need to do. Or, in this case with technology, really being thoughtful about tools that you choose and the why and creating the community around that as well. The lesson planning has really shifted from writing down your lesson plans in your lesson plan notebook to designing lessons using the Google Apps and actually handing them over to the students, packaging them and thinking through all of the way, from start to finish, with the learning objective in mind and using all the tools in that way.

GONZALEZ: And that’s one of the things I noticed in your book, The HyperDoc Handbook, is that you definitely get into sort of how to set it up visually or whatever, but you sort of emphasize over and over again that this is not just about having a doc with links. It’s really about the thinking process and designing a good lesson or a set of lessons.

HILTON: It’s true. And really, what it comes down to is as classroom teachers, we are always doing this. This is what we love is to come together and talk about good instruction. For example, if you have this learning objective with your students where you might want to be teaching them … I have a sample that we’re going to be sharing on the link to the podcast. The sample that’s shared starts with the learning objective of teaching students about the 50 United States, but how can I think differently about that lesson now that I have access to all of this technology? It’s still good lesson planning, where the first part of the HyperDoc begins with an engagement activity, which is a link to a video that is engaging and kind of is an overview of all of the 50 United States, and you might even use that link as a whole group instruction for the launch of your lesson. And then, after watching that video together for engagement, the next part of the HyperDoc is a table on a doc with some links, which I would call maybe a mini multimedia tech set, where now you can give the doc to the students, and they can work in partnerships to explore all of those links and start having conversations about what they’re learning.

So instead of starting a lesson by standing and teaching it, they would have some exploration time. And the next part of the lesson includes kind of a graphic organizer, if you will, on the doc for students to start organizing their thinking on how they’re going to show what they’ve learned. The final part of the lesson has an application. So you’ve got everything in one place with the learning, the brainstorming, and the applications all together for students to see from start to finish.

GONZALEZ: OK. Let’s try to imagine that somebody listening has literally never seen one of these before, and they’ve heard the term, but they really just don’t know what it is. So what I’m looking at right now, this HyperDoc that you’ve created, it is a Google Doc, but it contains all of the components that are necessary for learning this lesson, and it’s also got … First of all, it’s designed beautifully, so it’s just really visually interesting, which is not necessarily a requirement, but it’s something that makes it a more enjoyable experience, and the idea is that a teacher can use this doc as a springboard for teaching, so there’s an introductory, the explorer part of the lesson. And the part of it’s that “hyper” is the fact that it’s got all of these hyperlinks out of the doc to these other resources, right?

HILTON: Right.

GONZALEZ: That’s kind of the gist of it, that’s the bare bones of a HyperDoc.

HIGHFILL: Yeah, I think it’s really well-planned out links. You know, when you look at a HyperDoc, you don’t always see the lesson design behind it. Lessons can be so personal, and you can utilize it in so many different ways, whether it’s just give it to the students and let them work through it independently or it’s blended, where part of it is done whole-class, part of it is done guided, part of it is done independently. It doesn’t always say that, because these are for the kids. They don’t want to see the pedagogy, necessarily. I think as teachers, we’re asking people who see these to look beyond the pretty and the links and to look at if you were a student, could you walk through this, and what would you gain from going through this lesson? Are you engaged? Are you curious? Does it draw you in? Do you want to participate in this?

GONZALEZ: Right. And you’ve got stuff built right into this document for students to participate, because in this explore section there are links to a video, links to a photo essay, links to a slideshow, but then in the right-hand column, there are spaces for the students to actually jot down their own personal notes. Every student makes their own copy of this HyperDoc, correct? And then it’s theirs to personalize, sort of, in terms of how they are experiencing these materials.

HILTON: Exactly. Another design feature I would want to point out is the section that says “Create a draft script for your video.” A lot of times you might ask students to use tools, and they’re going to be creating something, but before giving them the tool, it’s a place for the students to start crafting quality content beforehand, and it gives the teacher time to interact with the student before they go and publish it on that tool, because once it’s published, it’s already your final product. So really just thinking about quality content with our students and how to create space for them to really show their learning in different ways and synthesize information in different ways, but still with a level of critical thinking that we’re looking for in our products from our students.

GONZALEZ: And I’ve seen other HyperDocs where the teacher has actually built in a spot where they say, “When you get to this point in the HyperDoc, you need to check in with me, the teacher, and have me look,” or “Let me know it’s ready for me to look at,” sort of interaction with the teacher built into the HyperDoc as well.

LANDIS: Absolutely. And that’s one of the things that we love about HyperDocs is that although it seems odd that you’re putting a student in front of a device, really what it’s doing is it’s freeing you up to move around and have increased face time with the students, so it’s kind of this really powerful concept where you’re saying, OK, you’re going to do this part independently, but I’m now free from teaching at the front of the room, and I can now move around, and actually I have more face time with students or I can quickly move around and check in and have good conversation. So it’s this really awesome benefit that came out of this work.

Benefits of HyperDocs

GONZALEZ: Right, right. Well, since we’re already talking about one of the benefits, just being more face time with the kids, a little more flexibility, talk to me a little more about … If somebody’s never tried a HyperDoc … One of the things I would think someone would be hesitant about when they first look at one of these is, “Boy that looks like a lot of work ahead of time,” and any teacher that’s sort of gotten into the mode of planning tomorrow’s lesson today is going to see that and think, “Well, that’s like four or five weeks’ worth of work. I’m not sure I have the time to do that.” What are the advantages of doing something like this? What are the advantages of HyperDocs over traditional instruction?

HIGHFILL: So I can speak to this, actually. I think when we started coaching, we really were trying to help teachers in two ways, and that was to shift the way they deliver instruction to have a real concrete answer to, “You shouldn’t be lecturing so much.” I feel so bad for teachers when they hear that, because they’re like, “Well, what am I supposed to do? I need to get information into their heads.” And I know that feeling, and I think we bring so much with our stories that we’ve got. And I wanted to help them with a concrete example of that.

What we did was we really started shifting their cycle of learning in the classroom. You’ll notice on many of our HyperDocs, we put the “explore” before the “explain,” and that’s a major piece to this. We let kids explore a concept first, and I think while it may not show up, that instructional design at first, the real benefit of that is that kids are exploring and coming up with ideas and answers about a concept on their own, and it’s engaging them from the beginning, instead of passively listening to a teacher explain something. It gives that teacher time to, like Sarah said, roam around. I listen to my students. I’m studying them and hearing to what level are they understanding a concept. I have the ability to pull a small group. I can work with my language learners during that time. The whole time I’m doing formative assessment in the classroom, which will then really be my basis for the next part of the lesson, which is the explain portion, when I really do need to … “All right, guys. You’re not getting this. We’re going to clear this up now. Here’s what the real story is.” Or, “Wow, you guys are so far ahead. You understand this so well,” not going to take the class time, which is so valuable, “We’re going to zoom ahead,” or “We’re going to dive deep into this area that you are really able to comprehend at kind of a higher level that I haven’t been able to explore with other classes.” That was a big shift for us.

And then moving beyond just the, “Summarize what you’ve learned and answer these 10 questions and then take a test.” To us, applying your knowledge from a lesson was so much more. We wanted to have instruction to be so much more, and so our apply piece to our templates, we’re really, you know, “Now that you know this, so what? How can you show me what you know? How can you create something that not only can be shinier comprehension level now, but you can also teach others with it?”

The second part though that I think was most important, really what I think all three of us care about the most, we really wanted to shift students’ learning experiences in the classroom. We have children of our own in school. We watch them going through school. We watched all of our students. We want them to like it and to be curious and engaged, and we want them to feel safe and happy, all of those big wish list items. And everyone’s like, “Yeah right. You can’t do all that.” We’re like, yes you can do all of that. We’re going to make it happen. So we thought, let’s build these kinds of lessons that kids can’t stay away from, and yeah, we can build community in that as well and through collaboration, we can make them experience learning together and get to know each other and have to work together and make it authentic. Really it came down to … At the heart of teaching, what I really loved when I first started teaching was creating experiences for kids that they loved so much that they’d come in the next day and go, “What are we doing today?”


HIGHFILL: But I’m a typical elementary teacher. I know the high school teachers are listening and going, “That’s not happening for me.” But you know, we wanted to make these lessons that even the high school students would come in and say, “Yeah, I’ll take a look.” So we wanted to make it something that kind of really shifts their attitude towards learning, building that student agency, building that ownership of learning. I’d love to be the creator of these experiences and nudge and fix my old HyperDocs if it didn’t work, and they weren’t engaged, so that the next time, “I’m going to get them. They’re going to love this.” Because I’ve been studying them in class going, “OK, that didn’t work.” I’m going to keep shifting this until I do get the right lesson, the right mixture. When I say “lessons are personal,” that’s what I mean. It’s personal to me as a teacher and my style. It’s personal, mostly, to the people in my classroom and where they’re at academically and emotionally.

GONZALEZ: So a lot of what you’re saying right now sounds like it depends a whole lot on what a teacher decides to put in a HyperDoc, that the format of a HyperDoc itself does not necessarily guarantee any of that stuff. I could see it would guarantee the ownership piece, where the students are not depending on a teacher to guide them through the learning experience, but I would think  that there are definitely sort of good and not-so-good ways of creating HyperDocs to where you’re going to actually get that authentic learning.

I’m going to actually break this down into two parts. So there’s the practical … Because I know when I was reading your book, you mentioned a lot of things that make HyperDocs sort of give you a better teaching experience beyond things like the curiosity and the authenticity, you were talking about things like the ability to differentiate, or the ability to have English-language learners get different things that they might need versus other students, and that those were all advantages that you could get from a HyperDoc. Does that sound familiar?

All: Yeah, absolutely, yeah.

LANDIS: I think once we started creating HyperDocs, we started to find those advantages were there. One of my favorite little stories is just that those kids that finished fast, you know, the ones that are like, “I’m done. Now what?” You’re able to link extension ideas and activities for them to have them have additional opportunities to do more critical thinking, and there’s always something for them to work toward, and they know they have something to do as soon as they “finish.” It’s like those little benefits that you find. Or you have your students that need to go back and rewatch a video or re-read something or check out that mentor text linked up earlier. So you’re able to create a lesson plan that meets both of those students’ needs, right?

GONZALEZ: Right, right.

LANDIS: Like, I need to go back, or I need to know where I’m going with this, and I’m done and now what. I mean I think the benefits, there are so many.

GONZALEZ: The nice thing is that the students are not waiting for you. I can remember when I was in the classroom, I felt like I had a gaggle of baby birds that were just all waiting for momma to feed them, and it was like, “I can’t get to you all at the same time.” I’m imagining having everything in a HyperDoc, they’re no longer waiting for you for these things.

HILTON: Think about those subtle differentiation things that you’re doing, where before we were able to do this, you might know which group you were in every time the teacher’s trying to get around to every group in the classroom.


HILTON: And it’s really subtle with the HyperDoc. They don’t know that maybe their text that is on the doc for them is at a different reading level. Or they’re able to add on to use Read&Write for Google and just put headphones in, and that’s just a little agreement between you and that student, or the EL learner can use those closed captionings on the YouTube video.

And how many times did you show a video and inspire your class, and then they might go home at night and talk about, “What did you do at school today?” “Oh, we saw this really cool video, but my teacher has it.” Right? So why does the teacher need it? They can go home and show their parents. So it’s just a really neat way of learning.

HIGHFILL: You know what else I’d like to chime in there too? Because you guys are so good, you’re covering it so much, but I really think about the different kinds of kids in the room, like the quiet kids. And I also think about the time wasters, the typical “raise your hand for an answer,” and only the same four hands go up. When we build collaboration into a doc, especially if we have kids who are really introverted or not wanting to share out, it gives an opportunity for everyone to answer it one time. It really compacts the learning in your classroom so that you have more time to get to what you need to get. I’ve watched my language learners look at people’s posted answers and be able to read them to be able to formulate and start writing their own kind of posted answers. It’s super subtle, like Kelly said, those kinds of things.

GONZALEZ: Yeah. But they have that extra little bit of processing time and even seeing their peers’ responses in writing, instead of just hearing them in the air. That’s a little extra scaffolding for them to be able to process that language.

HIGHFILL: It’s actually for everybody. Because they’re like, “Oh, that’s what she meant? Oh, I can do that.”

LANDIS: And the fun thing, going back to the example that Kelly shared and talked about and that’ll be linked up to the blog, the multimedia tech set is pretty incredible, because there are so many different types of media that we can access these days. So there’s a photo essay, there’s slideshows, there’s games, there might be one really powerful image we want them to study, an infographic. I think living in this digital age, we’re able to expose kids to different types of media that allows each child to access the learning or the content or the information in a way that’s visually or auditorily appealing to them. So I think it’s kind of neat, because I might be visual, and I might first study an image, then watch a video, and then I’m finally ready to tackle that article my teacher really wants me to read. So when you mentioned the word “scaffolding,” it just reminds me of the power of kind of embedding really diverse media types into our HyperDocs as well.

GONZALEZ: And you know, for all the work that it takes to put something like this together, if you’re teaching the same group the next year, you’ve got it done, and then all you’re doing is refining it the next year and replacing out that one video that didn’t quite nail it for anybody, and just making it better and better, really.

LANDIS: Well yeah, and basing it off of student feedback, right?

HyperDocs Do’s and Don’ts

GONZALEZ: Right. If you’re looking for it, if you’re asking for it. Let’s get into the best practices, some do’s and don’t’s that if somebody’s going to give this a try, what are some things they should do and not do?

LANDIS: Well that is perfect, because one of our favorite do’s is we always encourage teachers to definitely start with a template. We have multiple templates that we’ve created and shared on our website that’s a great place to get started, because the lesson flow is already built in for you. Or we encourage teachers to start with the premade HyperDoc that they have found and just File, Make a Copy of that HyperDoc and then just remix it, make little tweaks, little changes that fit more for your class, your students, your needs. Those are our two kind of favorite ways to get started.

Of course teachers can always start from scratch if they have some vision for their lesson, start with a new doc, start with a new site. A really, really valuable way to jump right in is to start with one of our templates or start with one that you’ve already seen, and you think, “Oh, that might work in my class.” The benefits of Google Apps is just that good old File, Make a Copy. It’s like, when I think about, as a teacher, I’d be so nervous to put my work out there, but I think for one second that I create something that could potentially reach more students, and my classroom is no longer the 30-plus kids I have in my class, but now I’m reaching students around the country. I think it’s really empowering for teachers as well, so that’s something we always encourage teachers to do is just get started with someone else’s and don’t be afraid to put your work out there.

Definitely helpful to consider your workflow and your packaging needs. Kind of ask yourself a set of questions as you’re working through creating your HyperDoc. Is your HyperDoc going to be used for assessment? Is it used just to get kids curious or exploring a brand new topic as you launch a unit? Is your HyperDoc going to be a one, 45-minute sit-down sort of thing, or is it going to be added on to throughout a unit? Will you be collecting work from students? Do you plan to package your HyperDoc on Docs, Slides, Maps, Sites? So just kind of thinking through some of those workflow and packaging things is helpful as you get started in creating a HyperDoc.

And then we always just tell people, just definitely plan to design with your students in mind. If you’re doing a third-grade water unit, and you’re having them dig into the ocean, maybe you’re going to use blues and greens, and you’re going to use cheesy language like, “Dive right in, kids!” Just kind of really create a learning experience on your lesson, on your HyperDoc, that is appropriate for the age and content that you’re teaching. If you’re in a high school, I always say put your humor in, talk to your kids the way you would in class, be yourself, put jokes, use funny memes. Definitely design with your kids in mind and be yourself. I always really encourage that.

Girls, did you want to add any of the do’s? Am I forgetting anything major? I think, Jennifer, you kind of mentioned it can feel overwhelming to think about designing a HyperDoc for every lesson, and so one of our big, big don’t’s is please don’t feel like you have to have a HyperDoc for every lesson. That’s not something that any teacher should feel pressured to do, and it’s not really realistic. At the end of the day, you want to come in and have an organic experience. We don’t want teachers doing any one thing all the time, because then it becomes redundant for our kids. So I think just relieving that pressure, like, you know what? I’m going to try one HyperDoc a week, or I’m going to try it just in the computer lab, or I’m going to try it just for science, because I’m going to work with the science teacher and we’re going to build one together. Just start small and then sit back and watch your students and relieve yourself of any of that pressure. I think it’s not necessary. Just have fun with it.

And then we always say don’t be afraid to reach out. We have some incredible social media resources out there that teachers and educators and administrators are using. My goodness. We’ve been so impressed with the crowdsourcing that’s happening. Teachers that are really modeling 21st century learning by putting their work out there.


LANDIS: And encouraging others to use it and share it. So we always say, just please don’t be afraid to reach out.

HIGHFILL: I think, Sarah, I’m going to jump on that too. When we first created this, we were thinking, “Oh my gosh. We have to make all these lessons for everybody?” And then we thought, “Wait a second. No.” So often as teachers we feel like we’re on an island in our classroom. We might not have a team that is like-minded like us. And so we started Teachers Give Teachers on Twitter. It was our first jump into finding a community of like-minded digital lesson planners who wanted to join us. And now we have over 8,000 teachers just word-of-mouth, spreading, connecting … It’s where we started on Twitter, just putting links to their lessons and saying, “What do you think of this?” And people answering them back or saying, “I’m looking for a ‘Charlotte’s Web’ lesson. Does anyone have one?” Or saying, “Hey, let’s make one together.”


HIGHFILL: We’ve had teachers from across the country start building lessons together. I think that’s something that we … we didn’t expect this piece to it, and it’s one of our favorite outcomes of this is kind of the joy and the excitement in lesson planning and that excitement of creating, as a teacher, being creative ourselves is kind of bringing new life to a lot of people in their classroom, I think.

To Learn More

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Let’s make really clear to listeners exactly what you have available. First of all, you have this book, The HyperDoc Handbook, where you really sort of outline … It seems like you spend more time than anything really explaining your particular kind of template that you have with all of those different pieces, the explore pieces and all of that. But then online you’ve got Teachers Give Teachers which was a Twitter page, but is now a section of your website,, correct?

HIGHFILL: Yes, because it became too much to search on Twitter, so now if you load up your lessons, you can tag them, and so then you can also search for any subject matter or grade level or even creator, if you know the name of a teacher that has been creating a lot. You can see all of their HyperDocs that way.

GONZALEZ: And so people can just go on … And I went through the process myself, so I’m registered. You go and you register, and then you can search for all of the HyperDocs that people have basically sort of registered onto your site, and then if you find one you like, you just make a copy for your own Google Drive and then you just do what you want to do with it. You can use it as is or modify it, and you all encourage people to contribute their own as well, give one and take one, right?

Several: Yes.

HILTON: We also encourage people to give each other credit on it. So if you create a HyperDoc, we want people to, in the header or footer, say “Created by,” and maybe link to your Twitter handle or your email, for yourself, and then if you make a copy of someone’s, we encourage you to give that person credit by saying, “Inspired by” or “Remixed HyperDoc originally created by,” just because we want an inclusive, appreciative sharing community. We’re not out there … sometimes people will say, “What do you think? Is this a HyperDoc?” It’s like, I don’t know because it’s your classroom. It’s really about the teaching that is going on. So when you create one, just honoring the other people as well that have led along the way.

GONZALEZ: Sort of like a Creative Commons sort of ethos where if you’re going to remix somebody else’s work, just tell everybody where you got it. And yeah. That would be a really good thing if somebody’s wanting to get started to just go and start exploring all of the stuff that has already been created to see … Because there really are a lot of different styles out there.

HIGHFILL: Yes, for sure. And it depends on what people have packaged on. Like we have some people who love to package their HyperDocs on slides and go through phases. I think I’m in a gray phase. All of my HyperDocs have a gray background still. I can’t get out of that.

GONZALEZ: Are you the charcoal gray?

HIGHFILL: Well, Sarah started it. You’ll know ours, because they’re dark gray. We can’t let go of it. But some people are really into packaging. Some are doing them on Google Sites or Forms. It’s really neat. I am so inspired. I get so many ideas from looking at other people’s work and how they’ve added in … You know when a new web tool comes along, you’re all excited? Like everyone’s excited right now about Flipgrid and whatnot.


HIGHFILL: But then I want to ask them, what are you going to do with it? How are you going to build the pedagogy around that cool tool?


HIGHFILL: And where in the lesson flow would it fit in your HyperDocs? So it’s really saying, “I love flashy new tools. Now let’s think about how you can effectively use them in the classroom, and then link it into your HyperDoc that way.

GONZALEZ: Absolutely. And I don’t think it’s gotta be an either/or. I hear so often when I go to tech conferences people say, “It’s not about the tools,” and sometimes I kind of want it to be about the tools, because they’re really great, but you have to do something really worthwhile with it. It can’t just be neato.

HIGHFILL: Yeah. They can’t just type the URL to the Flipgrid on the board. There’s so much you could do with that learning opportunity. And so you can extend it with a little instruction or a continuation from that experience.

LANDIS: And there’s certainly patterns and trends in ed tech tools, and Flipgrid is a perfect example of one that’s being used right now. And we laugh because there’s even patterns and trends in how we develop our HyperDocs, and we’ve been actually saying, “We need a spring collection. What are our font and colors in our spring collection?” At the end of the day, we are creating experiences that we want to stick with students. We want them to remember our teaching and learning.

GONZALEZ: I think design is hugely important.


GONZALEZ: I don’t know if you’re familiar with presentation zen, if that rings a bell for anyone?


GONZALEZ: I just want that message to go everywhere, because I don’t know, why not?

LANDIS: I mean we’re in the marketing business.


LANDIS: We are. We’re in the marketing business. We want our kids to remember us and what we’re teaching them and the content. We’re always looking for transfer and independence. I think those are two things that are kind of at the heart of lesson design. How can I get this information and this content and this experience and this feeling that they have to transfer into them being independent?


HILTON: It’s so true though. The little trends of design. If we can look at some of our HyperDocs from a couple of years ago and open them up and go, “Oh gosh. Why was I wearing that? Why did I design it that way? I want to redo that now.” And then like Lisa was saying, all of the people on Twitter sharing. I mean they’ve taken the concept and gone a totally new direction. So it’s just the power of collaboration. It’s amazing. It’s totally pushed our thinking as well.

GONZALEZ: Yeah, I feel like it’s just at the very, very infant stages right now of where these things are going to end up going.

HIGHFILL: Oh, that’s exciting.


HIGHFILL: That’s what we hope.

GONZALEZ: Yeah. Well, because, I just made my own for the first time for this online course. We discussed this separately. I was teaching a course, and I wanted to have something in there about HyperDocs. Man, I worked on that sucker forever and ever and ever, and it just kept getting better and better. I was like, “Oh, I could do this, and I could do this.” And all of a sudden I realized there was one section where I thought, “You know what? The kids are just not that active here. They’re just receiving. What can I build in there so that they get a little bit more active?” And then when I did that, I got more excited about it. It’s like, yeah.

HILTON: Yes, it really energizes you.

HIGHFILL: You bring up a really good point too. When you read about it, you hear about it, it’s different than when you actually do it, and then I’ll just put it one step further: It’s actually different when you watch students doing your HyperDoc.


HIGHFILL: How much we concentrate and study about our own lesson design in creating these learning experiences. That is such an exciting shift in instruction. That’s what I think is great about HyperDocs. Make sure you think about instruction in a fun way.

LANDIS: Yeah, exactly. And it brings the joy back to lesson planning. I think for so long I was just filling out a box in my lesson plan book. It was just keeping me on track. It feels really good. All of a sudden when you’re designing a HyperDoc, there’s like an energy that kind of comes, and we laugh when we see teachers create, because they get so excited.

GONZALEZ: Yeah. It’s a living document.

LANDIS: That’s the same feeling we want our kids to have on the receiving end. That’s cool.

Several: Yeah.

GONZALEZ: Cool. So we’ve talked about your site, and I’m going to be linking to all of your stuff in this blog post. We’re going to link to, Teachers Give Teachers, we’re going to link to your Twitter profiles and everything. You also have … Let’s talk a little bit about the PD that you’ve got: Online Boot Camp and Masterclass.

HILTON: Oh my gosh. PD is so fun. We designed this Online Boot Camp that we started last summer. And I think … are we about to start our seventh cohort,?


HILTON: This process, it’s so fun. Again, this is why you need to find your other friends, like the three of us together just creating together, because that’s our little baby of designing an online class where we’re using all the Google Apps for Education, and it coincides with our book. So it’s a four-week class, and the book has four chapters, and it’s a book study. And every week we come together and we do a Google Live Hangout, and one of us will be leading the Hangout discussion, like a webinar, and the other two will be on the chat interacting and talking to people. And we take all of our participants and put them into smaller groups, and each of us will lead a group so that during the week we can give feedback and talk to them and really help them design their own HyperDocs that work for them.

The best part is on the fourth week of our course, because there’s the first three weeks each of us will take a lead, but the fourth week we invite participants to be on the Google Hangout with us, so we’ve had people from all over the United States and beyond, in other continents, connect and they are live on the Hangout, and they share what they’ve created with the bigger group there. Hearing their stories and transformation is really inspiring. It’s great.

So the online course, just want to give a plug out for that, because I think for the three of us, that’s probably one of our favorite things to do around all of this. It brings us together. And every week we’re reflecting on what’s working and how to make it better.

HIGHFILL: I think it’s been great too. We have connected teachers to be lesson planners together, which is nice.

GONZALEZ: Right, right, bringing them together, yeah.


HILTON: And administrators. We have a link to our boot camp course, and we’ll give that to you as well. We’re about to launch another one in June, so June and July, and then beyond that will have to be determined, but in June and July, we are for sure doing two more cohorts this summer.

GONZALEZ: Oh that’s fantastic. Well this episode is going to go out fairly soon, so that may get some people into those groups.

HIGHFILL: Nice. So we’re also doing Masterclass.


HIGHFILL: Our Masterclass Tour, we’re trying to change what PD looks like, so when we come and we do a workshop, or you go to a conference, typically it’s a one-and-done. You go one day and then you leave. This model … we’re going to multiple cities, including Sydney, Australia. I know if anyone’s listening from Sydney, you should join us over the July 4th-5th at the summit there, and then July 6th. We’re doing two sessions before we even see you face-to-face, so two online sessions to build that background knowledge and that understanding so that when we are live working with people in the city that they signed up for, then that is a day of just creating, where it’s really valuable face time with one of us. And then we follow up with reflections online afterward, and then even into the school year, how’s it going now that you’ve learned this?

GONZALEZ: Oh my gosh.

HIGHFILL: It’s a whole way of looking at PD. Do you want to meet us?

GONZALEZ: I just love that whole idea. First of all, I would love to meet you in person, but I love this idea. I love this idea of doing the pre-work. Thinking now about presentations that I have coming up, and I’m like, “Oh, why don’t I do a little video at least ahead of time?” Yeah. And then some follow-up work.

HIGHFILL: Yeah, so you don’t have to take that kind of time. We always say, what’s stealing your face time with your students? So we want to get right into work when we’re together and start making, because that’s when everyone has the questions, the technical questions.

GONZALEZ: Yeah, yeah.

HIGHFILL: Yeah, so we’ll be in New York and Chicago and Portland. We have a link to our Masterclass schedule there.

GONZALEZ: All right. I will put links to all of that stuff in the blog post. People should look on Twitter with the hashtag “#hyperdocs” if they want inspiration, right?

LANDIS: Super fun. I just searched it right now and I found somebody posted that they have their kids create HyperDocs for the incoming fourth- and fifth-graders. They create some math HyperDocs for the next class to use. Isn’t that awesome?


HILTON: That’s amazing. There’s some good stuff on that hashtag today where kids, at the end of the year, teachers who have been using this format all year, really having their students design. There’s somebody else who did some math ones today, and the students were interviewed about how they created their HyperDoc to teach the math concept to other students.

GONZALEZ: That’s fantastic.

Several: Yeah.

GONZALEZ: All right. Well anybody listening to this, we’re going to give them … because I can see a whole bunch of links going into the doc that we all are working on together, so I’ll make sure that’s all in there, and if anybody’s just listening and wants to go straight to you guys, they should just go to, and that would be a great base of all this other information?


HILTON: Yes, for sure.

GONZALEZ: Thank you so much. This has been really fun.

HIGHFILL: Yeah, it’s been great chatting with you.

HILTON: Thank you.

For links to all the resources mentioned in this episode, visit and click on Episode 70. To get weekly updates on all my newest blog posts, podcast episodes, and products, sign up for my mailing list at Thanks so much for listening, and have a great day.

This podcast is a proud member of the Education Podcast Network, podcasts for educators, podcasts by educators. To learn more, visit