on revisiting hyperdocs: reduce, reuse, recycle…

Happy Fall, All!

I hope this post finds you all hitting your “It’s not the beginning of the school year anymore so here we go, people!!!” stride.

Figuring out what to post every other month is really challenging. I always hope to share something new but you know, as a “librarian of a certain age,” to be honest, I’ve reached the point where I think I might be posting about things that I’ve already posted. So, if that’s true… Sorry!!! It’s hard to keep coming up with new stuff. Besides, new episodes of The Boys (parental guidance suggested) and The Great British Baking Show (fun for the whole family) have started dropping every Friday so I kinda, sorta also have other demands on my time these days… 🤣

Anyway, back in February of 2018, Courtney Walker wrote a really fantastic post on Hyper Docs for Hyper Connection in which she shared how she was collaborating with a colleague to use hyperdocs for her research instruction. I’d played with hyperdocs a bit in the past, but we had instructional methods in place that seemed to be working for us so I kind of just tagged the idea in my #ThingsToStealAtSomePointInTheFuture and moved on.

After planning all spring and summer for an in-person opening of the 2020-2021 school year, a significant spike in Covid cases in our State forced us to open the year completely virtual. Experience from our move to emergency virutal learning in the spring of 2020 made it clear to all that 85 minute blocks of virtual synchronous instruction were just not viable or sustainable ways to deliver instruction so TA-DA!!! The time seemed right to revisit and steal the hyperdoc concept!

Emergency Virtual Instruction vs. Starting a New School Year Virtually…

I don’t know about the rest of you out there in LibraryLand, but I’m finding the way that emergency virtual librarianship manifested itself last March to be COMPLETELY different than starting a new school year virtually. Our teachers were no longer dealing with a completely unknown form of instruction and most of our faculty seemed comfortable enough with the technology that they seemed to feel comfortable going back to more project-based/inquiry-based instruction in line with our school’s philosophy of learning. Beyond that, an amazing number of teachers who had never worked with us in the past began requesting help with sources and instruction. It’s been a little like school librarian buffet of opportunity for us!

The Pragmatics of InfoLit Instruction…

Opportunities that come with requests for help are wonderful, but there is the reality that we are a PK-12 school with 1500 students and two MLIS librarians. Given those parameters, our mission as a library program is to assure that information literacy and research skills are being taught and taught well–not to teach all of the research and information literacy instruction ourselves. Hyperdocs are emerging as one tool we are using as we work to be an instructional presence in students’ research and information literacy endeavors while reducing our instructional load on procedural and “work flow” kinds of issues. Done right, much of the instructional support content can be recycled and reused on multiple projects. The goal is to make as much “library work” asynchronous-able as possible so that when we have actual face-to-face time with students we are doing instruction that is hardest to commoditize with canned tutorials–I’m thinking things like:

  • How to broaden or narrow a research topic
  • How to refine your keyword search terms to find what you need
  • How to paraphrase
  • Where else to search when you can’t find what you need in Gale High School and Academic Search Complete
  • Etc.

Addressing Just in Time vs. Just in Case Instruction: All Library Instruction that Can Be Commoditized Should be Commoditized…

What I truly love about employing hyperdocs in our instruction is that it gives us a way to offer instruction to kids just in time–just before they need to do something while also freeing us to skip laborious and torturous instruction with kids who don’t need it. I am someone who HATES having my time wasted. PLEASE don’t make me sit though another meeting about stuff I know. I get it, sometimes we need to be sure that everybody understands the school’s sexual harassment policy or other necessary basic things. That is repetition that is needed and in those cases we each do our best to learn SOMETHING from the experience. As a librarian, I sometimes feel that everything I teach rises to this level of importance, but let’s face it, if the 14 year old sitting in front of me knows how to set up a new project in NoodleTools or locate a preformatted citation for an article in a database she really shouldn’t have to sit through Mr. Wee’s lessons on those things AGAIN–you know, even though he’s super entertaining, hilarious, and easy on the eyes… #Hahaha!!! #Eyeroll

Our First Test Drive with Students…

Our first hyperdoc outing of the 2020-2021 school year was with 8th graders in a science class. Because our spring semester of the 2019-2020 school year was so topsy-turvey and we were launching the school year virtually for the first time ever, our 8th grade science teachers decided to ease students into their first “research” project. The stakes and content were purposely and wisely kept low. Many, many moving pieces–over the summer, our school transitioned from Google Meets to Zoom; a system upgrade meant that students all received new active directory usernames and passwords; and we moved to an 8-day rotating class schedule. Teachers’ desired outcomes included:

  • Introducing students to a new middle school digital work flow
  • Introducing/Reviewing database research skills
  • Making sure everybody could login to Google Drive and school databases from home
  • Reviewing note taking skills
  • Learning students’ personalities, abilities, strengths, challenges, work habits, etc.

Taking the hyperdoc out for a test drive with actual middle school students was a really interesting learning experience. A significant amount of the instructional focus with this project wasn’t specifically “library research” instruction as much as digital work flow instruction that students typically use in just about every library research project through high school. We did end up spending a good amount of time creating the tutorials that we embedded into the students’ hyperdoc, but I saw it as a very good investment of time because we were able to reuse the tutorials for multiple projects at numerous grade levels. Because the tutorials were embedded directly into the hyperdoc adjacent to each task, we were able to quickly walk students through each part of the hyperdoc; let them work on the tasks independently; and while the majority of kids worked independently we were freed to move into Zoom breakout rooms and trouble-shoot with individual students who needed extra help.

Iterating and Fixing Stuff Based on Things We Learned Along the Way…

Immediately after finishing our instructional arc with our 8th graders, we got to meet up with our 7th graders. They were working on a similar introductory project with, largely, the same desired outcomes.

We built our first hyperdocs in Google Docs using tables. We are a 1:1 iPad school and in our first outing we discovered some issues and frustrating limitations with the Google Doc app for iPad. If you begin taking notes with a numbered list, for example, if you move to a new table in the document the numbers cannot be restarted. #DearGooglePleaseFixThis

To work around this issue, we built our second hyperdoc for our 7th graders in Google Slides which worked far better than Google Docs for our purposes. Each slide serves as it’s own independent page; the slide navigator in Slides allows one to navigate to different sections of a hyperdoc very quickly and intuitively; and since students are more comfortable working with Slides than with tables in Docs, adding new slides for additional sources didn’t require any explanation.

Coloring slide backgrounds to group tasks together proved to be very helpful with 7th graders. “Right now, we’re looking at the green slide–step #2.”

A Last Google Drive Tip to Keep in Your Pocket Just in Case…

After you’ve built your project hyperdoc and you want to share your hyperdoc with students, there are few ways to tweak your Google URL to change its behavior when it’s clicked.


So far, so good. As soon as we concluded with our 7th graders, our 8th graders returned with a 2nd science project with more science and research content. We pushed a new hypderdoc out to students and we were able to get to our actual research instruction work far more quickly the second time around.

We work with some teachers building BEAUTIFUL hyperdocs. Some of those teachers build their own and incorporate our tutorials. Our hyperdocs tend to be more utilitarian, but they’re getting the job done.

If you’re using hyperdocs in your instruction, please reply below with a link to a sample. I’d love to see what you’re doing and how you’re doing it!

Have a great week, everyone!

4 thoughts on “on revisiting hyperdocs: reduce, reuse, recycle…

  1. Dave, As always you don’t disappoint with your humor, humility, and information on topics relevant to us all written in such a way that I immediately want to give them a try. It’s nice to see how you’ve adapted the hyperdoc format to library instruction. Love it.

  2. I didn’t know that about forcing copy! I had conversations with 4 faculty members this week about this feature and not overwriting a template. (And not physically copy/pasting the text to create a new document, but that’s another story!) Another example of unknown unknowns.
    And I concur about the ipads. We’ve had some bugbears with citations as well, to say nothing about footnote formatting.
    We’ll happily look forward to your posts, new or old!

    • Hi Christina,

      You might also have your teachers play with other Google URL hacks. Same method, but instead of /copy, try:

      /preview (displays cleaner version of a doc)

      /template/preview (allows users to preview the file and if they want to use it, they can click “use template” button)

      /copy works better for middle school kiddos because the copied file name is “Copy of…” with /template/preview it just makes a copy in the user’s G Drive without noting that it is a copy.

      Final things:

      For /copy, original doc’s share setting must be “Anyone can edit” or users won’t be able to modify the file that is copied in their drives. I dunno why, but that’s what happens.

      For /template/preview, original doc’s share setting must be “Anyone can view” or users will be able to modify your original document if they happen to click on the settings gear button at the bottom (6th graders discover odd ways into your documents because, you know, they’re 6th graders… Hahaha!!!)

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