The Critical Thinking Classroom Meets HyperDocs!

Area(s) of Focus: technology, curriculum
Division(s): Intermediate, Junior
Level(s): Grade 5, Grade 6, Grade 7, Grade 8

Using the Ontario social studies/history curriculum we created HyperDocs that aligned with the Thinking Classroom, and created environments for critical thinking and engaged students with rich tasks utilizing technology to share their thinking.

In this project we created the conditions in our classrooms that will allow students to be creative, collaborative, critical thinkers and communicators. We used technology to design lessons based on the Ontario Social Studies, History/Geography Curriculum that “curated quality instructional content, and packaged learning in a way that engaged the learner” (The HyperDoc Handbook).

Team Members

  • Kathryn Yurek

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Sheila Fleming

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Trisha Pearson

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Jennifer Duckworth-Rispin

    Thames Valley District School Board

  • Stephanie Gardner

    Thames Valley District School Board

Professional Learning Goals

  • We deepened our understanding of what critical thinking is and how to create the conditions for it to flourish in our classrooms
  • We explored how to design authentic tasks that met the following criteria: (1) they were rooted in issues, challenges or decisions that people face in the world, (2) they were genuine and forced us to evaluate critical information and resources and apply judgement and (3) the inquiries or challenges were purposeful and mattered
  • We integrated technology to organize and facilitate critical challenges using G Suite for Education in the platform of HyperDocs
  • We became more aware of available resources that provided our students with authentic and relevant information needed to develop inquiries
  • We explored various ways students were able to document and assess their progress through an inquiry
  • We implemented the Ontario social studies/history/geography curriculum focusing on the big ideas using an inquiry approach
  • We increased student engagement, as well as achievement and application of critical thinking skills

Activities and Resources

We began by gauging the classrooms understanding of critical thinking by doing an intro activity around using that skill. As a result of our observations, we planned mini lessons to improve student and teacher understanding of critical thinking.

After the mini lessons, we focused on historical thinking and created HyperDocs for Historical Significance, Historical Perspective, Continuity and Change, and Cause and Consequence. After students and teachers had a solid understanding of historical thinking/critical thinking, we created content-specific HyperDocs for both Grade 6 and Grade 7/8 using the big ideas of the Ontario Curriculum, specifically focusing on the historical thinking concept of Cause and Consequence.

Finally, we created a culminating activity to compare our students and teachers critical thinking abilities from the beginning of the project to now.

The link to our resources is in the following Google Folder: The Critical Thinking Classroom Meets HyperDocs!

Unexpected Challenges

Although we had great success in creating the HyperDocs, we did have some unexpected challenges in implementing some aspects of our planned activities. Since three of the teachers involved in the project were not the classroom teachers, they felt that there was some disconnect with the activities. The three teachers were not able to see the completed process and had hoped to be more actively involved in the implementation of the activities. Another unexpected challenge was the lack of digital citizenship of the students involved.  We had to go back and recognize that the students needed more pre-teaching around the appropriate use of technology in order to be successful using the activities in the HyperDoc. Another unexpected challenge was students being reluctant to use certain technology platforms, such as Flipgrid. Additional pre-teaching around the benefits of the platform was needed to demonstrate the importance of showing their learning/voice. Finally, the biggest unexpected challenge was the time constraints surrounding our action plan. Due to board-wide supply teacher shortages and starting the project in January, we were not able to get through all of our planned activities. Some of the activities needed to be started in September in order to put in place the conditions of a critical thinking classroom. As well, some activities needed more time to produce the results that we wanted, but had to be rushed in order to move on to the next stage.

Enhancing Student Learning and Development

Students can develop deep critical thinking around specific issues that align with the curriculum, as well as being immersed in technology that allows for their thinking to be predominate and have an authentic voice (Flipgrid, HyperDocs, etc). They are able to use criteria to really demonstrate that critical thinking and, as a result, it spills over into other subject areas as well. It is organized easily for the students to work ahead and challenge themselves through extension activities. Students, however, need more time for reflection – or more time to understand the technology that they are using in order to be successful. As well, using technology made learning more engaging for students; videos and images were delivered through HyperDocs which gave each student a close-up view that could be reviewed as many times as necessary. Their opinions were offered through Padlet and other applications that provided students with a safe place to say what they wanted and to gain insight from others; the added lenses of historical thinking adjusted how students perceived some of the events in history.


We plan to share our project in a few different ways. Since two of our team members are instructional coaches who work with a variety of different schools and have a team of 40 other teachers that they work with, there is great potential for it to reach a variety of other teachers. The activities have been shared at all of the schools the team members work with and the final report is being shared with the instructional coach team at a Professional Development series in June. As well, the project will be shared through Twitter followers. We have created a shared folder with the activities and instructions of our project, and we will also be sharing the created HyperDocs on the website “Teachers Give Teachers.” Finally, we are building our connections with the Thinking Consortium (TC2) to share our learning.

Project Evaluation

Was our project a success? To determine this, we collected data at the beginning of the project and at the end. Data collected from teachers were surveys through Google Forms to gauge levels of comfort/awareness/implementation around critical thinking, HyperDocs, infusion of the Ontario social studies and history curriculum, and the use of technology. Data collected from students was a survey through Google Forms at the end of the project, and a critical thinking task at the beginning and end of the project. Student work through the HyperDocs was also used to determine project success. Observation and conversation were also key in measuring project success.

Based on our discussions and reflections, we have determined that we have had success since teacher knowledge of creating critical thinking tasks and use of technology has increased. As well, we have become more careful in how we word questions in order to elicit more debate and discussion within our classrooms.

Furthermore, when we consider our professional learning goals throughout our project, we have seen successes or partial successes within those goals. Our level of critical thinking as a team has increased and how to create conditions in our classrooms for critical thinking has flourished.  However, in order to be more successful with this project, we firmly believe that it is imperative to create conditions for critical thinking at the beginning of the year. If we were able to start implementing critical thinking tasks in September, we would have seen more success in our students and in our own teaching/learning. As a result of this project and through the use and exploration of HyperDocs, we were able to successfully integrate technology in a purposeful way. The technology enabled us to organize and facilitate critical challenges and authentic tasks that aligned with the Ontario Curriculum (Social Studies/History). We did realize that we needed to do more pre-teaching around digital citizenship with our students in order for them to be successful in using the HyperDocs and technology platforms attached in a meaningful and appropriate way.

As our project progressed, we realized that we needed to be more consistent with time allocation for the successful completion of the assigned HyperDocs. This was definitely an aha moment for our teacher learning, as to how long activities should and did take.

We were able to find great resources to help support our big ideas from the curriculum and connect them with the use of our HyperDocs. Through great discussions and reflections, we were able to find commonalities in the Grade 6 and Grade 7 curriculum through the big ideas using a Historical Thinking lens. It is imperative to use those Historical Thinking lenses when long-range planning for next year. We determined that it would be beneficial to teach Historical Thinking at the beginning of the year so students are well-versed in the language and understanding. This would make students and teachers more successful when implementing the content-specific HyperDocs.

Overall, we saw student engagement around the topics of history/social studies increase. Through our feedback forms/observations/reflections, we determined that students enjoyed sharing what they knew in an authentic and meaningful way in the HyperDocs. The use of technology amplified their student voice and showcased their critical thinking skills. We believe that using HyperDocs is a stepping stone to creating a flourishing Thinking Classroom. This project has enabled our learning and resources that we can use to promote a Thinking Classroom exponentially.

Resources Used

Nelson Education, Canada and the Global Community, Toronto, Ontario, Nelson Education Ltd., 2015.

The HyperDoc Handbook: Digital Lesson Design Using Google Apps by Kelly Hilton, Lisa Highfill and Sarah Landis. Irvine, California, EdTechTeam Press, 2016.

Creating Thinking Classrooms: Leading Educational Change for This Century by Garfield Gini-Newman and Roland Case. Vancouver, B.C., The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2015.

Using Thoughtbooks to Sustain Inquiry by Garfield Gini-Newman and Laura Gini-Newman. Vancouver, B.C., The Critical Thinking Consortium, 2016.

Nelson Education, Nelson History 7, Toronto, Ontario, Nelson Education, 2016.

Nelson Education, Nelson History 8, Toronto, Ontario, Nelson Education, 2016.

This website provided us with templates for HyperDocs

Rocketbook website was used to order digital books to create digital Thoughtbooks

Padlet technology tool within our HyperDocs

Flipgrid technology tool within our HyperDocs

Lisa Highfills website

Adobe Spark technology tool within our HyperDocs

Resources Created

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