Susan Riley | June 2014

Do You Hyperlink Your Teaching?

Do you know that there is a whole generation out there that doesn’t have a clue what it was like before we could add hyperlinks to our documents?  Yes, there was a time when you referenced a source and in order to view that source and gain more knowledge on the topic, you had to physically go and find it for yourself. There was a lot of page flipping and long periods of time between when you first heard about a reference and when you actually could go and read that source.

Then, along came the ability to hyperlink.  You could highlight your reference, paste the URL for its source, and the reader could quickly go to that source and immediately consume that information as well.  It not only sped up the process of learning, but it has cultured us into beings who are voracious consumers and creators of information.  

This previous sentence is really the crux of where we need to go in education in order to ensure that what and how we teach is not only relevant, but is cultivating a learning environment which leverages these two acts: consuming and creating information.  Yes, our students need to be consumers of learning and information in all of its forms: text, equations, compositions, artworks, and movement.  But they also need to be creators that take their learning and use it to produce something new and meaningful for themselves and the world around them.  If hyperlinking has enabled us to do this with information on the web, why not apply this to our classrooms?  So…how do you hyperlink your teaching?

What Does Hyperlinked Teaching Look Like?

Hyperlinked teaching provides students with direct avenues for further inquiry and exploration.  Students are not stifled in their learning tract, but are able to choose what to learn more about within a topic, and what they already know and can move beyond.  Additionally, students are encouraged to reference their connections with evidence from multiple sources.

For instance, if students are participating in an integrated lesson, they may make claims about the content, problem, or artwork being discussed.  Anytime students make a claim, by asking the question “how do you know that?“, you are allowing the opportunity for students to hyperlink their thinking back to previous experiences and resources.

This doesn’t mean that the classroom is without structure or organization.  That would be like handing someone a computer and saying, “here you go – reference everything available on the internet.”  Instead, when you use a hyperlink, it is focused within the topic you are either learning more about or which you are presenting to others.  The same is true for the classroom.  Provide pockets of opportunities for your students to explore a topic in more detail, learn about the topic from a different perspective or to create a solution using multiple sources and products.

3 Tips for Creating a Hyperlinked Classroom

1. Select a Focus and Use Inquiry for Exploration.  Choose a topic for students to explore and then develop a few essential questions for them as prompts for their learning quests.  For instance, if you chose the focus of “Transformation”, students could explore that from many different angles.  From literary texts to math to musical composition, transformation can be approached and connected with a variety of standards.  By asking the question “What does it mean to transform?”, you are providing students with an opportunity to approach, explore and present this topic in a meaningful way to them.

2. Use Centers/Stations.  If you need a way to organize the exploration process, try using centers or stations around a topic.  This way, students have direct access (hyperlinks) to a variety of sources for learning and creating through the overarching frame of the lesson.

3. Provide Problem-Seeking and Problem-Solving Time.  Students are more engaged when they have to solve a problem that they found on their own.  Encourage students to seek out a problem in the topic you are discussing and then use their tools and understanding to solve that problem in a new way.  They can document their process and provide the hyperlinks for their learning as part of the process, allowing you to see not only what they are solving, but how they went about it and what gaps in their learning may still exist.

Hyperlinking is an active process!  Bring its function and design into your classroom as a way for students to truly connect their learning and watch where the path may lead.

About the Author

Susan Riley is the founder and CEO of The Institute for Arts Integration and STEAM. She focuses on teacher professional development in arts integration, STEAM, 21st century learning skills, and technology. She is also a published author and frequent presenter at national conferences on Arts Integration and STEAM education. Susan holds a Bachelor of Music degree in Music Education from the prestigious Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ and a Master of Science in Education Administration from McDaniel College in Westminster, MD. She lives in Westminster, MD with her husband and daughter. Email Susan