In this episode of The Balance, I talk with Lisa Highfill, a mother, educator, instructional coach, and co-author of The HyperDoc Handbook. Lisa describes herself as a thinker, philosopher, debater, and geek. She was a classroom teacher for over twenty years and is currently a technology integration coach in the Pleasanton Unified School District. She has been working in the field of educational technology since 1998 when she earned her Masters Degree in Ed Tech Leadership. Lisa is the epitome of a life-long learner. She is a Google Certified Innovator, YouTube Star Teacher, Merit Fellow, and Leading Edge Digital Educator.

In this episode, Lisa and I talk about lesson design and how teachers can create balanced lessons that allow them to connect with students in meaningful ways. Lisa highlights the ways in which traditional routines and lessons “steal face time with students.” We discuss the importance of viewing our classrooms as laboratories, designing lessons that help us maximize our minutes with students, and escaping the traditional role as the disseminator of information at the front of the classroom.

If you are part of a professional learning community, the questions below are designed to facilitate a conversation–in person or online–about the issues discussed in this episode of The Balance. If you do not have a PLC at your school but you want to engage in an online conversation with other educators, check out the Facebook page I created to encourage conversations about achieving and maintaining balance! I will post a question a week to encourage an ongoing discussion about issues related to balance.

  1. If you treated your classroom like a laboratory focused on improving your craft and learning about your students’ needs, how would that change your teaching practice? How would you design lessons so that you were learning about your students during the lesson?
  2. Think about your daily or weekly routines (e.g., welcome task, daily oral language, number of the day). How long do you spend on these types of tasks? Are they the best use of your limited time with kids or do they steal your face time with students? What adjustments can you make to these routines to create more time in class to connect with students and work side-by-side with them?
  3. Do you feel exhausted by endless initiatives? Is it clear how initiatives complement one another or do they feel disjointed and unrelated? Does your district follow through and support staff when a new initiative is introduced?
  4. Do you strive for balance when designing lessons? Do you think about how the elements of the lesson are balanced–online vs. offline, the individual vs. the collaborative, teacher talk vs. student voice?
  5. What do you think of this idea of balancing our approach to assessment? Can you imagine giving students agency in the way they demonstrate their learning? How might this impact your engagement and your students’ engagement?

If you want to connect with Lisa, you can follow her on Twitter @lhighfill or check out the Facebook page she created for educators using hyperdocs. I also recommend visiting, which is the website Lisa and her co-authors created to encourage educators to share the dynamic hyperdoc lessons they are creating. The website is a fabulous resource for any teacher interested in designing multimedia lessons that allow students high degrees of agency.

Thank you to StudySync for producing and sponsoring this podcast! StudySync is committed to helping teachers find balance in their lives by providing them with a robust multimedia ELA platform that simplifies lesson planning, automatically differentiates tasks for learners at different skill levels and language proficiencies, and blends online and offline engagement to help students develop as thinkers, readers, writers, and speakers.

3 Responses

  1. I like the idea of giving students chances to discover and explore. helping students to negotiate and problem solve on their own. This meant so much to our present student population.

  2. This was a great podcast episode. Found myself listening to it at the gym and taking notes. As a new teacher, this blended model of learning is incredibly attractive. I really enjoyed the thoughts on assessment as well. Not only that, but just a chance to build my virtual PLN. Thanks a bunch.

    • You’re welcome, Jake!

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it 😊 I’m thrilled to hear that you are excited about and interested in blended learning. I’m a huge advocate for weaving together online and offline learning. I hope you can use many of the resources on my website to support your exploration of blended learning.

      Take care!

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