phil roederSo? So What? What Now? How To Keep The Learning Going

by Terry Heick

In 2014, sandbox video games have changed gaming more than a little.

Players can now define their own terms for success, and the evolution of certain gamification elements makes this more than a fantasy in the minds of the players. There really are multiple measures of success.

In fact, there are games today that have no endgame at all. There may be a finishing sequence to the narrative—some final quest fulfilled or objective accomplished—but even then there’s oodles more gameworld to explore.

Character journals to read.

Side-quests to complete.

Missions to replay and refine your performance.

It’s never really over, and rather than maddening, this is indicative of a trend seemingly encouraged by the digital universe we all duck our heads into each day.

The same difference between a magazine and a blog rests between old video games and new video games. A blog is never finished—by definition it surveys, explores, and publishes in a constant churning motion, self-improving or aging and fading away.

Even blog posts themselves can be constantly updated, endlessly fluid documents that are revised, linked to, dug up by dutiful Google bots, shared, and then curated—hung in some pinterest hall-of-fame.

And on the surface, this constant motion is also true in learning. But if we look a bit more closely, we can see this isn’t always the case.

In planned learning experiences, there is a beginning and an end, and rather than an entirely logical reality dictated by the nature of school, it could be a problem.


The structure of formal learning in most classrooms is a basic sequence of activityàlessonàunit, with a culminating assessment of some sort. Whether this assessment is a performance, a project, or a traditional multiple-choice and short response exam, its function is the same—to evaluate understanding of a given set of standards or goals.

These standards were often planned for ahead of time—probably in some form of curriculum map or scope and sequence that allows teachers to roughly sketch out what will be taught when. This both ensures coverage of standards, as well provides a path—or “map”—so that all teachers can be on the same page.

In theory, curriculum maps are wonderful, and among the best school improvement tools you can use. It is the proving grounds for all of the theory and rhetoric, where you hold yourself and students accountable by making a clear plan to accomplish by year’s end all that you hope to.

But in practice, curriculum maps are almost always not the “living, breathing” documents experts like Heidi Jacobs Hayes promote. They are instead very dead things—lifeless prisons of content to be covered, and boxes to be highlighted in Data Team and Professional Learning Community meetings.

For a curriculum map—or any planned learning experiences—to be vital—and vitally useful—they must be adaptive and circular rather than rigid and linear. They must by design be able to respond to the performance of the students.

And more critically, they must encourage students to continue their pursuit of understanding and self-knowledge.

They must—by design—always offer students something more and room to roam, and give only hints of closure where it is necessary. Finishing a novel or a poem is a bit of an illusion, isn’t it?

By learning through iteration—by seeking the persistent motion of practice and revision, we can more honestly follow the pattern of the real world, where there is no stopping point, or a reason to stop doing things that are worth doing. Rather, we learn–and live–by the human process of daily mending.

6 Strategies To Keep The Learning Going In Your Classroom

1. At the end of each bit of “packaged content” (whether a activity, project, lesson, or unit), asks 3 simple questions: So? So what? What now? What have you learned? Why is that important? What makes sense to do next in light of this progression?

3. Promote self-directed learning using frameworks that teach students to access, evaluate, and use information in real-time, rather than simply “doing assignments.”

4. Consider tying your units together. Just as each lesson falls beneath the umbrella of a unit, have each unit fall again under the broader umbrella of 2 semesters worth of inquiry

5. Start your planning with one essential question, then 1-2 for each unit, daily targets that chip away at those questions.

6. Use elegantly designed and socially-shared digital portfolios so that work is, at worst, visible and curated, if for no other reason than to remind you that the assignment or project, etc., could’ve been better/more authentic/still “functioning”

7. Design units that create products that take on a life of their own–that can function after the students are “gone.”

This article is based on a post written by Terry Heick, first published on edutopia; So? So What? What Now? How To Keep The Learning Going