Pod Learning: Essential Steps to Building Your Home-Based Learning Pod

In our article, “What Are Learning Pods,” we explore the necessity and benefits of Pod learning. We explore these necessities and benefits because, frankly, there is a lot yet to unpack and discover. The good news is that the ongoing discussion has pushed the topic into the public spotlight—where structure, flexibility, and innovation can be developed more formally.

Pod learning isn’t a new concept, but it has been strengthened by the need to keep kids healthy and engaged during a time of the global pandemic, quarantine, and high anxiety—the equivalent of teaching a fish to ride a bicycle. And it has been pushed forward, meaningfully, by the desire to do so in a way that creates a collaborative, supportive, and social environment. In short, awareness and support were needed, and a number of resourceful experts, scholars, teachers, caregivers, moms, and dads got to work.

Quick Review: What’s a Learning Pod?

A pod is essentially a small number of families grouped together—often geographically proximate and with existing relationships—to share in learning support, costs, enrichment, and social experiences. It can be viewed as a hybrid of a traditional classroom and homeschool format. Much like a school of fish (or “pod” of dolphins), these small teams converge to create a mutually beneficial grouping for the overall good of the pod.

Ahh, but how do I get started? The following highlights some good first steps for starting your local learning pod.

A pod is essentially a small number of families grouped together to share in learning support, costs, enrichment, and social experiences.

Step1: Establishing Your Pod: Reach out to family, friends, neighbors but keep it manageable in size

A solid first step is to reach out to your immediate sphere of influence and begin the discussion. It makes sense that these folks would be friends or acquaintances or otherwise people with whom you have already established a good rapport ( schoolmates, neighbors, scouts, show choir members, church friends, etc.). Ultimately your pod should have school-aged fish geographically and can actually benefit from a wide array of ages (see work on ZPD and social learning to understand how it’s valuable).

Step 2: Organizing your Resources (A Simple but Crucial Step!)

It is critical for your pod to collaborate and bring an engagement level and contribution equal to the others. Nobody likes a freeloading fish. From determining schedules, timelines, calendaring functions, sharing costs (budgeting), establishing and procuring human resources (think qualified professionals, instructors, tutors), and developing lesson plans, it is imperative that these logistical and pragmatic action items are thoroughly discussed, assigned, and completed.

Step 3: Lesson Plans: Create Your Own or Use From Others! 

Creating an ongoing lesson plan that is both structured AND flexible (unique to the needs of your pod and individual fishies) should be a priority. Often (particularly now with distance learning and “eLearning” plans already top of mind for traditional institutions), these plans are already established, and the pod organizers can simply take on the management of the existing plan and supplement as needed—or better, as your individual pod dictates based on need AND interest.

The steps above can be a source of confusion and frustration, at least initially. But much of that can be attributed simply to not knowing what you don’t know. Fortunately, ample resources are available to guide you through the initial, new, and exciting waters.

Need Help? We got you covered! Here’s a few resources to get you started:

NearPod: https://nearpod.com/blog/beginners-guide-to-nearpod/
Buncee: https://blog.buncee.com/supporting-remote-student-learning/
Discovery Education: https://www.discoveryeducation.com/
EP for learning: https://epforlearning.com/2020/ep-response-to-covid-19/