With hundreds of alternative education choices, PandemicPods.org launches today to help families who are trying to make the best of COVID-19 school closures in a more coordinated way. The free platform, which is already live in hundreds of cities across 40 states and growing, offers a collective of vetted learning resources and provides matching services for families looking to connect their children with “Learning Pods” to foster an engaging, social learning environment that mirrors traditional school study groups.
Founded by Michael Staton – a former public school teacher and venture capital investor at Learn Capital who has backed edtech innovators like Coursera, Outschool, Photomath, MakeSchool, Minerva, Clever, and NearPod – PandemicPods.org is designed to help families navigate the process of finding, forming, and succeeding at Learning Pods. The platform was formed in partnership with numerous well-known education organizations, edtech innovators and services that serve millions of families, including CoLearn, Discount School Supply, Brilliant, Photomath, Wonderschool, Guidepost Montessori, Altitude Learning, eSpark Learning, Swing Education, Homeroom, Nurture Life, and DIY.org.
“Every day there's another article about how desperate parents are getting,” said Michael Staton, Founder of PandemicPods.org. “There are so many great services that families and pods will need to access. But there's no single solution, no silver bullet. It's more like a puzzle where all the pieces are there, but most people aren't aware of them and can't see how they come together. With my experience and network, I thought I should jump in and do something – and fast.”
According to the National Survey of Parents on Remote Learning, a survey of 4,600 parents by Discount School Supply and CoLearn, 80% of parents in America will have to cope with remote learning this fall, yet a staggering 53% of parents are uncomfortable or very uncomfortable with remote learning. “While many people are voicing valid concerns that this will thwart the public education goal of assuring equal opportunity, parents of every background are just trying to do the best they can with a difficult situation. It's better to try to get in front of this movement, create better tools, see what's working, and cooperate to try to broaden access to everyone as quickly as possible.” Staton said. “That's what this coalition is committed to doing.”
PandemicPods.org was founded in response to parents across the US turning to social media sites to connect with other parents to form “Pandemic Pods.” But social platforms like Facebook don't have the features to help match families based on kids' age, school, neighborhood, and interests, posing major challenges for parents struggling to find other families to form and succeed at Learning Pods.
Even if families can tap their existing networks or use Facebook Groups to form a Pod, suddenly there's then a bigger question: “Now What?” “We're working really fast to generate guides, courses, informative content, and partner service providers to help families with the Now What anxiety that's starting to occur.”
“The majority of schools will likely remain closed or close intermittently through the end of 2020, at least. This issue is going to stay with us, so we'll need to rise to the occasion and build tools meant for the job,” said Staton.
Here's how it works:
Fill out a brief survey to find and connect with other families, teachers, and caregivers as you explore forming a remote learning pod, micro-school, or nanny share for the summer or upcoming academic year.
Click “Get Matched” to be matched with five other families with similar goals from within your city or neighborhood.
Once six families are matched, PandemicPods.org will send everyone non-identifying information about each other and invite everyone to opt-in to an email introduction.
Families who opt-in will all receive an introductory email; then the families take it from there to create a “Pandemic Pod” that matches their specific needs.
Families can opt-in to participate in a local family directory, launching soon, that surfaces families with kids of similar ages, attending the same schools or programs, interested in the same subject areas or hobbies.
The site will then offer content, courses, and connections to other resources that parents need to make remote learning successful this fall.
“We relied on our schools to help level the playing field for all children,” said Michelle Spencer, Co-founder & Chief Learning Officer at PandemicPods.org. “Now that school buildings aren't open, we're realizing they were a major instrument for creating equal opportunity. Instead of letting just well-to-do parents find expensive exclusive services for their children, PandemicPods.org gives everyone equal access to tools that many families normally wouldn't know about or have access to.”
Get matched for free today at PandemicPods.org
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