Podio as a Collaborative Teaching Platform

13 Sep

Transforming teaching from a monologue to a discussion is not only a perspective the teacher has to apply. The utilized teaching platforms need to support this kind of thinking too. In this case study, Social Media Strategist Peter Svarre tells us how he uses Podio to receive instant feedback from his students, customise the apps accordingly, and harvest the benefits of letting student learnings shape the course of the course.

Social Media Strategist Peter Svarre just returned from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, teaching a four-day social media training course. Inspired by the course subject he transformed this course to reflect the reality: “NGOs work in networks, so I thought that we needed to take a look at these collaborative tools like Podio. Instead of just talking about them, I decided that we should integrate Podio into the course“.

This networked way of teaching replaces the classic hierarchical teaching situation. By doing so he experience higher involvement by the students, stronger relationships among them and thus better learning. An area he has also actively worked with academically in his book ‘Den perfekte storm’ (In Danish only).

Integrate, don’t add-on

For it to be successfully implemented, Peter experienced the importance of not just using Podio as an ‘add-on’ but integrating it well into the course. If the users sees it as an add-on and not as solving challenges, then they won’t use it.

“I started mapping my needs and tried to find apps in the App market that fitted this. There was not really any apps that matched my needs perfectly, so I decided to set up a workspace and build my own apps”

The custom App Pack

Peter Svarre apps were developed to give students the ability to:

  1. present themselves and talk to to each other
  2. share course material, important links and access student assignments
  3. give feedback on what they thought about the course sessions

The apps that Peter Svarre’s used for the workshop

“To integrate it, I decided to give it a central position in the education. I used the first hour of the course presenting Podio, the apps and how we were going to use it during the course. It actually took less than an hour for them to understand how to navigate in Podio, to find course material and talk to each other. A total ‘aha’ experience for me. I have earlier worked with SharePoint and systems like that where people just did not get it when I presented them the basics.”

After this introduction he asked the students to fill in a description of themselves and answer the questions that Peter had put into the Personal presentation app. This gave Peter and the students a better understanding of who each other was.

More than just file sharing

In the Course material app the students could find slideshows for the different days. They downloaded the slides and were able to follow Peters presentations and add notes directly on their own slides. Peter had collected a long list of links in the Link app that he used in different ways during the course. The students quickly got access to these websites from the link-app, while Peter explained the cases, without spending time typing in long URLs.

Podio was used not just as a place for sharing files but also as a space for formal and informal communication among the students and the teacher.
“I had build a blog app for informal communication and questions but what I experienced was that the students recognized the stream and status updates from other platforms so they just used this to ask questions and help each other. This was great, the blog app was totally irrelevant!”

Shared answers spark inspiration

After the short introduction the dialogue started going among the students and him. By now they had created a more informal space along with the physical room, where the students not only learned from Peter’s presentations but also managed to help each other by answering specific question and getting inspiration. One of the Podio apps was used for the students to share their answers on different assignments that Peter gave them. It was a strong inspirational factor for the students to have access to each others work.

Evaluate now, improve tomorrow

Podio not only became a platform for the group to improve the collaboration and informal communication. It also became a tool for Peter to change and improve the course during the course. This was primarily facilitated by the Evaluation app that Peter had created and asked the students to fill in at the end of every day. “The point was that I could use this instant feedback in the fine tuning of the coming days’ program. In this way I used Podio to improve the course.”

Less paper work

This was not the only way he could utilize Podio to improve the course. Unexpectedly Peter experienced the flexibility of having the presentations uploaded to Podio and not in printed handouts. This way he was able to learn from the first day and change the slides to work better the next days. Had he printed handouts these would have been useless. Now, instead of printing new handouts, he just uploaded the updated presentations to Podio.

Improving the course of the course

By utilizing Podio for this educational purpose along side with the physical settings, Peter ended up with a more dynamic workshop with more informal communication, which lead to stronger relationships among the students. Podio didn’t just improve the workshop to be more dynamic; it was also a very strong tool for Peter as a teacher.

Have you used Podio in similar situations? How did it work for you? What would be a great app to use for educational purpose?

Let’s hear what you think in the comments.


Peter Svarre is a digital strategist, writer and international speaker. He has more than 14 years experience working with some of the largest Danish companies across different sectors as well as international NGO’s. You can visit his website, like him on Facebook, and follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/sargshep Steve Shepherd

    One thought I had was you could develop an Exam/Assessment APP that was in a separate private workspace. Then on the Activity Stream add a widget that had a link to the webform link for the Exam Assessment app so students could take the assessment without seeing others answers and each assessment would be added to your app. Then you setup a task to remind you to SHARE this item in the assessment app with the student who submitted and then you can start a dialog going on there assessment. You could then relate the Assessment app to a Marking App to record results or put marking fields INTO the assessment app and un tick them from the webform. The mind goes wild…..