3 – Pop Up

I don’t know whether it was a frantic google search after driving by a pop up store in the city or I read about the concept in a magazine but I was fascinated. Seeing these highly curated, visual, temporary spaces pop up all around had me wondering. What could it look like in education? What would a temporary, movable, creative learning experiences look like?

Popup events are temporary, unexpected events in unique spaces. They pop up and, after a few hours or days, they pop down. By definition, most events are temporary. It is the element of surprise in unexpected locations that distinguish popup events.


Love when questions collide and as questions came in about Makerspaces (this was 3/4 years ago now) it seemed an awesome time to PLAY. It was an organic process as we explored, played, and tweaked while we observed learners and educators interacting with the materials (You can check the hashtag out here) I had to pass on the pop up makerspaces as I moved to support a different area but the idea of pop ups continued to fester.

I was lucky over my 10 years of facilitating professional learning to have had the opportunity to facilitate some unconventional formats: playgrounds, playdates and unconferences. No matter the years experience I continued to wonder if we can do it differently. What can learning look like? How can we ignite a sense of wonder in colleagues? How can we present the tools, ideas, in new ways, in new environments to form new connections?

So after the release of the #everyonecancreate resources and chatting with a great colleague, #enviroed champion and constant wonderer, Rob Ridley we designed 3 outdoor digital pop ups in our local outdoor areas.

Photography at Kariya Park

Sketchnoting at Rattray Marsh

Video at Our Britannia School House

After a quick spark and challenge we went out to play. We chatted as we snapped. We supported each other. Learned along the way debriefing at the end making the connections to our practice, leaving with resources to continue the learning if we wanted to.

As I watched a handful of colleagues in silence sketching the marsh in front of them. Birds chirping, the stream bubbling, technology just one piece of the picture. This was it! Our conversations naturally lead to our practice and were bettered by each of our contributions.

We continued exploring in the outdoors (different locations) and added some more this year looking at light photography and AR.

To be honest if you looked at the numbers, those first pop ups might not have been deemed a success but I couldn’t deny they were as I watched my colleagues in the marsh. We were able to offer unexpected learning in unexpected places. We didn’t just talk about the learning environment, our materials, the role of play but experienced it.

You may say it’s just a name. It’s just a word. It really is nothing special. And you are right. It’s a mainstream idea I twisted to suit my purposes but sometimes we need an unexpected name to prepare us for unexpected learning.

And now I’m left wondering what other unexpected events, tools, spaces lie ahead? What could pop ups look like in some of our community spaces? What could pop ups look like for our families? What could a virtual pop up look like? In what other unexpected ways can we spark learning?

Side Note: This wasn’t really a word I planned on blogging about but as we chatted about play, goals and structures after my last post and a tweet from a colleague I thought I would share my journey. I don’t think I ever realized how much the pop ups were my opportunity to play and wonder. Although I had a goal of encouraging creativity and mobility with digital tools (and in turn an inferred goal of empowering students to share in different ways), I didn’t have a distinct set of expectations each session. We let the group lead us often personalizing for individuals based on their experience and practice. It was terrifying at times. Will people come? Will they like it? Will they think it’s a waste of time? In the end it seemed that perhaps these pop ups had the greatest rate of implementation of any session format I had done in the past.

One Reply to “3 – Pop Up”

  1. Tina, I need to think even more about this one. When I first saw your screenshot, I thought that you would go in one direction with this post, and you went in another one. Your post though speaks about something that I think is important: adults playing. If we want kids to play (and to see the benefit of play for kids), do we need to give an opportunity to play? What kinds of opportunities do we have for this when it comes to PD? I’ve recently changed my PD approach by getting adults to play and talk more, and I’ve started to see the impact. It makes you think that we need to do this more often.


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