Case Study 3

November – December 2014
Three Ways Community Special School (Bath)
Embrace Arts (Leicester)


The specific research questions within this case study was to understand:

  1. How do participants engage in mixed reality Pop Up Play?
  2. How deeply do participants immerse in mixed reality roles?
  3. How does the practitioner in-action see this taxonomy manifest?
  4. What does the practitioner do to facilitate the learning / play experience?
  5. What is the experience of mixed reality Pop Up Play from a child's perspective?

Contrasting sessions were designed that articulated these questions within complementary settings:

  • Three Ways School (SEN): 6 weekly sessions, Pirate theme, approached with speaking & listening focus, consistency, repeating & modelling
  • Embrace Arts Centre: 3 day residency with home educated children, ideas driven, creative performance, approached with freedom, exploration and expression

Critical moments of evidence

Evaluations from the facilitators, participants and stakeholders were extremely encouraging. Marriane Pape (Embrace Arts) said:

"It was amazing to see how confident they had become with the system and had such ownership of it and the worlds they had created. The new players from the audience enjoyed it too – and one of them particularly so as he had really wanted to be part of the project from the beginning but we were fully subscribed."

"There were so many ideas, this was an extremely rich project with high quality participation and I think was an excellent example of how we can deliver the quality principles in an innovative digital gallery learning project."

Quotes from the participants in-action creative play include:

  • 'Catch the rat! Get ready to stamp on it when it comes!'
  • 'make it stick to me'
  • 'you have to run and chase the skeleton and if he catches you, you are out'
  • 'we need more people to make a wall of fuzz! Can we make a chain?!'
  • 'make me small so I can get through the maze'
  • 'I like disappearing'
  • 'we could include a voice command system to activate elements'
  • 'can we get in the car with Mario? Oh yes we can!'
  • 'can I use my drama skills?'
  • 'someone's got a sword with a fish through it – I feel sorry for that fish! Oh – it's a swordfish!'
  • 'I'm chopping the [digital] strawberry!' [with a real sword]

Ben Edwards (Three Ways) reflected on the workshops as:

"There is so much potential for development, as we didn't really explore uploading video footage as backgrounds or audio sampling – but we never ran out of things to do and the children never bored of using the system. If anything – my main challenge was making sure everyone had a turn at different roles and the opportunity to explore the tech if they wanted to."

"In terms of the overall impact of the 6 weeks, we have seen pupils become more confident to share ideas, more expressive in their language, able to recall facts and details of the voyage, more imaginative in the playing out of their ideas especially when they can become realised in digital form, drawn massively to the use of hard copy resources as the framework for backdrops to the digital elements. Above all the pupils have had fun. Pupil behaviour has been positive and the only challenges we have faced have been inspired by the enthusiasm that pupils have towards wanting to continue using the system when others are using it! It has given us insight into the potential of this system as a vehicle for story telling and sharing and how speaking and listening activities can be delivered in an effective and incidental manner."

The teaching assistant observed:

"Four weeks' worth of input came spilling out today. There was learning happening there which enabled me to relax when the children were off task as you might put it doing other things."

"The interesting thing about this week is that they were able to free flow, but they were able to free flow because they were secure enough and grounded enough in all of those different areas with the exception of the drawing stuff because that was new."

The children said:

  • "I want to do like when we go outside we have a pirate ship that we could go in. Yeah coz we are pirates in here and we got a pirate ship outside."
  • "I'm gonna do like get puppets with the monster, it will be funny. Like hey do you want to get married? (told in a high voice) I'm going to kill you (told in a scary voice)."
  • "I liked controlling the ipad."
  • "I really enjoyed making Godzilla."


We found that the main roles and sub roles clustered into zones:

  • Game Maker – any zone or space (includes facilitator)
  • Player – screen zone as an integral part of play
  • Constructor - enabling mixed reality play zone, i.e. through music/sounds, puppets/small world toys, visual art, and moving a physical camera
  • Observer – off screen zone
  • Technologist – controlling equipment zone

The notion of a 'hierarchy' or 'value system' which has the potential to classify one role as higher or more beneficial to participants was found as inappropriate by our research partners. Three distinct pedagogical features emerged: freedom of choice – natural dispersal; description and decision – agentic action; assigning – managing dynamics

Children's authentic evaluation:

  • Control and freedom of expression - Going into self-made drawings and visiting unique places and spaces.
  • Scale and sense of self - Seeing themselves on screen and manipulating and controlling objects.
  • Concept of mixing realities – Describing 'inside and outside spaces'.
  • Potential uses of the system - Split between dramatizing (persona and narrative exploration) and gaming (defining and making rules).