A historical town with a digital future - Maldon Case Study

Maldon is a small town in Victoria, thirty minutes from Bendigo. It is renowned for its historic buildings and streetscape, and little has changed in its appearance since mining operations finished many decades ago.   

Despite being a historic town, Maldon is looking to the future, with the community coming together recently to help one another learn skills that could help people to create, communicate and even navigate online.

Led by the Coordinator of the Maldon Neighbourhood Centre, Amy Atkinson, five pop up learning events were held as part of Go Digi and the National Year of Digital Inclusion, a partnership between Infoxchange and Australia Post. 

The events were:

This case study will explore how the town of Maldon was able to run these successful pop up events, taking learning out of the traditional classroom environment and in to the community. 

Coordinator of the Maldon Neighbourhood Centre, Amy Atkinson

7 tips for running a successful pop up event

Want to run your own pop-up digital learning event? Here are seven tips from Maldon's successful events.

1) Get Creative in choosing a location

In planning their events, the Maldon community asked themselves “Where do people in the community already go?”. 

The diverse range of locations chosen by the Maldon community included the farmer’s market, the local Kangaroo Hotel, a café with free wi-fi, a community bus and the local library.  

Not only did these locations open up the audience to people who might not usually attend more traditional learning sessions, but they helped to create a comfortable and fun learning environment.  

Who would have thought that people would go to the local hotel to learn about apps? But lots of Maldon locals did just that, with Appy Hour at the Kangaroo Hotel turning out to be one of the most popular events.

Groups of locals could be seen laughing and chatting whilst learning how to download and install apps on smartphones and tablets. The focus on the CFA FireReady app also meant that locals could learn about something has the potentially to help save lives.  

Learners at the events

2) Getting to know your Audience

Prior to the four pop up events, the Maldon community and Go Digi held a stall at the well-attended local farmer’s market.  The idea behind this was to help promote the pop up events, as well as the National Year of Digital Inclusion

The farmer’s market also turned out to be a terrific way to speak to locals about what they knew about the digital world, and how best to help them best to learn and build their confidence online.   

At the farmer’s market, we met people like Ralph and Cathy Fuller who explained that they were at a loss when it comes to all things digital. They said that they often ask their granddaughter to help with things like putting their photos onto their computer, and would love to be able to do it themselves. 

“We have trouble understanding what all the words mean. Even ‘apps’ – I assume it means ‘applications’,” Cathy and Ralph said. 

Finding out more about your audience is a great first step to planning a successful pop up event.

3) Find potential mentors and facilitators  

Another key to a successful pop up is to find people in your community who can help others to learn digital skills at the pop up events. 

Mentors and pop up facilitators don’t need to be experienced trainers or educators. What is important is that they are passionate and willing to share what they know about their area of digital knowledge with others.

One of the ‘helpers’ at the Go Digi events was Maldon Go Digi Mentor Robbie Stockfeld. In her 60s, Robbie was a latecomer to digital technology who now is adept at making her way around the digital world, creating blogs, using Facebook, Trove and many other apps and websites.

Although Robbie finds herself mentoring friends and associates all the time (she calls these ‘incidental mentoring opportunities’), she has also registered to be a Go Digi mentor. 

It was also helpful to have Maldon locals facilitating and helping out, rather than ‘experts’ from the city. This meant that relationships and connections were formed that could be continued long after the pop up events were over. As Amy stated, “It’s important to offer as much one-on-one support as you can – I think that’s really where you can make a difference”.

This might mean finding some extra helpers for your pop up event, or it might mean directing them to one-on-one learning sessions at the local library or neighbourhood house if they’re on offer.

Learning about Google Maps

4) Promoting the Pop Up events

Events such as Appy Hour were well attended.  As well as listing the pop up events on the Go Digi website, the Maldon community used a range of other channels to promote the events, from posters around the town, the farmer’s market stall, word of mouth and the local paper. 

As one local said “If you don’t get your event in the Tarragower Times then it doesn’t exist”.  An article and event listing was published in the paper before the event.   

5) Capture stories from the Pop Up event

Attendees at the pop up events were very interested in learning about how technology could help them in their day-to-day life.  

One enthusiastic local went along to three of the pop up events – attending the ‘Three Bags Full’ YouTube event to learn how he could find a video that could show him how to turn a propane gas bottle in to a pot belly stove!

Another person came along to the ‘Park to Park’ pop up event to learn how to use Google Maps to help her with eradicating the invasive species the Wheel Cactus, prevalent in the local area. 

As a volunteer with the Landcare Network’s Cactus Warriors she was keen to find out how to pinpoint the exact location of cactuses so that she could come back to poison them.  Citizen scientist at work! 

At Appy Hour, as well as learning about the CFA’s FireReady app, people had lots of other questions such as how to find their own phone number on their smartphone, how to put an ICE number in to their phone and even how to keep up with the cricket scores online

6) Providing an opportunity for people to have their say

At one of the smallest pop up events in Baringhup, a very small town just outside of Maldon, some great discussions were had about digital inclusion issues such as internet affordably and internet coverage. 

This was unexpected, and the group were disappointed that they felt their voices were not being heard by telcos and others.  We found a simple way to help the attendees have their voices heard more widely by using a pen, paper and a quick photo, which was then posted on Go Digi’s social media channels.

The attendees were happy that their voices could be heard outside of their own community.

Barry in Baringhup having his say

7) Offer follow-up opportunities

To ensure that people could build upon what they had learnt at the pop up sessions, attendees were encouraged to attend one-on-one learning sessions at the Maldon Community Centre, which has a weekly afternoon where volunteers answer people’s questions.

Helpers at the pop up events also encouraged people to access the Go Digi website where online learning guides on a range of topics can be found. There were also some tech savvy attendees who were encouraged to become Go Digi mentors!

You can do it too!

It was fantastic to see the locals in Maldon get behind their pop up events and the National Year of Digital Inclusion.  It really demonstrates how communities can make a difference to build digital literacy in their towns, regardless of internet speed or size of the population.  Most of all, it depends on a passionate group of people.  

If you would like to hold your own pop up event as part of the National Year of Digital Inclusion, become a network partner at www.godigi.org.au/partners