Virtown is an idea for what the future of maths teaching in the digital age could look like. Children develop their digital skills and learn their maths curriculum by working together to build a computer-generated town (see picture below).
Virtown was started by class teacher Conor Griffin (Mr.Griffin) in 2017 in a classroom in Newport, Tipperary, Ireland. Mr. Griffin was frustrated with teaching maths through a textbook. The students found maths unengaging and boring and had difficulty connecting the maths they learned in school with the real world. Mr. Griffin was sure, with the level of digital tools available nowadays, there was a better way to learn maths. Of course there was a better way to learn maths and Virtown was born. Children would work with their peers on a project that they were passionate about - building a digital town.
The first town was built by twenty-nine 5th class girls (10 - 12 years old) in 2017. One of the students, Jennifer, suggested the name “Virtown” for the town and the name has stuck since. Take a tour by clicking the video below.
Our first town
Take a tour around our first digital town!
This was our very first prototype. First, the girls worked together in pairs to draw the plans for a house. Then they came together as a class to offer suggestions for the location of a road to best connect the town. The girls estimated and measured their plans for a road through the town and the best one was selected. The town was then digitally constructed based on the paper plans.
We covered lots of our maths curricula building this town: money, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, length, area, co-ordinates and much more.
We also learned lots of digital skills such as digital communications, data, 3D modelling, coding and much more.
Students were able to walk around the town they built using a virtual reality headset and smartphone. The VR headset was a Google Cardboard headset available online for under $10.
WHAT IS VIRTOWN?
Virtown is a maths programme that allows children to learn maths as they develop their digital skills.
Children cover maths areas such as addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, area, length, money etc. by working with one another to build a town. Children must problem solve, use their digital skills and make decisions as they plan and build their town
how to best allocate the town’s money.
plan a new bus route for the town's citizens.
plan to transition the town’s energy from fossil fuels to renewables.
where to build the new park and what it should it look like
Children develop digital skills such as 3D modelling, accessing and researching information, communicating and coding to create the town.
Edlinks Ltd is the company founded by Conor and Cian in 2019 and Virtown is run under the company banner.
Check out our video above. The girls in Mr. Griffin's class designed some of the houses and buildings in the town and Mr. Griffin built alongside them to develop a proof of concept and show what a completed town could look like.
We want to develop our idea and need your help.
We want to work with a group of teachers and students to develop a network of towns. We will work with each teacher and their class to build a town. Each class will be different and therefore each town will be different - a diversity of ideas on building designs, colours, town planning and infrastructure planning - just like real life. Each class will connect with the other classes and will be able to visit and explore the other towns either through an internet browser or a Google Cardboard Virtual Reality headset.
Towns may contact each other and agree trade deals - exchanging their surplus energy for clean water or borrowing money to develop a new infrastructure project. The choice is yours!
All the towns will have the chance to plan and make the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies such as wind turbines and solar power.
Virtown wants to give children the chance to imagine a digital and green future - help us make that a reality!
WHO ARE WE?
Conor Griffin is the lead on the idea. Conor has an undergraduate degree in Business Studies from the University of Limerick and a post graduate in Primary School Teaching from Dublin City University. Conor has been teaching in the classroom for 10 years and has a particular interest in maths, digital technologies and sustainability. He has run various initiatives in the school such as the "Computer Coding Club", the "Robotics for Girls" competition and coaches the soccer team. Conor has been deployed as part of the Special Educational Needs Team (SEN) this year.
Cian O’Brien is also a primary school teacher and teaches in the same school as Conor. Cian has been teaching in the classroom for the last four years. Cian founded the Lego club within the school and coaches the girls’ camogie team. He has a strong interest in community development and working with children and has previously worked with children with special needs through the July Provision and pandemic provision.