McGraw-Hill Education’s New Virtual World Boosts Early Math Skills In Minnetonka Public Schools

Digital Resource Supports District’s Spanish and Chinese Immersion Program


MINNETONKA, Minn., Dec. 10 — The Minnetonka Public School District in Minnetonka, Minn., is using an online virtual world to build young students’ mathematics skills. The district implemented Planet Turtle, McGraw-Hill Education’s fully digital interactive classroom solution, in Grades K-3 at the beginning of the 2009-2010 school year. Available in English, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese, the program is used in both the regular classroom and Minnetonka’s Spanish and Chinese immersion classrooms.

Planet Turtle is a virtual world where children can interact with their peers in a protected Web environment by developing online animal-based character avatars and completing learning "challenges" that progress as their skills improve. The program allows teachers to instantly assess the proficiency level of a particular student – giving teachers actionable data that allows them to differentiate their instruction based on the individual needs of each student. 

Dave Eisenmann, director of instructional technology and media services for Minnetonka Public Schools, said approximately 2,000 elementary students are using Planet Turtle to learn early math skills in classrooms this school year.

"Since we’ve implemented this program, we’ve seen an incredible amount of excitement," said Eisenmann. "I have witnessed kids begging their teachers to let them take part in Planet Turtle and heard cheering from classes that are told they will get to use the program. Teachers are also excited about the program and its easy interface for management of individual student learning."

"Recent evidence shows that kids are learning in different ways more than ever before," said Randall Reina, senior vice president of McGraw-Hill Education’s Center for Digital Innovation, which developed the program. "McGraw-Hill Education’s Planet Turtle and the other digital resources from the Center for Digital Innovation use popular social media and cutting-edge technology, allowing today’s digital natives to learn in the classroom using the same tools they use for fun."

In fact, a recent study conducted by Education Development Center Inc. and SRI International commissioned by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, showed that children were better prepared for success in kindergarten when their preschool teachers incorporated educational video and games from public media.

With Planet Turtle, students can customize their own turtle avatar, explore and socialize together, participate in two-player games for a fun learning experience, and learn community values by working together toward common goals. Game types range from strategy-based to racing the clock, and players earn rewards of new features and an ever-expanding world. Planet Turtle and other programs from the Center for Digital Innovation help teach 21st century learning skills by cultivating high-level critical thinking and Internet-based problem-solving.

"Planet Turtle not only makes learning fun for children, but also provides educators and parents with a safe online teaching environment," said Reina. "McGraw-Hill is committed to leading American education into a new phase of cutting-edge digital-based instruction to drive student achievement."

For more information about Planet Turtle and the Center for Digital Innovation, visit www.MHECDI.com.

About Minnetonka Public Schools
Located in Minnetonka, Minn., this district serves more than 8,400 students. Minnetonka Public Schools are focused on world-class, child-centered excellence and the district’s teachers work to ensure all students envision and pursue their highest aspirations. Minnetonka was a 2008 National Technology Salute Award winner for integrating technology into the classroom. More information is available at www.minnetonka.k12.mn.us.

About the McGraw-Hill Center for Digital Innovation
The McGraw-Hill Center for Digital Innovation (CDI) focuses on bringing to primary and secondary classrooms the same digital environment that today’s young people have embraced outside of school. Backed by the resources of McGraw-Hill Education, one of the world’s leading education solutions providers, this first-of-its-kind innovation center combines McGraw-Hill’s century of expertise in curricula development with emerging technology to design new, paradigm-changing PreK-12 learning solutions. CDI is also helping to accelerate the use of new digital-based, data-driven instruction that is enabling greater customization to help all students – from those needing intervention to those needing additional challenges. Additional information is available at www.mhcdi.com

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