When I say Minecraft, what comes to mind? For most, it’s probably cavernous slices of the underworld, huge cave systems and impossibly cool creations like pixel art or working computers. Some readers, however, may say education. This is because an education aid called MinecraftEdu, a Minecraft overhaul made by TeacherGaming, has been in worldwide use for some time now and met with astounding success. Educators and students alike are singing its praises. Mojang’s COO, Vu Bui, says of it, “We’ve seen that Minecraft transcends the differences in teaching and learning styles and education systems around the world. It’s an open space where people can come together and build a lesson around nearly anything.”. Microsoft has taken notice. Specifically, they’ve bought the project and are working with TeacherGaming on new features and refinements. The final product, to be dubbed Minecraft: Education Edition, is due out this summer.
The basic framework is largely the same, but with some extra features such as easy world and resource importing and a separate interface for educators that make it flexible enough to create Minecraft worlds that teach players things like computer programming, math and English. The revamped game would amp up the focus on customizability, allowing educators greater flexibility and the ability to import and roll out entire lesson plans. With official adoption, of course, comes a stronger community. This means that Minecraft: Education Edition will likely see more community-created lessons, lesson plans and objects for teachers to create lessons with than ever before. A new page called Minecraft Mentors will help to connect seasoned MinecraftEdu users with those trying the new game for the first time with their classes.
The new edition should roll out this summer, with a free trial until the formal release and pricing reveals later in the year. Existing MinecraftEdu users will be able to continue using it and even get their first year of Minecraft: Education Edition for free to help bolster adoption. With this move and the massive built-in userbase enjoyed by Windows, Microsoft may be looking to challenge the classroom dominance of Chromebooks. Amid Google’s recent troubles over the same, nobody can really say if Microsoft may be able to get a leg up.