Microsoft wants kids playing Minecraft in class, and it’s hoping that schools will not just let them, but support them.
After announcing its investment earlier this year in Minecraft Education Edition — an educational version of the popular computer game Minecraft, Microsoft has now announced that the new format will become available in schools in May according to multiple reports.
The new version of “Minecraft Education Edition,” which has been developed with extra features to help support teachers in the classroom and encourage further engagement from students, will become available in beta format in over 100 schools from 30 countries across the world.
The launch next month will give educators the chance to test the software and provide feedback to Microsoft so improvements can be made before the program is rolled out further. June will see the program rolled out in 11 languages and 41 different countries, and will allow teachers to download the program for free, again in exchange for feedback. More than 7000 classrooms in 40 countries around the world are already using Minecraft to help children educate children on social skills, problem solving skills, empathy, and even to help improve their literacy.
Microsoft’s hope is that Minecraft can keep kids engaged while teachers use it to explore other subjects. Educators will have to build out worlds that connect with whatever they’re teaching, be it a setting in a book or a historic structure. In one example on the game’s website, an enormous blocky model of the human eye has been made, meant for students to venture inside of to see how it works.
Worlds and lesson plans will be collected on Education Edition’s website, but Microsoft isn’t going to be making these on its own. It’ll be up to teachers to create instructive worlds, and therein could be the problem. Creating a Minecraft world is a time-consuming process — and that’s true even for people who are familiar with Minecraft. Getting teachers to create lesson after lesson just isn’t practical.
That means the success of Education Edition lies in large part on the broader community of educators. If there aren’t enough teachers out there who want to make and share worlds and lesson plans for Minecraft, it’s going to be hard to get a lot of people using it.