Tuesday, January 19, 2016

New Minecraft for Schools this Summer

Microsoft has announced that they will launch a Minecraft: Education Edition to work as an expanded version of the current Minecraftedu Program. For those who don't know, Minecraft has really evolved over the years to become a cornerstone of teaching with video games in and out of the classroom setting. It's been utilized by the United Nations since 2014, in conjunction with Games for Change, to help poverty stricken countries or areas hit by natural disasters to rebuild by using Minecraft to create a new city structure as a planning tool. Minecraftedu was created for teachers, by teachers as a way to help kids in the classroom. Not only does it teach them about spatial awareness and creating buildings, but it encourages group discussions, leadership and team building, and in-depth problem solving skills that can be applied to the real world.

The Education Edition is not a new game but will add new features to the current version that educators and schools are using. It will also host lesson plans and open up the community portal for more feedback. The features that stand out to me are the enhanced multiplayer, which allows up to 40 people to play on one world. Right now there's a server limit, usually about 8 to 12 people before it gets super laggy and crashes. But this expanded user limit will allow more legitimate classroom sizes (because really, what school only has class sizes of 8 or less people?) to experience Minecraft learning at the same time. There will be custom logins and avatars so every student can develop their own character instead of the default avatars - more personalization typically leads to more engagement.

World imports, exports, and sharing! Now teachers and students will be able to create their own worlds from scratch, save them, and share them to other Minecraftedu users. A great way to build lesson plans and grow from the success of others - why reinvent the wheel when someone else has already made one?

It's a big step forward in bringing video games into the classroom. The Education Edition will release this summer with a $5 price tag to schools, museums, and learning facilities.

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