Microsoft today announced the acquisition of MinecraftEdu, and the development of a new classroom version of Minecraft called Minecraft: Education Edition, that will be available as a free trial this summer.
MinecraftEdu, a modded version of Minecraft designed specifically for classroom instruction, is one of the largest formal efforts to date to incorporate Minecraft into the educational space. This software has now become the foundation for Microsoft’s development of a proprietary educational version of the game.
Microsoft is touting advanced maps for ease of navigation in Minecraft worlds, a Student Portfolio feature to help students share their work, the ability to network up to 40 students together into Minecraft sessions, personalized avatars, and the ability to import and export Minecraft worlds, as the primary enhancements included in Minecraft: Education Edition.
Microsoft will release a library of lesson plans in conjunction with Minecraft: Education Edition, and has already released five starter lessons for educators that include a tour of the Great Pyramids of Giza and a lesson on creating pixel art.
The value of Minecraft as an educational has long been understood. In South Australia, children used Minecraft to design a new national park, while 50,000 students in Northern Ireland were given free copies of MinecraftEdu. A recreation of Antarctica in Minecraft allows children to explore the South Pole. Minecraft has even helped children learn how to read.
Microsoft and Minecraft developer Mojang in July 2015 launched a Tumblr called Minecraft in Education, as a community space for teachers to share their techniques for incorporating Minecraft into lesson plans and educational projects. Mojang also supported the development of MinecraftEdu, in partnership with TeacherGaming LLC.
Creating their own, proprietary educational version of Minecraft is both a logical next step for Microsoft and Mojang, and their most formal acknowledgement yet of Minecraft’s usefulness as a teaching tool.
Minecraft: Education Edition and MinecraftEdu will remain separate products. TeacherGaming has posted a new FAQ that details some of the differences between them. MinecraftEdu provides mod support, for example, whereas Minecraft: Education Edition currently does not.
Anyone who has purchased a copy of MinecraftEdu will receive a free one-year subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition when it launches, after which educators will no longer be able to purchase licenses for MinecraftEdu.
Educators and organizations with an existing MinecraftEdu license will still be able to continue using the product, however, even after Minecraft: Education Edition is released.
Microsoft plans to charge $5 per user, per year, for a subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition. Volume licensing will also be available for large academic institutions.
H/T The Verge | Illustration via Minecraft: Education Edition