The education version of the sandbox video game Minecraft will be available for teachers to download for free next month. Among a handful of announcements Microsoft Corporation made Thursday, the software giant provided more details on the education edition of the game published by Swedish game development studio Mojang.
Tech Crunch reports that the Redmond software giant had revealed that it was expanding its investment to the popular sandbox game it bought in 2014, by creating a school edition called Minecraft Education Edition. Redmond plans to run a beta program with more than 100 schools from 30 nations worldwide, who will be able to test the application in their classrooms.
The edition will start its life as an early access program in June. Engadget explained that the aim is to provide teachers a chance to give the popular sandbox video game a test run over the summer break so they can examine how the software fits into their school program, while giving feedback along the way.
The new edition of Minecraft will allow teachers to create lesson plans, build re-usable class projects, or share learning activity ideas with colleagues. PC Magazine noted that the exploration element of the open-world game could be useful for storytelling, with learners able to introduce their own adventures.
Microsoft to open Minecraft Education Edition beta in May. Any school will be able to access the education version of the block building game, which is customized for teaching kids things such as navigation, empathy, collaboration and social skills. The application will include enhanced maps with coordinates, while users can capture snapshots of their work to a dedicated portfolio.
The edition includes a few lesson plans such as a tour of the Pyramids of Giza, Temple of Artemis, and the Anderson Shelters used in World War II. The application will be a free download for both Windows and OS X in a few months, but a beta version is set to launch next month with around 100 schools. After this initial phase of testing and feedback, the program will start sometime in June.
Minecraft has served as a testing ground for multiple initiatives recently, including AI research and corporate team-building. In March, CDA News reported that Microsoft’s artificial intelligence initiative called Project AIX plans to use the game to facilitate AI development. As part of its effort to introduce an education-focused edition, Redmond also bought MinecraftEdu, a firm that created a modified version of the game for schools.
The classroom version of Minecraft will become available in beta starting next month. The edition requires machine running OS X El Capitan or Windows 10, and an Office 365 account. There is also a site where teachers can look at sample lessons and connect with mentors who already use Microsoft’s sandbox game in their teaching.
By Anila Maring
Photo Courtesy Microsoft