Microsoft wants kids playing Minecraft in class, and it’s hoping that schools will not just let them, but support them. It’s launching a version of Minecraft today called Minecraft: Education Edition that includes some classroom tools and a way to roll out accounts to every student in a class or district.
The app has been in development since last January, when Microsoft purchased a mod working toward the same goal. The educational tools went into a beta period this summer, with Microsoft hoping to have a full release ready by the time school started. It missed that date by a couple months, but the game is now ready to go on both Windows 10 and macOS.
Despite the new name, Education Edition isn’t dramatically different from regular Minecraft. It’s pretty much the same game, just with some tools that’ll make things easier for teachers — there’s a way to see where all their students are on a map, give students different resources, and teleport people to specific locations. There are also a few new in-game items,
including a camera and a chalkboard.
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.
The game is available to schools starting today, for $5 per student for a year’s subscription.