Minecraft is one of the most successful games to have appeared within the last decade, with over 121 million copies being sold across all platforms by as recent as February 2017. Children all around the world are familiar with the open-world game, where they can let their creativity soar, and their imagination run riot. In January 2016, Microsoft purchased Mojang and the Minecraft intellectual property for £1.5 billion. At around the same time, Microsoft announced that they were planning to release an educational version of the game, in the form of Minecraft: Education Edition.
Why is Minecraft so popular?
Minecraft has become an incredibly popular game for a number of reasons, and the popularity of the game does not just exist within the realm of children, with people of all ages enjoying the game. The reality of the matter is that it is quite difficult to determine exactly why Minecraft is so popular, as different people play the game in different ways. There are two main styles of gameplay:
- Creative: The creative mode within Minecraft is quite unique, as it acts as a platform where all that you need is your own imagination. It gives you an inventory of different building materials, food, and a variety of other items that you can use as you please. Children frequently use the creative platform to build houses, and even cities.
- Survival: The survival mode within Minecraft is quite different to the creative mode. Your character starts with no tools, and no shelter. The main aim is to build tools and a shelter before nightfall, when the monsters start to spawn at random. This turns an open world adventure into something even more entertaining for children, as it gives them a real goal to accomplish.
No matter which style of gameplay a child chooses, their imagination and ingenuity really is the key. The world of Minecraft is created at random, and it can contain a variety of terrains and areas that go on for miles. This means that children can do a lot of exploring, adventuring, and surviving. By moving away from the linear gameplay of the majority of games, Minecraft has successfully created a unique platform that children can turn into their own world.
What makes Minecraft: Education Edition different?
The Education Edition of Minecraft is quite different when compared to the standard edition of Minecraft, as it contains a number of features that have been specifically developed for use within an educational environment, such as a school. Some of the additional benefits that Minecraft: Education Edition can bring to a classroom environment include:
- Minecraft: Education Edition has the ability to allow pupils to document and study their own creative experiences, to see just how much they grow and improve while they are playing the game. They can document all of their experiences while playing the game using an in-game camera, and the photographs are all stored in an online book where they can make their own notes.
- Immersive environments are important whenever education is involved, and as much as we can attempt to create an immersive environment within our classrooms, it can be difficult to get each individual child interested. The world itself actually draws children into it, as non-player characters’ act as tour guides within the game. These tour guides also have the ability to provide children with links to additional educational resources.
- Minecraft: Education Edition can also be used as a handy tool for us to use to promote teamwork, with a number of pre-built tasks that have been designed specifically for groups of children to tackle. Children can work together and plan what they will build, before constructing their own plans in the open-world environment to meet the requirements for specific tasks. Given the laid back nature of the platform it would be rare for this to result in disagreements.
A fantastic example of a task set out for students in the world of Minecraft: Education Edition was thought of by an American school teacher. The children set out to re-create their own school within the open-world platform, but this was not as simple as just making it look similar. They went around the entire school taking measurements, and learning how to estimate accurately for external structures. They then converted these measurements to work out the accurate number of blocks that they would need, and worked in small teams to finish the task.
As educators, Minecraft: Education Edition can provide us with a fantastic platform that allows us to inspire and motivate children to achieve their full potential, using their own imagination to solve problems. It accurately brings the classroom and curriculum to students in an environment that the majority of children are already both comfortable and confident with. As teachers, security should always be our main concern. There is a locator map that we can use to see what all of our pupils are doing, and the classroom can work together on a single server without any outside influence.
Around 7000 classrooms around the world are already using the programme with a lot of success, and there is a massive library of online content that we can use to teach students. One example is a fantastic structure that shows how the inside of the eye operates, and children can go inside of the eye and see that for themselves. One of our favourite features of the programme is the fact that children are permitted to download the software outside of the classroom. This means that they also have access to the educational software at home, in the form of a successful and fun game.