Educational Minecraft has officially launched in South Africa. While at its core it is the same general experience, Minecraft for education does offer some unique advantages, but I find it most intriguing the myriad ways it could be applied in schools. I’ve already written before about the benefits of gaming, and integrating gaming into schools can actually make education more interesting for kids, while also helping to prepare them better for the modern world they will be entering when they leave school behind.
Minecraft: Education Edition can be played pretty much like normal Minecraft. However, there are some key differences (other than the fact it is only available for purchase to educators) that differentiate it, mainly around security. It’s much easier for schools and teachers to set up local networks for their students, allowing them to play with each other without needing servers or playing with strangers. Teachers can also set limits for the size of the world, or simply pen in students, pick them up and place them in particular areas as needed. Most importantly for educators, the education edition allows users to take pictures in games, create a portfolio and then export that portfolio; this means that teachers could ask students to take pictures of their Minecraft work, and then view those images without needing the game on their device.
I keep thinking about subjects that could have benefitted from this in school. World War 1 is often taught in such a way that it’s just a series of boring battles and trench foot. But imagine playing Valiant Hearts as part of your education, and then building trenches in Minecraft and needing to show off your work with trenches, flags showing the different camps, and even automated machine guns? That’s what’s possible now, and makes subjects come to life in new ways, encouraging students to ask questions they might not have otherwise. At the launch event, the speaker even showed off a project students made that used Minecraft to show how blood could move to kidneys, prompting the movement of water that would fill up a bladder – all in Minecraft.
The latest research about the job market shows that creativity is paramount to success. But how do you teach creativity in schools? How do you foster creativity when you have a set curriculum to teach? Well, it seems that Minecraft: Education Edition might just become a part of that in some schools. I just wish watching and playing that game didn’t make me so nauseous – despite all my work to overcome simulator sickness, I still just can’t handle Minecraft.