Mojang’s free-form game of building, survival, and exploration isn’t just one of the most popular games of all time — it has also been used extensively in classrooms around the world for the last few years. Furthering that use, Microsoft, which acquired Mojang in late 2014, has just announced Minecraft: Education Edition, which will be available for schools to try out in a global free trial this coming summer, in time for the new school year.
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Rather than starting from scratch, Microsoft also acquired MinecraftEdu to serve as the foundation for the Education Edition. MinecraftEdu is an expanded version of the game, developed for classrooms by the independent educational developer TeacherGaming. It adds features such as custom blocks and teacher controls to empower educators and facilitate in-game interactions. Since it launched in 2011, more than 3,000 teachers in 40+ countries around the world have already used MinecraftEdu, including every secondary school in Northern Ireland. TeacherGaming has also developed an education-focused edition of Kerbal Space Program. Schools that have already purchased MinecraftEdu can continue using at as normal. They will also be given a free one-year subscription to Microsoft’s newly-expanded services when it launches.
In addition to the expanded game itself, Microsoft is also launching a new community site at https://education.minecraft.net. This will allow educators to share resources such as lesson plans and best practices. It will also host a new program called Minecraft Mentors, which will connect experienced teachers with those utilizing Minecraft in the classroom for the first time.
Microsoft also announced a public preview of Learning Tools for OneNote. This hackathon-winning variant on Microsoft’s note-taking application is specially designed for students, with additional features that will improve the experience of students with educational challenges such as dyslexia. The expanded toolbar adds features like immersive reading, enhanced dictation, and focus mode, with the goal of allowing students to learn in the way best suited to their particular needs.