Minecraft education has come as angels in disguise for teachers and students alike during the pandemic. The pandemic had caused a severe disruption in the academic lives of students of schools, colleges, and universities.
It was particularly hard for teachers of the primary sections as it would be next to impossible to keep the students’ attention from straying during the online classes.
Hence the teachers started looking for alternative ways and tools to make remote learning fun. In the month of March, video game giant, Minecraft rolled out its new feature called Minecraft Education.educators and learners It is available to those users who have a valid Office 365 Education account. Microsoft Education is a game-based learning platform that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive digital environment.
Minecraft boasts of having educators in more than 115 countries using Minecraft: Education Edition across their curriculum. Sixty-three million pieces of content have been downloaded by educators since March.
Minecraft Education: For Gamers And Teachers
The Minecraft education isn’t new to the market, but it has served as a savior to various educators across the world in these chaotic times. It was officially launched in 2016. However, with the Education edition, Microsoft created a more formal structure that allows students to learn subjects ranging from Coding to Chemistry. They can even explore the International Space Station (ISS).
Minecraft – Education is extremely different from other educational games because it is actually entertaining. Features like classroom multiplayer allow students to collaborate on projects in their Minecraft worlds, building, planning, learning and even chatting as they work together. They can perform activities like building a library to virtually attending a rock concert or exploring the ecosystem and biodiversity through a virtual safari. There are also many games that have been designed to educate the youngsters while some old games have been adapted to suit the current situation.
“We started with this premise that Minecraft is a game used in education and not an educational game,” says Deirdre Quarnstrom. She is the General Manager of the Minecraft Atlas division, which focuses on broader initiatives like education.
Minecraft as a game is one that is very popular amongst youngsters and incorporating educational materials was a stroke of genius. Even before the introduction of Minecraft- Education Microsoft has spent a considerable amount of time building extensive libraries of lesson plans that include history, math, science, arts, and literature. The look of the game is functionally similar to the Minecraft base game. However, one of the major differences between the two is that the game is basically about freeform creation and survival while Minecraft-Education is more direct in its approach.
It provides immersive STEM learning through project-based lessons. The aim of this approach is to build critical 21st-century skills like collaboration, creative problem solving, and digital citizenship.
In one of the lessons, students get the opportunity to explore a beehive. They get to learn about different bee castes by feeding larvae or helping worker bees.
They can also be a part of challenges where they have to work with their fellow peers to create the human eye or the Mars Rover. Some other examples are writing essays on shipwrecks after analyzing one or doing an assignment on a certain subject after watching a video and playing related games.
Since the pandemic, Minecraft has recorded a massive number of members who have availed the education services. They have however not really changed the structure of the game, but have directed their focus into finding innovative ways to interact with the community. They have found innovative ways to onboard and communicate new educators and package their education materials. That meant putting together new remote learning kits for teachers, as well as additional resources for parents to help kids get set-up while at home. It allows educators to be on the same page as their students who are more digitally inclined and connect with each other to exchange ideas and opinions.
Minecraft offers different features to different users depending on the age demographic. While art lessons are provided to 6-year-olds, courses for high school are based on STEM subjects. Similarly, for college students who are more interested in the social aspect of Minecraft – they can use the base game to create their campuses.
The development of the above features have been fast-tracked due to the pandemic. They realized that it would be a great opportunity to connect with more educators and students. One of their most significant and recent announcements was Minecraft supporting Chromebooks. The game is already available on Mac, iPad, or PC but Chromebooks are inexpensive and thus have a wider audience.
Made for all?
The question arises whether every student be able to access these services since not every student has access to the same tools or parental guidance. A lot of upgrades have to be made to the site to properly integrate these connectivity concerns. However, Quarnstrom says “Broadening which devices we’re available on will help address some of those equity concerns.”
When students collaborate remotely in Minecraft: Education Edition, it presents new opportunities for them to build communication and problem-solving skills together. Mark Henkels, a Minecraft educator in New York, says, “It’s the social interaction that really is a major part of why the game is so popular and great. And that social interaction is what makes the game such a great educational environment.”
Quarnstrom says that since there is a lot of uncertainty in these times she hopes that a tool like Minecraft – Education will help provide some stability.