Microsoft has announced the launch of an educational edition of the popular computer game Minecraft. The product will offer teachers new ways to use the world-building video game in a range of subjects.
Mojang, Minecraft's Swedish creator, was bought by Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5 billion (£1.8 billion). It then bought the four-year-old MinecraftEdu version of the game from Finland-based independent developer TeacherGaming late last year.
More than 7,000 classrooms around the world are already using the game for teaching, and new features are planned to further enhance its education capabilities. However, this could see schools facing additional costs for the service.
Anthony Salcito, Microsoft's vice-president of worldwide education, told the BBC: "Teachers are using Minecraft to do so many things, including teaching maths, science, religion and poetry. Once we make the tools easier for schools to get access to and employ, I think you'll see that number [of classrooms] grow quite quickly."
The company has confirmed that it plans to allow teachers to start "beta-testing" Minecraft's educational edition at some point "in the summer" without charge, ahead of its formal rollout.
The new edition will have the provision for more collaborative management by teachers, using a range of Microsoft programmes. This will therefore also help the company to promote its word processing, email and file-sharing apps over rival services from Google and others.
The new features were welcomed by Leigh Wolmarans, the headteacher of Lings Primary School in Northampton. His school has been using MinecraftEdu to teach pupils about A Midsummer Night's Dream by asking them to create a performance of Shakespeare's play within the game. He stated that along with dance, art, drama and music, technology is an excellent tool for teaching many subjects.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels