Originally developed by Mojang and then bought by Microsoft for $2.5 billion in 2014 after an immense rise to popularity, the sandbox-style game Minecraft has been put to creative use by educators. Players collect and then use a variety of Lego-style blocks with different properties to build structures and protect themselves from enemy creatures, writes Chris Wilton of Gear Burn. The game encourages creativity, collaboration, experimentation, and STEM skills and thinking styles.
Now, Microsoft has launched a site for teachers and educators that encourages them to include Minecraft in their lesson plan.
The site details Microsoft’s commitment to supporting the use of Minecraft in the classroom:
Very soon after Minecraft launched, we noticed teachers bringing the game into their classrooms. Often inspired by the passion of their students, they started using Minecraft to design history lessons, teach language classes, explore mathematics, physics, computer science, writing, and more.
Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s President of Worldwide Education, provided an idea of how educators are already putting the game to work.
Elementary students in Seattle are learning foundational math skills my calculating perimeter, area, and volume in Minecraft during a Saturday math program. Middle school students in Los Angeles are learning about major world religions as part of their humanities class. They are visiting sacred sites in their city, researching international sites, and then building them in Minecraft.
Alfriston College students in New Zealand are partnering with Auckland War Memorial Museum to learn the history of the New Zealand people who served in the 1915 Gallipoli campaign by re-creating the landscape in Minecraft, block by block. Middle schoolers are learning the building blocks of computer science in an online Minecraft coding camp. Elementary students in Scotland are learning about city planning and engineering by reimagining, redesigning, and then building in Minecraft what they think Dundee waterfront should look like.
This list, however long, still isn’t comprehensive. There’s MinecraftEdu, a version of Minecraft specifically designed for schools, which is scheduled to be supplied to every secondary school in Northern Ireland. LearnToMod is an add-on for the game by the US company ThoughtSTEM that teaches kids programming skills. A mod called qCraft, developed by Google, MinecraftEdu, and Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter, teaches children about quantum computing.
It seems that Microsoft’s acquisition of Minecraft had an educational bent all along, writes Molly Brown of Geek Wire. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella said around the time of the sale:
If you talk about STEM education, the best way to introduce anyone to STEM or get their curiosity going on, it’s Minecraft.
This announcement is just before the game’s convention, Minecon, writes Stuart Dredge of the Guardian. Microsoft will be one of the exhibitors at the London event, and several panels will deal with Minecraft’s place in the classroom.
The game is accessible to students of all ages, writes David Purcell of Game Zone, and available on the PC, XBox, or Playstation. Since the game’s launch in 2009, it has sold more than 70 million copies.