I remember the first time I played a video game. I was five years old, playing with my next door neighbor until he invited me inside to play Super Mario Brothers on his Super Nintendo. Until then I had never heard of “Nintendo,” let alone of a “game console.” As soon as I picked up the grey and purple controller, I began a lifelong journey into my virtual life, dominated by multiple consoles and multitudes of games.
I was hooked.
Contrary to what my mother led me to believe (you know, the whole “video games will make you violent and stupid” mantra), I learned many important skills from playing video games, including problem solving, hand-to-eye coordination, developed my ability to multi-task, and even learned different forms of storytelling as games became more complex. Study after study find benefits from playing video games, including improved spatial attention and improve rapid problem solving.
Major video game developers are finally taking notice of these benefits and are developing games meant specifically for the education field, including popular titles like Minecraft. Following the enormous success of this specific open-world building game, the developers (Mojang) have reworked their flagship title into an education-based platform: Minecraft Education Edition.
In addition to potential tech upgrades, (including school administration software) here is a summary of everything you need to know about Minecraft Education Edition.
Why use video games in the classroom?
There are plenty of cognitive and brain development benefits to children playing video games, but the perks go deeper than that. In terms of education, video games open the door to new teaching methods and student experiences to explore.
For example, a 2013 SRI study on the effects of introducing digital gaming into K-16 classrooms found, “When digital games were compared to other instruction conditions without digital games, there was a moderate to strong effect in favor of digital games in terms of broad cognitive competencies.”
What this means is that those students studied in the non-digital control group would’ve seen a stronger outcome in terms of cognitive learning had digital games been introduced to their group. According to SRI, the increase would have been as high as 12%.
So, not only are video games proven to have general benefits to mental development, but they also have a significant impact on the quality of learning in the classroom.
What is Minecraft Education Edition?
The original Minecraft is a massive open-world building-block game made for players to develop their own worlds any way they wish. As you can imagine, this creative outlet has opened the door for amazing projects, including Eiffel Towers…
and Minas Tirith replicas from Lord of the Rings.
In Minecraft, there are no limits!
So, what makes Minecraft Education Edition different from the original edition?
Education Edition builds on the creative paradise of Minecraft with new capabilities for students and teachers to collaborate and foster lessons in a classroom setting. Students are able to send in-game screenshots to their teachers for assessment and input.
Once signed up for Education Edition, teachers are given access to the community built around sharing lesson plans, participating discussion boards, and finding other schools to collaborate with in this massive world. Teachers who specialize in math and visual arts have had particular success with this game.
What is the cost?
Of course all of this sounds wonderful, but what does all of this cost in terms of the actual program and the devices needed to run the game?
As far as the game is concerned, there are two different pricing systems. If you operate a small, single class school, the $5 per user per year plan probably suits your needs. As for larger schools (100+ students) with multiple classrooms using the game, Mojang/Microsoft offers volume licensing through the Microsoft Enrollment for Education Solutions program. Volume licensing pricing varies based on the size of your school and the plan that you choose.
However, software cost is only half of the equation, since certain tech specs are required to run the game.
In order to run Minecraft Education Edition, your school devices must be running either Windows 10 or macOS. OS updates are free for Apple products, however if your school is running an older version Windows, you either have to choose between individual licenses for small classes or volume licensing for larger schools. Chances are, if your school has already purchased volume licensing for Windows, students may be eligible for Windows 10 Education for Students at no cost.
How about support?
It’s no mystery that transitions from traditional learning to more technical methods will lead to temporary hangups, new learning curves for facilitators, and eventual technical issues, which is why Mojang offers training resources for educators and students, as well as technical/functional support through a community knowledge base and question submission.
Creative lesson planning
The online education community and Mojang frequently collaborate to develop lesson plans to keep classroom fresh and relevant to the needs of students. Lessons span across multiple subjects (math, science, language arts, history, visual art, etc.) and age levels (3 years – 14+ years).
In The Zone – Politics/Civics/Careers and Management
- Learn about town zoning
- Community governance
- Commercial vs. residential development
- Build the results of mathematical problems in multiple world areas
- Students challenge other fellow students to solve their equations
- Collaborate to solve problems
The Great Pyramids of Giza – History/Geography
- Explore constructed replicas of the Great Pyramids
- Research Pharaohs, architectural styles, and ancient Egyptian culture
Minecraft Boolean Logic – Computer Science
- Learn about and solve basic logic gates
Fairy Tale Reimagined – Language Arts/Visual Arts
- Recreate a fairy tale inside of Minecraft
- Demonstrate basic storytelling concepts
- Collaborate in groups to complete construction tasks
These lesson plans and many more available in the lesson plan library on the Minecraft Education Edition website. This library is able to be filtered based on subject and age group to ensure appropriate material for your classes.
More on Minecraft Education Edition?
If you enjoyed this piece on Minecraft and want to learn more about education tech, learning games, and gamification, be sure to check out our other blog posts on the topic:
- The Difference Between Learning Games and Gamification
- The Addicted Gamer’s Guide to Classroom Gamification
- How Virtual Reality will Educate Students into the Future
- The Top Websites for Educational Games
- What Smartphones Can Do for Your Classroom
Have you used Minecraft Education Edition in the classroom?
We learn better when we are having fun, not only for children, but for adults as well. There may be untold cognitive and social benefits of teachers facilitating video games in the classroom that we haven’t yet discovered.
While it is helpful to listen to me go on-and-on about the benefits of Minecraft Education Edition, nothing is more helpful than user testimony. If you’ve implemented Minecraft into your lesson plans, let us know how it worked for you in the comments below!