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Mojang announces upcoming title Minecraft: Education Edition

Microsoft has purchased MinecraftEdu and will be releasing Minecraft: Education Edition this summer - but is this as good for education as it sounds, or just another attempt to monetize learning?

Enormously popular sandbox construction game Minecraft has long been used for educational purposes - and now Microsoft (which purchased Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014) has acquired the rights to the teaching tool MinecraftEdu, according to an announcement on Mojang's official blog.

MinecraftEdu was created in 2011 through a partnership between Mojang and TeacherGaming founder Joel Levin to help teachers use Minecraft in the classroom to teach a variety of subjects and concepts - everything from digital citizenship to physics and more. The intention was to make the game adaptable to the classroom, and to make it more affordable to teachers and schools that wished to implement Minecraft as a revolutionary part of their curriculum.

Now Mojang and Microsoft intend to carry on that tradition with the new Minecraft: Education Edition. The development of this new edition will be, according to the blog, "a collaborative thing," incorporating the ideas of educators worldwide, and will be available this summer as a free trial; additionally, all current users of MinecraftEdu will receive one free year of Minecraft: Education Edition. According to the game's FAQ, Mojang currently intends to offer the game to educational institutions at the cost of $5 per user per year. Unlike MinecraftEduEducational Edition will also be offered to homeschooling families.

Microsoft and Mojang hope to bring Minecraft to more classrooms than ever before. Image courtesy of PlanetMinecraft.

On the surface, it sounds like a great idea - the money that corporate giant Microsoft can invest into such a program can allow educational uses of the game to grow by leaps and bounds - particularly with constant input from experienced educators.

But there's also the concern that this could contribute to the growing monetization of learning. While this teaching tool has been made affordable to teachers and students, what happens if Microsoft decides that owning MinecraftEdu is not enough? Is there a chance that they could use litigation to stifle educational efforts that have used neither of these tools - projects like Molcraft for teaching chemistry, or the user-created, fully operational in-world hard drives?

Perhaps such concerns are merely alarmist, and Microsoft will simply continue to encourage such ingenuity, with or without their Education Edition. Only time will tell. 

For now, all we can do is wait and watch as we continue to build, grow, and - perhaps most importantly - have fun.

Published Jan. 19th 2016

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