Minecraft Education: Microsoft announces launch of customised edition for use in schools

Minecraft is already hugely popular among young children - now Microsoft wants to make it educational

Minecraft, a video game which allows players to explore, build and create almost anything they can think of, is famously popular among its legions of young fans.

Microsoft has capitalised on this runaway success by announcing the release of Minecraft: Education Edition, a new version of the game designed to help children learn.

Educational games are traditionally fairly terrible, but the new version of Minecraft still holds all the appeal of the original - some added features include a new map tool, an in-game camera for screenshots, and a whole teacher-focused system that allows educators to put their students in certain environments or give them particular resources.

Mostly, it's still the same game - all of Minecraft's educational qualities are present in the original, but these new features make it easier to use in the classroom. 

Introducing video games to schools may make some roll their eyes, but the freedom and creativity that Minecraft offers to players means it has huge potential.

Using Minecraft's blocks, teachers can show their students around historical landmarks like the Pyramids or ancient Rome. They can show them the structure of molecules, the history of architecture, and provide them with visual (and fun) explanations of core scientific concepts like mass, volume and area.

Some specialist Minecraft blocks can even be used to illustrate the inner workings of computers, or the basics of code.

Copies of the game will cost schools $5 (£3.50) per student, and will be accessed through accounts that children can use at school or at home - allowing them to explore education environments outside the classroom, essentially disguising homework as gaming. 

It's a smart move for Microsoft, which bought Minecraft in 2014, because it could potentially get the game into the hands of millions of young people - the primary goal is education, but obviously Microsoft hopes it will be able to foster a whole new generation of loyal customers.

The company also wants to create a community amongst teachers within the game, allowing them to design, upload and share different maps and lesson plans - an educational expansion of the open Minecraft community that already exists.

Minecraft: Education Edition will launch this summer. It looks like it'll only be released in the US to start with, but the game's popularity is universal, so don't be surprised if it makes it way to the UK soon.

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