A New Hope
Since its announcement prior to BETT 2016 on Tuesday 19th January, Minecraft: Education Edition has been causing quite a stir across the globe. Visit education.minecraft.net to read the full announcement and keep up to date with news and progress. But if you are reading this then I’m guessing you already have an interest in Minecraft as a learning tool and therefore I’ll spare you the details here.
It was obvious at Minecon 2015 that the new Windows 10 Edition of Minecraft was really a way to Beta test the platform on which Microsoft would build its education package of the game. Many questioned this move and ridiculed the limited feature set compared to the PC version of the game. Discussions were had across the community: Would it alienate Apple users? Where are the command blocks? What happened to sticky pistons? Where do my world save files go?
It has been a long road since Minecon in July and I have had many discussions with numerous Minecraft educators, community members and content creators along the way. The hundreds of thousands of hours that the community has collectively invested in Minecraft as a learning platform looked under threat and tools that we rely on seemed to have been forgotten. Again questions were asked: Will my worlds still work? Can I add “mods” such as Custom NPC’s and ComputerCraftEdu? Will the MinecraftEdu classroom management tools be included? Will I still be able to use WorldEdit and MCEdit to help create and edit content? Will I be able to use my existing resources?
I’m going to leave my thoughts on the pricing structure until more is known. And yes, I know, it’s the biggest issue that has caused the most upset and disgruntlement. But let us pause and draw breath until further details emerge. There are however other costs involved, outside the subscription fee, that simply must be addressed. I suspect they will be but for now they remain a concern.
Before we enter this exciting stage together I’d like you to remember back to your first experience of Minecraft while I share mine. Maybe you experienced Minecraft in its own beta format over 6 years ago. Maybe you stumbled across it this week at BETT. Or maybe, like me, you were sucked in by your children. If, like me, you have grown with Minecraft as it has evolved it is important today to connect back with those first few blocks and remember why you started your journey.
My journey began 3 years ago when my son asked if he could try the Pocket Edition demo on his tablet. So one wet Saturday afternoon we both installed it (and within hours went on to purchase the full version) and spent many happy hours building modest houses together. Were we put off by the small world size or lack of caves to explore? Of course not. We enjoyed creating, crafting and exploring together. As with all things, our experience grew. We watched YouTube together and were hooked by the incredible story telling of people like StampyLongHead, iBallisticsquid and Finnball (Ask your kids. They’ll be more than happy to fill you in!). We developed onto the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of the game and ultimately onto the PC version together and I discovered it had a profound effect on his engagement with writing. I integrated Minecraft into my own classroom and developed projects for reluctant readers and writers, SEN students with communication and social interaction difficulties and to teach real world navigation and map reading skills among many others. Along the way I have learned from some of the greatest creative minds in the Minecraft community and my thanks go out to all of them (you know who you are!). But I’ll never forget that first discovery of creating an infinite water source to help fill our glass bottomed, rooftop swimming pool where my journey began. As we start this next adventure in Minecraft together it is important to reconnect with that first experience and remember exactly why we chose to begin it in the first place.
We are entering exciting but uncertain times for Minecraft in Education and so I want to explore my thoughts regarding the future of Minecraft: Education Edition over a series of posts rather than write one epic piece. I hope you’ll stick with me. Feel free to comprehend, communicate, collaborate, create, compute and craft (the 6 C’s of Minecraft) along with me in the run up to Minecon 2016 and the (prediction alert!) launch of the full version of Minecraft: Education Edition.