When I first saw Minecraft Windows 10 Edition at Minecon 2015, my thoughts started buzzing around the potential that the Education Edition would have if it integrated with the Office 365 suite of applications. This is where Microsoft can really push the limits of what has been previously possible for Minecraft in Education.
With a school Office 365 account, students can access the Office suite of applications on pretty much any device capable of accessing the internet. With tools in there such as Sway, Mix and OneNote, the choice of mediums through which to explore and evidence learning in different ways is limited only by the imagination of the user. Minecraft itself presents an almost limitless palette of learning potential. If a student can use their Office 365 sign in to access Minecraft Education Edition on any device (I know it is limited to Windows 10 at the minute but read my thoughts on this here first) like they can the Office 365 suite then we can really push the boundaries of what is possible both within and beyond the classroom walls.
When I saw the news and screen shots emerging from BETT 2016, I was most struck by two things: the new camera and portfolio tools. As an English teacher, the vast majority of my use of Minecraft in Education revolves around the exploration and creation of stories. How to evidence these once created has previously been a somewhat cumbersome and disjointed affair. Using screenshots from the Minecraft environments required a significant amount of file navigation resulting in a loss of actual learning time. The ability to export these shots directly from the students’ portfolio into a specified OneDrive folder is a major step forward and allows much easier integration with other applications. But why stop there? If students were able to specify a default folder to always export to but were also asked which application to export directly into it would further cut file navigation time and leave more learning time.
For example, I have used PowerPoint to create Choose-Your-Own-Adventure stories for a while now. Students write the set up (paragraph one let’s say) on slide one of the presentation. At the end of the paragraph the reader is presented with two options for continuing the story. Students create hyperlinks from the first option to slide two where the story is continued along that progression path. They also create a link from the second option to slide three where that progression path is explored. I moved this into OneNote with linked pages and collaboration space so groups of students could work on different paths of the same story. Sounds complicated but in practice it works well to instil the principles of paragraphing. I developed this by having students build the story lines in a Minecraft environment and use a screenshot to illustrate the choices on offer. If the camera tool allowed students to specify which slide or page in OneNote they wanted to export to, it would speed up this process exponentially. If my learning intention is how to structure a story or when to start a new paragraph but the majority of the time is spent navigating folders, what am I really teaching my students?
One key development I’d like to see (and I strongly suspect it is already in the pipelines) is the ability to place the in game camera and have it follow the student whilst capturing video and audio. The ability to demonstrate learning in game is key to the success of Minecraft in Education. Having a student give a guided tour of their build or being able to capture their explanation of how they solved a redstone problem would be a really powerful learning tool. From my perspective I would be able to capture role plays and video story pathways whilst still being able to export to OneNote to document and evidence the learning.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of my thoughts on Office 365 integration but I think you get the idea. A single sign in to access both the suite of applications and the Minecraft environment is a massive step forward. With the addition of in game tools that better communicate with this suite the learning potential is huge. I am really excited to see how this develops.