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Microsoft had previously announced a new version of Minecraft called the Minecraft: Education Edition, but it wasn't just about bringing a new version of the game to the market, it's about bringing a new version of the game to the classroom in local schools.
Originally Microsoft had made a post about the education rendition of Minecraft over on the Microsoft blog. They revealed that the game is already being utilized as an educational tool in more than 7,000 classrooms across 40 different countries. They detail their initiatives in a video you can check out below.
Their next step is to further expand that by focusing the new Minecraft: Education Edition on enhancing student comprehensive, problem solving, and social skills.
In one interesting example, the Alfriston College in New Zealand has utilized Minecraft to recreate the 1915 Gallipoli campaign in the game, yes the same Gallipoli where many Australian soldiers fell during the war in the trench-based battles. You might remember the movie based on that campaign starring Mel Gibson, conveniently called Gallipoli.
They also mention in the blog post that elementary school kids in Scotland are being introduced into Minecraft to learn basic city planning and engineering using the tools provided in the software. Although I don't know how well that would work out given how limited Minecraft is when it comes to architectural physics and actual engineering principles.
I think a better tool for teaching engineering and physics-based design mechanics is the new emergent building game from Axolot Games called Scrap Mechanic. The title enables players to build objects, structures, vehicles, and flying contraptions using actual mechanical theory to propel and move objects around. Players actually have to assign controllers and rig them to various structures to get them to move on command. Bearings, pivots and swivels actually have to be manually designed so that when the object is interacted with it can react, unfold, bend, flex and move according to very specific architectural designations.
Nevertheless, Microsoft is making good on their $2.5 billion investment into Minecraft by utilizing the software to do more than just sell copies to gamers; they want to have the game in as many schools as possible. Just last week, Microsoft actually attended the BETT exhibit in London, England between January 25th and January 28th to demonstrate some of the features and benefits of the education edition of Minecraft.
More recently MNR Daily has reported that schools are picking up the software to use it more-so as a way to recreate structures and locations for students to explore within Mojang's digital emergent sandbox game.
There's really no telling exactly how big an influence Minecraft's education iteration will have on the educational sector, but it's nice that Microsoft is at least utilizing their tools to create an edutainment avenue for teachers and students alike with Mojang's building game.