Nov 30 2016

What Is Minecraft: Education Edition, and How Do You Get It?

A K–12 technology leader shares tips for accessing and deploying Microsoft’s educational game.

Microsoft’s full version of Minecraft: Education Edition gives schools everywhere access to the incredibly popular block-building game. The new edition also became available to camps, clubs, homeschool organizations and nonprofits in the summer of 2021, expanding beyond its original availability to K–12 schools.

Minecraft: Education Edition, which welcomed 2 million users in its first year, initially allowed more than 35,000 teachers and students to test the new edition, submitting comments that Microsoft then used to fine-tune features.

According to Deirdre Quarnstrom, vice president of Microsoft Education Experiences, what resulted from that feedback was an educational tool that promotes creativity, collaboration and advanced problem-solving — all skills that are essential to 21st century learning.

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What Is Minecraft: Education Edition?

Minecraft: Education Edition is built with teaching and learning in mind. The lessons — more than 600 of them — are designed to encourage collaboration, creativity, critical thinking and more. They span myriad topics, including coding; science, technology, engineering and math; equity and inclusion; language arts; social-emotional learning; and much more.

These online, gamified lessons engage students in learning in a way that is fun and interactive. The lessons are exclusively available in the game’s education edition.

In 2021, Minecraft released a new lesson for the edition called “Good Trouble: Lessons in Social Justice.” Co-created by Felisa Ford, who was named one of EdTech’s top K–12 IT influencers this year, the lesson explores social justice movements around the world.

How Is Minecraft: Education Edition Beneficial in K–12 Schools?

Rafranz Davis, executive director of professional and digital learning at Lufkin Independent School District in Texas, agrees that the game provides new learning opportunities and an environment where students thrive.

Her district has already incorporated Minecraft into a variety of lesson plans: Students in history class recreate famous historical sites, for example, while students in science class dream up circuit-powered machines.

MORE ON EDTECH: Mobile labs bring STEM lessons to K–12 students.

“It’s a space where children can build and learn based on where their imagination takes them,” she says of the game.

Lufkin ISD made plans to implement Minecraft: Education Edition as soon as it was available. Davis submitted a purchase order for 8,000 licenses.

How to Get and Implement Minecraft Education

As schools consider bringing Minecraft: Education Edition to their classrooms, it’s important for IT leaders to remember that rollouts don’t happen overnight.

Davis, who manages instructional technology for Lufkin ISD, and her staff worked closely with the IT department to make sure everything went smoothly.

Minecraft: Education Edition requires Windows 10 and licenses for the machines that the game will be running on. At the time, Lufkin’s PCs were running Windows 7, so operating systems had to be updated districtwide.

While the IT staff handled the hardware and OS aspects of the implementation, Davis managed the Minecraft software itself, from procurement and licensing to managing user accounts online. The game is licensed via a yearly subscription, and there are technical support and training videos available to help educators get started.

Davis says Minecraft: Education Edition is much easier to manage than other versions of the game. With the new version, Office 365 handles the login process, so a separate server is no longer necessary. The platform also features single sign-on capabilities.

Despite the ease-of-use improvements, Davis recommends providing teachers with training. At Lufkin ISD, she holds collaborative learning events where students help teachers learn to play the game. Minecraft’s features win them over from there.

“These tools help teachers manage the learning process and give students the room to learn in a safe space, while maintaining agency of their own creativity,” she says.

DISCOVER: Influener and educator Felisa Ford shares details on her inclusive Minecraft lesson.

Iaroslava Kaliuzhna/Getty Images

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