Last week, I had the opportunity to participate in the string of interviews for the release of the new Minecraft Education Edition and I’ve been eagerly anticipating how others would respond at the today’s news of its summer 2016 release.
By now, attendees at the BETT conference in London have experienced a sneak peek into the future of Minecraft in the classroom. I imagine that they were excited about the internal camera block, student portfolio, interactive map and single file export. I also imagine that they were as excited as I am about not having to set up a server anymore or about students being able to download and play at home. For a second, they were probably okay with the pricing model of $5/user and then they walked away, did the math and connected with the fact that where minecraftedu was a one time seat license fee, this new Minecraft Education Edition is a yearly subscription per student and teacher. In a climate where schools barely have money for paper, this can get quite pricey.
Now…hear me out on this next part and I mean this coming from someone in a high poverty rural community without accessible devices for every student. Don’t get caught up on pricing.
I always said that If I had it my way, I would send every kid home with a copy of minecraft as I know first hand how powerful of a program it is and can be. It’s just never been financially feasible to do so. At $5/student (even lower with volume pricing), we can now do that.
In addition, we pay yearly subscription fees for programs like Discovery Education, Brainpop and a nice collection of content based assessment tools…programs that our students barely access. (That’s an entirely different story) At least with DE, kids can download media to remix in projects but if we value creative learning, minecraft should be a choice too.
In other words, perhaps we should consider what we value and what matters to our students. I’m not saying that we should not have math/science/reading programs but we should consider that perhaps if we look at how kids learn differently, in lieu of multiple choice, we might see progress in ways that we are unable to imagine. That was my experience with Minecraft anyway.
Is Minecraft for You?
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal where the writer quoted the senior policy analyst of the NEA saying basically that Minecraft was a supplementary tool that could not fit the bill in the classroom and should simply be an after school program. (Clearly, he is dead wrong on this)
I have no idea if the senior policy analyst of the NEA has ever actually been a classroom teacher but I imagine that if he were, he taught with desks in perfect rows and classrooms as quiet as a mouse. If he used any technology at all, it was provided by the text book company and deviating from that would have been a sin. In addition, I imagine that if he were to look for apps for teaching, he would have insisted only on those that provided complete and total teacher control because heaven forbid kids learn something that wasn’t itemized in the standards.
Basically, Minecraft is probably not his thing and if this describes your classroom or the culture of learning in your building, it’s probably not for you either.
…Unless, you are willing to give up control, give students choice in how they show/share learning or simply accept that sometimes kids just need access to create amazing things, whether they use it in the classroom or not…
I will tell you that in my school district, we will struggle with having computers for kids to use Minecraft in school. We utilize a virtual network and right now, we are exploring options to add graphics cards to our servers. We have minecraft via ipad, but it won’t be compatible with Minecraft Edu Edition just as it isn’t with Minecraft EDU.
I’m still going to put it in my budget to provide Minecraft for all of our students, grades 3-8. I’m doing it because even if teachers aren’t entirely ready, kids are. The fact of the matter is that to start, it’s not about teaching teachers the mechanics of how minecraft works but the mechanics of asking more thought-provoking questions that lead to ideation and creation. It’s about empowering teachers to see that there is value in expression and for many of our kids, Minecraft creates pathways towards that. In year 1, we may only have 10 teachers across the district who actively include Minecraft in instruction but we’ll have a district of kids who know that it is available to them.
Perhaps, like tonight, our kids will help our teachers get there sooner than later.