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Want to Bring Minecraft: Education Edition into Your Classroom? Here are 6 Things You Need to Know

The highly-anticipated Minecraft: Education Edition was launched by Microsoft on November 1.

Perhaps you’ve already tested it out months ago; designed for educators by educators, a trial version of the software was available to educators for free leading up to the official release to ensure that educators received an ideal product on the official release date.

Perhaps this isn’t even your first time using Minecraft in your classroom; since 2011, educators have been using a teacher-created version of the Mojang product called MinecraftEdu, the stepping stone and inspiration behind the polished product Microsoft released this week.

But if you are new to the hype surrounding the educational use of the world’s most second popular video game and are interested in getting it in your own classroom, here’s what you should know.

1. The Classroom Mode Companion App Puts Educators in Charge

Educator feedback from testing of the game's beta version led to several changes that will best help educators use the tool in their respective classrooms.

One of those changes is the creation of the Classroom Mode, a companion app that ensures educators can be the leader of instruction by letting them oversee and guide student use.

Classroom Mode "displays a map view of the Minecraft world, a list of all the students in the world, a set of world management settings and a chat window. There is even a Minecraft clock to show time of day in the world. Classroom Mode offers educators the ability to interact with students and manage settings from a central user interface,” says Microsoft of the feature.

This is good news for educators who are scared that letting a video game into their classroom also means letting in distractions.

2. You’re Not Alone: Enter the Minecraft Mentor Program

In addition to providing a place for educators to ask questions, give advice and share experiences (see: Join the Conversation), Microsoft has specifically created a mentorship program that pairs up newbies to Minecraft with experienced users.

"We’ll connect you with an experienced Minecraft educator—your mentor—to get the support you need for your first lesson with Minecraft: Education Edition and beyond,” Microsoft says about the program on its site.

Mentors are from all over the world, teach all grade levels and have already been using Minecraft in the classroom for months if not years.

3. A Portal of Lesson Plans Already Exists

If you want a little help getting started with Minecraft: Education Edition but don’t necessarily think you need a mentor, Microsoft offers users educator-created lesson plans and similar classroom resources through its site.

Lesson plans, which have been created during the months of educator testing before the official release, cover a variety of subjects and serve a variety of grade levels. In other words, you have access to plenty of starter resources before you are comfortable enough to design your own.

Right now the site is featuring a little under 30 lesson plans, but the quantity is sure to grow as more educators begin using the product. 

4. Yes, You Need a Microsoft 365 License ... and More

In order to use Minecraft: Education Edition, you will need a Microsoft Office 365 license first.

Fortunately, a Microsoft Office 365 account is free for most students, teachers and school leaders. Since Minecraft: Education Edition is only available for purchase and use by eligible schools, districts, museums, libraries and home-school programs, all users should be able to get Microsoft Office 365 for free with no problem.

Further, Microsoft recommends users have both headphones and mouses for each individual student—a good thing to keep in mind if your classroom does not already have these items.

You will also need to make sure that your devices are updated to either Windows 10 or macOS for the product to work.

5. Bugs Will Happen, but Microsoft is Prepared

As with any new technology, you can expect a few bugs or glitches here and there.

Thanks to being an experienced tech company, Microsoft is ready for that.

Through bugs.mojang.com, you can report any issues you're having and see if others are, as well.

6. Pricing Varies

If you’re a lone teacher who wants to use Minecraft: Education Edition in your classroom, it will cost $5 per student per year.

But if your entire school or district wants to purchase licensing, a Microsoft education volume licensing discount is available.

This is a good thing to bring up when discussing with school leaders the possibility of bringing the game into your school.

Happy Mining! 

Nicole Gorman, Senior Education World Contributor

11/4/2016

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