Minecraft offers free content for students stuck at home

THE WASHINGTON POST – As students face school closures across the globe, Minecraft recently gave away a suite of educational lessons in its game just as it extended free access to its Education Edition for teachers.

The Minecraft Marketplace was updated to offer a new “Education” category, which featured downloadable worlds with lessons on biology, fractions and even a virtual tour of Washington, DC.

“There’s so much about online gaming environments that are similar to how we’re having to work today,” Deidre Quamstrom, Minecraft general manager told The Washington Post, referring to the work-from-home dynamic some are practicing after the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s been such a sudden disruption now. But because (Minecraft’s) a digital game, it can translate fairly easily to these work-from-home environments.”

Quamstrom said Microsoft is responding to concerns that distant learning away from school isn’t possible in many districts. Minecraft: Education Edition was created from the game’s lively modding community. MinecraftEDU was a collaboration between Finnish and American developers already being used by teachers before Microsoft bought it outright in 2016. Earlier in March Microsoft allowed free access through June to its more robust Education Edition package that’s available only for schools and teachers.

In Roanoke County, Virginia, the district’s Microsoft partnership included using Minecraft in its curriculum. Reportedly, teacher collaboration improved while students showed increasing interest in science and computer coding.