Microsoft’s "Minecraft" is for learning 50 million downloads of free education content.

Microsoft | May 21, 2020

Microsoft’s "Minecraft" is for learning 50 million downloads of free education content.
  • Minecraft,” the Microsoft-owned game known for its user-driven content has been at the forefront of mainstream games that utilize educational content.

  • Much of this content, which was at first fueled by educators in the “Minecraft” community before Microsoft brought it in-house.

  • Minecraft: Education Edition” has for the last few years played host to virtual curricula that have allowed students to visit and learn about global monuments.


Minecraft, the Microsoft-owned game known for its user-driven content, creative use of blocks and monsters that come out at night, has been at the forefront of mainstream games that utilize educational content. The studio’s “Minecraft: Education Edition” has for the last few years played host to virtual curricula that have allowed students to visit and learn about global monuments, sharpen math skills, understand coding or take puzzle-filled explorations to places as varied as the human body or a NASA-approved jaunt into the International Space Station. Much of this content, which was at first fueled by educators in the “Minecraft” community before Microsoft brought it in-house in 2016, had previously been available only to schools and teachers and worked in tandem with Microsoft educational accounts.


In March, however, Microsoft made an assortment of “Minecraft’s” popular educational tools available for free, with easier access for all players via the “Minecraft Marketplace.” And players have flocked to it. Microsoft reports that there have been more than 50 million downloads globally of educational content since it was made available for free March 24. It’s further evidence that virtual worlds are not just places to play or escape but vessels to learning, connecting or even taking part in digital events. Just this weekend, for instance, “Minecraft” was home to a mock commencement ceremony for UC Berkeley, which featured remarks from Chancellor Carol T. Christ alongside musical performances. It was one of many “Minecraft” graduation ceremonies happening around the globe.



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“Microsoft reports that there have been more than 50 million downloads globally of educational content since it was made available for free March 24. It’s further evidence that virtual worlds are not just places to play or escape but vessels to learning.”

~ Microsoft Says


The UC Berkeley event, said Helen Chiang, the studio head at “Minecraft” developer Mojang Studios, happened organically. When viewed alongside more commercially minded endeavors, such as rapper Travis Scott unleashing a single in “Fortnite” via an interactive experience that attracted more than 27 million participants, this pandemic moment is arguably accelerating an entertainment and cultural landscape in which persistent and evolving virtual worlds don’t just live alongside content crafted by traditional media gatekeepers but become equally as vital.

“Minecraft: Education Edition” has for the last few years played host to virtual curricula that have allowed students to visit and learn about global monuments, sharpen math skills, understand coding or take puzzle-filled explorations to places as varied as the human body or a NASA-approved jaunt into the International Space Station.”


How it all evolves is something of an unknown, as evidenced by the fact that “Minecraft’s” own educational suite was birthed via the game-playing community rather than with the company behind it.“The example right now of universities and college campuses,” says Chiang, discussing “Minecraft” graduations at schools around the globe, “it actually would have been really difficult for us to re-create all these colleges. The fact that we have a tool that passionate Berkeley students can go build their campus, and passionate MIT students can build their campus, that’s where the magic happens. It is not that we do all of these things.” While no one knows yet how the gaming audience will shift when the world begins to emerge from the grips of COVID-19, it’s become clear that interactive entertainment is uniquely positioned for this moment.


Almost daily we discover inventive tactics that users are wielding — not just via “Minecraft” or “Fortnite” but also “Animal Crossing,” Nintendo’s friendly, task-filled game that has become a coronavirus-era phenomena.“Minecraft,” which is turning 11 and is considered by many to be the top-selling game of all time, has now sold more than 200 million copies, says Chiang, and boasts 126 million active monthly players. In April alone, the game saw a 25% increase in new users over the previous month. People are also playing together — “Minecraft’s” multiplayer sessions surged 40% in April. While “Minecraft’s” popularity has never been in doubt, as Mojang Studios gets deeper into the game’s second decade, the company has been looking to expand the “Minecraft” brand. Mojang recently released the augmented-reality mobile game “Minecraft Earth” and on May 26 will issue the hack-and-slash game “Minecraft Dungeons” across multiple platforms.


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Spotlight

What if we could use all the technology we have in the private sector to give students a chance to prepare for what they will be doing in the real world? It turns out that wherever there is funding to do so, teachers are already implementing technology as fast as they can. Teachers understand the value of technology in the classroom as a means to provide students with educational opportunities that align with jobs they might find upon graduation, but there’s another reason teachers love tech in classrooms: personalization of education.

Spotlight

What if we could use all the technology we have in the private sector to give students a chance to prepare for what they will be doing in the real world? It turns out that wherever there is funding to do so, teachers are already implementing technology as fast as they can. Teachers understand the value of technology in the classroom as a means to provide students with educational opportunities that align with jobs they might find upon graduation, but there’s another reason teachers love tech in classrooms: personalization of education.

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