Microsoft South Africa recently released Minecraft: Education Edition, which has reached more than 75 000 students globally since its launch last year.
Minecraft: Education Edition is an open-world game that promotes creativity, collaboration and problem-solving, built with the help of more than 50 000 students and educators who participated in Microsoft’s early access programme and provided valuable feedback to help fine-tune the experience across a diverse set of learning environments.
As part of the official launch in South Africa, Microsoft together with Minecraft ambassador/creative consultant in education Stephen Reid, director of Scottish-based company ImmersiveMinds, is hosting teacher training sessions in Johannesburg and Cape Town. Reid has almost 20 years experience in working to bring technology to the classroom and spent the last decade focused on games-based learning, with six of those on the development of Minecraft as a tool for curriculum learning.
”The key to harnessing technology as an effective tool for teaching and learning is in recognising its place in the everyday lives of our young people,” he says. “The tools they embrace and enjoy using are not the tools we tend to deploy in our school systems readily.
“It’s a three-step process for me: 1. Find something that works in engaging and enthusing the children I’m working with. 2. Learn how to use it myself. 3. Apply what I’ve learned to my curriculum teaching. This means I can meet children in their own world, using the tools they use and bring the learning to them in a fun and effective way. Technology should not be viewed as a stand-alone tool, but as a powerful part of any teacher toolkit, complimentary to traditional tools.”
Microsoft provided the following information:
Minecraft: Education Edition is a simple and fun way to augment student achievement, empower teachers and enrich the overall learning experience for their students. The game comes with a number of benefits:
Minecraft: Education Edition brings the classroom and curriculum to students in an environment they are already comfortable with. It offers the same Minecraft experience many students enjoy already, but with some additional capabilities that enable them to collaborate in the classroom, as well as support for educators to deliver learning activities within the game.
“Technology is increasingly making head way in the classroom, with textbooks, battered notebooks and worn-down pencils giving way to e-readers, tablets, laptops and a multitude of software and digital tools that are completely changing the way that students learn,” says Angela Schaerer, Teacher Engagement Lead for Microsoft South Africa.
The game is designed so that students can work in teams to solve problems, or as a whole class to master challenges within the game. Engaging in work teams and learning environments that foster co-operation in the classroom helps prepare students for their futures. It has the same benefits associated with teamwork for teachers. One of the biggest perks is the almost immediate sharing of knowledge from teachers all over the globe.
Children learn naturally through a combination of observation, trial and error and play-based practice. An open-learning environment like Minecraft allows students the freedom to experiment and challenge themselves. Much like real life, there are no step-by-step instructions — students must try, fail and try again to achieve the result they want.
Tangible Learning Outcomes
To create a fully inclusive classroom, educators are challenged to create learning activities that cater to all types of learners. With Minecraft: Education Edition, educators are able to align projects and activities directly to specific learning outcomes and curriculum standards. What’s more, learning-by-doing gives students a sense of accomplishment when they can demonstrate their knowledge.