By now, you have at least heard of Minecraft, if you aren't into it as much as the younger generation. The game of survival/sandbox in a world of literal 1x1 building blocks has become quite the phenomenon from its humble beginnings as an early access program from Mojang. It is no wonder that Microsoft bought up the game, and now they want to focus on Minecraft: Education Edition will also be an early access program. There is a lot of potential for growth of not only this program, but the intelligence of the users as well.
According to Engadget, Minecraft: Education Edition will also begin its life in an early access program in June. The purpose of the release date then is to enable educators a chance to test the block building game over the summer break to see if it will fit in their fall curriculums, and provide feedback to the creators of the game/educational program.
CNET reports that as Microsoft develops the software itself, the company will also create projects to help teachers use it. Microsoft will be "focused on working with educators on building out lesson plans, sharing learning activity ideas and creating reusable projects".
The Verge gives examples of how Minecraft provides worlds like a map of feudal Japan for discussing Japanese poetry, another using Minecraft bricks for Brutalist architecture, as well as exploring molecules. Students might not be solving puzzles or taking quizzes or tests in these Minecraft worlds, but they will get a better historical and scientific setting about this.
Considering that some Minecraft projects have been quite complicated, such as a famous project that can replicate the internal workings of computer logic, it really just makes sense to bring Minecraft into the schools. In fact, thanks to the huge Minecraft community (the game has sold more than 70 million copies), Minecraft is already in schools, and is essentially here to stay. There is a report that over 7,000 schools are using Minecraft as part of their curriculum.
The original Minecraft, created by Swedish developer Mojang, was written in the Java programming language. This enabled users to write modifications to alter how Minecraft works, but the newer versions of Minecraft, such as those that run on Apple iPhones and iPads are written in C++, and the Education Edition will use this coding. This means that there will be no initial mods, but Microsoft plans to bring mods and command blocks to the next C++ version.
There will be a beta version of Minecraft: Education Edition that will launch in May in 100 schools from 30 countries. In a few months, it will be a free download for both OS X and Windows. One thing that will definitely change the world of Minecraft is the application of virtual reality to the mix, as Facebook's own Oculus Rift is slowly hitting the market, and Microsoft has big plans for the HoloLens.