Microsoft has bought an education game version of Minecraft called MinecraftEdu for an undisclosed sum and plans on using it to create its own Minecraft Education Edition.
The education edition, which launches this summer in free trials, elaborates on the computer software giants’ $2.5 billion purchase of Minecraft in 2014.
MinecraftEdu, through its Finland-based parent company TeacherGaming LLC, has sold Minecraft licenses to schools in 40 countries. Currently more than 7,000 classrooms use it in their curriculum, a number Microsoft hopes to increase.
Joel Levin, one of the co founder of TeacherGaming and the companies’ current education director, said he watched his daughter play Minecraft and saw what the potential could become.
“If you’ve never seen or played Minecraft before sort of imagine a never-ending world made out of blocks it has natural environments, mountains, and deserts and forests; and players mine these blocks, they cut down trees and they make tools and building materials and then they can create anything they can imagine,” he said.
Levin said he started using the game in his second grade technology classroom, for community building and collaboration exercises.
“History teachers, language teachers, art teachers, math teachers at my school were interested in what was going on and we started brainstorming all these different ways to use the game,” he said.
Soon Levin, his business partner, Santorio Koivisto created TeacherGaming and paired up with Mojang, the original makers of Minecraft, to license MinecraftEdu to schools.
They saw teachers adapt the game to their own curriculum, and use tools that they had built like seeing what the children could or could not see in it, as well as tracking assignments.
“We quickly realized that our job was really going to be creating this platform for teachers to use the game as they see fit. We turned our attention to helping teachers find each other’s content and use things that were already created, for ones that didn’t want to start from scratch,” Levin said.
Microsoft sees the value of Minecraft in all educational levels from elementary schools to colleges. The company says Minecraft already makes one “create, explore, discover” and they want to take those skills into the classroom.
Additional production by Praveen Sathianathan.