After reading the original article by Audrey Watters about a year ago, I read this one with great interest as I was chasing the idea of setting up our own Minecraft server. It was interesting to read about the details, now if I can just get to affording it.
It’s been almost a year since I first wrote about the work of Joel Levin (aka "The Minecraft Teacher") bringing the 3D world-building game Minecraft into his second-grade classroom. Much has changed since then — the full release of the PC version of the game, for starters. Mojang co-founder "Notch" stepping down as the lead developer of Minecraft (that is sort of "inside baseball" information, I suppose). And Levin himself co-founding a startup — TeacherGaming — the only company sanctioned by Mojang as an official reseller of the game. Levin’s still teaching too, but he’s also hard at work helping other educators implement Minecraft in their own classes.
Currently, that takes the form of MinecraftEDU, TeacherGaming’s first endeavor. It’s both a product and a service, tapping into the expertise that Levin has accumulated while using Minecraft in his classes and by supporting the teachers that have been drawn to doing just the same. MinecraftEDU offers educational licenses to the game at a deep discount (up to 50% off the regular price). There’s also special training for educators who are interested in using Minecraft with their students. Additionally (and perhaps most importantly), the startup offers a special version of the game — slightly different than what’s sold to regular customers (more on that below).
With or without special mods, there are a lot of reasons why Minecraft is a wonderful game for the classroom: it is open-ended (there are no explicit missions — no princesses to save or wagon trains to get to Oregon); it’s deceptively simple in its graphics yet complex in what people have actually built (See this Quora thread for a short list of some of the coolest things); the game can be played in single person or multiplayer mode and can run on both public and private servers; and the Minecraft community has developed tons of modifications to extend and alter the game’s functionality.
MinecraftEDU provides one such "mod" that’s been designed for classroom use. At the very outset, the mod tackles one of the biggest barriers to implementing Minecraft at school — that is, setting up your own private Minecraft server. The MinecraftEDU mod allows teachers to do this with just a few clicks, turning their own PCs (Mac, Windows or Linux) into a local server.