Launching this winter, Minecraft: Education Edition will be an "expanded" version of Minecraft for classrooms, distributed to educational institutions worldwide. Based on the already existing MinecraftEdu program — a modded version of Minecraft, used for teaching, which Microsoft has acquired — this new edition wants to help things along by launching a community site that, as the announcement from Mojang puts it, will "host lesson plans and give Minecraft: Education Edition users somewhere to discuss ideas and provide feedback".
According to the new site's FAQ, what the developers are actually doing with the Education Edition is "growing and expanding" MinecraftEdu's features — there's a list of changes showing exactly what will be different compared to the game's regular version:
- Enhanced maps with coordinates for students and teachers to find their way around the Minecraft world together.
- Student Portfolio feature, where students can take photos and selfies to show their work and learning.
- Enhanced multiplayer, where a classroom of up to 40 students can work together toward a greater world in Minecraft.
- Login and personalisation, where students have personalised avatars and feel more engaged in the game and teachers can know who each player is.
- World import and export, where teachers and students can create and save their worlds in the game.
It's multiplayer Minecraft with an educational twist, basically, where you can play together with your class on a Minecraft server and learn about (or teach) all kinds of subjects — as the FAQ puts it, "from maths and physics to history and language arts." Sounds more fun than the classes I'm used to, at least.
Microsoft plans to launch Minecraft: Education Edition for schools, libraries and museums this winter at a price of $US5 ($7) per user per year.