TORONTO – It’s no secret that kids love Minecraft, the “sandbox” game that allows users to build and interact with other users without any scripts. But Microsoft is hoping more educators can turn that passion for gaming into an immersive learning experience.
Microsoft, which acquired the widely popular game for US$2.5 billion last year, has launched a new website that allows teachers to share ideas about how to use the game for educational purposes and inspire new uses for the technology.
“I’m personally excited by how educators are incorporating Minecraft into their curriculum and what their students are picking up in this immersive learning environment,” said Anthony Salcito, Microsoft’s vice president of worldwide education, in a blog post.
“Elementary students in Seattle are learning foundational math skills by calculating perimeter, area and volume in Minecraft during a Saturday math program. Middle school students in Los Angeles are learning about major world religions as part of their humanities class.”
Minecraft is considered a so-called sandbox game – users dig holes looking for blocks to build structures and eventually small communities, then cities. There is no plot and no story line, which allows users to do whatever they want in the game.
For kids, experts compare it to playing with a box of Lego.
The game has been downloaded 100 million times on PCs alone since its launch in 2009. It is the most popular online game on Xbox and the top paid app for Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android operating system in the U.S.
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Though it was originally aimed at adult players, the game has become wildly popular with children.
“What Minecraft allows me to do is engage our children and actually teach them a lot of the things that are core curriculum, such as geography, geology and even math,” said parent Anna Belluz.
Currently, there is an education-focused version of the game, dubbed MinecraftEdu, for schools.
The launch of the Minecraft in Education site comes days before Minecon, Mojang’s annual conference for all things Minecraft.