Minecraft.edu, as the domain name suggests, is an educational non-profit that sells a version of the sandbox game as a teaching tool (at a 50% discount, through a deal with Minecraft developer Mojang). According to a very interesting Slate article, 300 schools are using this version for various education applications:
According to [Minecraft.edu's Joel] Levin, about 300 schools have bought the discounted Minecraft so far, and 50 schools are testing MinecraftEdu. One teacher, he says, is using it to teach English as a second language through Minecraft’s online chat system. Another has her students write nightly journal entries about their Minecraft adventures.
Why so much interest in Minecraft, generally seen as a hardcore "gamer's game", from educators? As the Slate author explains:
Minecraft has many markers of what makes for a good learning environment: child-initiated projects, deep engagement, challenging tasks that push kids to persist and reach higher goals, excitement over what has been learned or discovered, tools for writing, and multiple modes of play that enable kids (and adults) to mold the game to their liking. Want to play by yourself and have loads of gold bricks available for your yellow-brick road? Use “creative” mode. Want to invite friends to build a town? Turn on the multiplayer server. Want to add more monsters and turn the game into a swashbuckling adventure? Add a “mod” created by fans and game developers to trigger more zombies or creepers to appear.
A lot of NWN readers are educators working with OpenSim and Second Life as a teaching tool, which works fairly well if the curriculum specifically requires high-res 3D graphics, but seems to me Minecraft has many of the same features, with additional advantages: a much more stable client with much lower hardware requirements, without any extreme sexual/adult content, and an ability to run on many platforms, including tablets, the web, even Xbox. Read more about it here.Tweet