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Smart education: why Microsoft is taking a video game to the classroom

Submitted by doug.peeples on June 17, 2016

Students are already immersed in digital technology. They have smart phones. They use computers and play video games. So adapting a video game as a teaching medium makes sense for a number of reasons. Microsoft's Education Edition of the popular open world video game Minecraft is being offered to teachers to try out over the summer. The features of the Education Edition are described in the story below, but one stands out. Educators use it to teach students how to work together to build projects and solve problems — in a digital environment. And those skills are among those the professionals in smart city operations and management will need to have. — Doug Peeples

Microsoft is offering an early version of its Minecraft: Education Edition to K-12 educators so they can familiarize themselves with the game and learn how they can use it in their classrooms. A variety of lesson topics are available, including digital citizenship, city planning for population growth, literacy, factors and multiples, the effects of deforestation and more.

The Education Edition can accommodate small groups or up to a classroom of 30 students to log in and participate. The version teachers can work with now is based on feedback from beta testing Microsoft did with the game earlier this year with teachers in 100 schools in 26 countries.

In addition to teaching in a collaborative learning environment, teachers also can enter the game as a non-playing character to help students. Tools to help teachers determine student progress, guide students' performance in the game, and chalkboards to give instructions and provide additional information are included. Teachers also can present problems to students as they work in the game.

The Education Edition also includes cameras and portfolios students can use to take pictures of their projects and save them.

Each lesson provides learning objectives, activities, reflection questions and criteria to evaluate how well students are learning.

Microsoft also is releasing updated lesson starters and other features to help educators get up to speed quickly. The full version of Minecraft: Education Edition is expected to be available in September.

From the Smart Cities Readiness Guide…
New developments in how information and communications technology (ICT) will have a tremendous impact on how important city services such as healthcare and education will be provided. Click to the Health and Human Services of the Readiness Guide to learn more about the benefits of ICT and how it can make the services your city provides more inclusive and effective.

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.