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Minecraft character

Games for teaching: Minecraft Education Edition arrives

The latest development in the ongoing trend to combine the fun of video games with teaching has arrived, with Microsoft announcing the launch of Minecraft: Education Edition.

A popular game among children and young people, Minecraft is a popular game that takes a ‘sandbox’ approach – allowing the user a large amount of agency in manipulating the environment around them.

The game has already proven useful in teaching students complex concepts, such as how to code, but the new education-specific edition comes with a number of features to allow teachers enahcned ability to focus on outcomes with their students.

Not only are there a range of lesson plans that arrive with Minecraft: Education Edition, but it also comes with an application dubbed ‘Classroom Mode’, which provides educators with a birds-eye view of the world in which their students are operating. These features are designed to help teachers monitor and mentor their students.

Students are able to document and save images of their work as they progress in their lessons, with functionality available to allow pair and group work as required.

Distributed under license, Minecraft: Education Edition will cost between US$1 and US$5 per user per year, depending on the licensing agreement available to the given school.

Microsoft has created a product-specific website for the new version of the game.

As an educator, what is your opinion on introducing video games as a vehicle for lessons at K-12 schools? Email our editor to share your thoughts.

Online video games

Research: Online games boost student scores

A study from RMIT University reveals teenagers who regularly play video games online tend to receive higher school grades.

This contrasts with another finding: those visiting Facebook or chat-based websites every day are more likely to realise decreased performance in maths, reading and science.

The study used data collated by the internationally recognised Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), which was in turn analysed by Asasociate Professor Alberto Posso from RMIT’s School of Economics, Finance and Marketing.

Published in the International Journal of Communication, the paper provides a snapshot of some of the pressures placed on today’s teens in Australia.

PISA’s database included tests from more than 12,000 Australian 15-year-olds in maths, reading and science, alongside additional information on the students’ online activities.

Assoc. Prof. Posso found that students “who play online video games every day score 15 points above the average in maths and 17 points above the average in science”.

“When you play online games you’re solving puzzles to move to the next level and that involves using some of the general knowledge and skills in maths, reading and science that you’ve been taught during the day,” he said.

As a result, the academic suggests educators consider how to incorporate popular video games into their teaching, “so long as they’re not violent ones”.

By comparison, students that regularly sent time on social media scored 20 points worse in maths than students who had never used those platforms, but Posso still recommends incorporating the technology as a method of assisting students who fall behind.

“Teachers might want to look at blending the use of Facebook into their classes as a way of helping those students engage.”

The researcher also stresses that there could be other factors having major impacts that hamper teenager scholastic progress, and missing school could be as bad or worse as regularly using social media.

Students from minority ethnic or linguistic groups were also at increased risk of falling behind than those using Facebook or chat sites each day.