Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Time for an Update

OK, I have been sitting on an update post for quite some time, but the time has come for me to finally let everyone know what has happened, is happening and why I appear to have dropped off the face of the Earth (again).

To put it simply, I have changed jobs, I am not currently a classroom teacher, at least not for the next 12 months or so at this stage. I now work with around 400 schools and it is my role to support them in their uptake of virtual learning. I have been in this role for about 10 weeks, am really enjoying it, miss the classroom a bit, but a change is as good as a holiday.

You would probably think that a role like this would give me great scope to get some awesome Minecraft projects up and running. Sadly, however, there are a couple of blockers to that at this current time. The first is that the role is tied quite tightly to video conferencing at this stage. Don't get me wrong, I am still hoping to get some Minecraft related projects up and running while in this role, I just need to get some other things going first.

The second, and perhaps the biggest blocker is software related. With Microsoft's continued persistence with the O365 accounts, Windows 10 and annual license fees, for what is currently a product I would not recommend for schools, I have no option for schools that do not already have MinecraftEdu to join in, which could be an equity issue that I would need to address. Not only that, my new work computer is still rocking Windows 7, which counts me out from even installing the software.

On the bright side of this particular coin, I know that Victoria was one of the biggest purchasers of MinecraftEdu in Australia (and the world) which means that there are heaps of licenses out there that could be used to collaborate on projects across the state, so stay tuned, I am not giving up, just taking my time to get it right!

In general Minecraft in education news, Microsoft is continuing to develop their version, with the upcoming release of the companion app in early November. It is called Classroom Mode and has some features that is getting MC:EE closer to the flexibility that MinecraftEdu provided educators in their classrooms, but they still have a fair journey ahead to catch up. I get the impression that the community in general is still shaking their head about the purchasing arrangements and I still live in hope that Microsoft will see that a 'game' is not something that a lot schools will pay $5 per head per year for students to use.

In my opinion one of the biggest reasons MinecraftEdu got such great traction in education was because of the pricing structure. A one off fee of <$500 to explore gaming in the classroom across an entire school of any number of students is something that many schools can afford without too many issues (or can fundraise for easily). What this one off cost got you was a great educational space in a classroom setting (Minecraft), as well as the great work that TeacherGaming did on making that space more flexible and easier to access by building many features into MinecraftEdu for teachers.

I still think Minecraft, as a base, is an awesome platform for learning, and it saddens me that many students may miss out on the opportunity to use it within their classrooms to learn because of the pricing structure when we know how powerful it can be for student learning. Will classrooms around the globe go back to being 'boring' with students disinterested in the learning because we are not meeting their learning needs or wants? I think Microsoft has dampened a brilliant opportunity to shake education away from the lecture, university style learning that has been the norm for countless years. I don't think they have killed it entirely, but I honestly believe they have slowed it.

OK, time to get off my high-horse, thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment below.


  1. Stephen,

    It's critically important for exploring folk to understand the lay of the Minecraft land, and you have provided a very accurate view of things from where you sit on your horse. It jives very nicely with the view that I have heard in recent months espoused from other experienced Minecraft explorers (many of whom are also familiar with the care and feeding of horses).

    As you know, Minecraft offers much to support learning. How well that fits within a "roll-it-out" corporate-education model remains to be seen. The role of the learner/educator in understanding what can/is being learned from "playing" Minecraft seems very much dependent upon the experience the learner/educator has with the game. Limited experience, led only by lesson-plans, may result in a textbook-style learning. Broad and rich experience, over time, is what gives a pencil its power in the hands of a learner. Minecraft has the potential to be a powerful pencil.

    For those with licences of #MinecraftEDU (or vanilla licenses), the experience and opportunity to do great things is still there. For those looking to get into the game, developing experience with a version of Minecraft that runs on available hardware (#MinecraftPi, #MinecraftPE, #Minecraft) seems like the best route at this point. Leaping to buy a hardware and an OS (and moving to O365, as well) just to get #MinecraftEE is premature.

    Given that the product path for the future of Minecraft is only just starting to emerge ("Add-ons" as a new model for customization in W10, for example), the impact on the larger arc in education is still developing. There is an awful lot of great learning potential hiding under the hood in the Java version (mods, resource packs, Learn To Mod, etc.) that is in no way available right now with the #MinecraftEE product.

    The future for #Minecraft in learning is still there. Lots of "kids" learn with it every day! How the Microsoft involvement plays out is still an early question.

  2. Many parents and teachers seem to see Minecraft (and other software) as 'that game the children play'.

    If more adults had a first hand knowledge of Minecraft, as they do of their own games, devices and computers, it would do a good deal to bridge the gap between home learning and the sometimes dry and abstract lessons that happen at school.

    Time will tell what Microsoft does with Minecraft, but if most adults were equipped with a basic literacy around gaming in general it would make creating engaging lesson far easier for teachers, and easier for parents to support teachers efforts regardless of software.

    I've also had astounding interest from stroke survivors and their families around Minecraft for adult learning. From cognitive rehabilitation, to clients feeling relevant and social inclusion.

    Surely it is time to stop feeling that games are not relevant to how we live and learn in this decade.

    I'm off now to mine trees for the tall ship dd is building on skyblock.

  3. Hey Stephen, about time you posted something (haha). First of all, congratulations on the new gig. My grad studies was in the area of virtual learning so I hope to hear more details about your new projects.

    Nice critique, er article, about the MCEE "debacle" going on. No more to say on this - except why don't you give your blog posts an interesting sounding title so that we followers can share it out without having to describe it in our posts? "Time for an update" just doesn't cut it :)

    Hope things are good with you!