Minecraft Education Edition is a boon for teachers and schools around the world. With second hand Xboxes and ‘modded’ PCs, teachers can become local legends and interactive innovators in their community with ready-made Minecraft lesson plans.
But with the login requirements changing for Minecraft in 2021 – specifically, that you will need to have a Microsoft account in order to use the app – does it now make sense to make Minecraft Education Edition free and accessible to all?
Minecraft Education made Free
Microsoft took the extraordinary step in spring of 2020 – just a few weeks after lockdowns started to affect citizens and children across the world (many of whom were unable to go to school) – to make their educational content free, through to the end of June.
Many praised this as a supportive move for educators, where the parameters for learning within the system completely changed, simple because students weren’t able to actually go to school. Educators were forced to ensure that online lessons and remote learning options that were engaging and aligned to Common Core were available quickly, which is where Minecraft Education Edition was able to take the mantle.
The guide formed a full remote learning toolkit, and dedicated portal still provides a diverse range of learning materials – including teacher training – to support students and teachers with using Minecraft as an interactive medium for live and collaborative learning.
While at the time of writing this, nothing has been published yet by MSFT with regards to the effectiveness of this initiative thus far, or any numbers related to downloads and engagement numbers, it is conceivable to say that numbers will be high.
Minecraft Remote Learning Materials Remain Free At The Moment
The Minecraft Education Marketplace is evidence of this: there are still scores of free learning materials and lesson packs for parents and teachers.
While millions of people will have their original Mojang accounts in order to login in to Minecraft, Microsoft is now using their acquisition of the game to its advantage by asking all customers to now ensure they have Microsoft account to login – which for most educators and parents, will be straight forward given that accessing educational materials in the firstplace required an eligible Office 365 account.
But by walling the garden of the Minecraft ecosystem a little more and encouraging cross-exploration; is it only fair that these remote learning materials remain free – particularly for players and learners where sunsetting their old, original accounts means becoming a Microsoft user?
According the Microsoft and technology magazine Extreme Tech, the reason for the SSO shift was security and safeguarding, particularly where children are involved.
Perhaps this suggests that with the need for security in order to keep user and usage data safe became the overriding priority for the switch. Indeed, this may be proving incredibly important in the field itself – cybersecurity and keeping all student data – not just sensitive data – safe.
As such, with user data needing to be protected – the same need for protecting free users who’ve enjoyed and engaged with educational content during the Covid-19 pandemic applies too. Compounded to this is the challenge of students who are not online, and are finding themselves increasingly distanced from access to a regulated education in and of itself.
And while not traditional, across EdTech and software development within the sector currently does little to nothing to support the especially financially vulnerable students or schools, who constitute those who typically can’t afford or can’t pay for using Minecraft as an interactive educational tool – but have started enjoying it as a free, basic tool akin to using free online tools like Office Online. It would be shame to suddenly take this away from them.
The technology expectations that teachers and learners have – has changed.
A huge challenge that faces institutions and governments is the “digital divide” – students and learners whose access to education is on a higher tier simply because they have access to the Internet – and students who miss out, because their household can’t afford it or access it, risks creating a “forgotten” demographic within the most technologically advanced generation who are currently in the school system.
As learning materials proliferate online, with a huge amount of materials accessible for free in exchange for a new signup or login, suggests that the very act of signup should be a quid-pro-quo for learning materials where the need user data is so valuable and traceable, and serves as a starting point from which to upsell additional Microsoft products.
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