Minecraft: Education Edition’s Bright Lights of 2020
2020 has had its ups and downs for sure, but in spite of all the challenges facing educators and students, incredible things have been happening around the world. As we round the corner into 2021, we want to enter a new year with a spirit of hope and celebration by looking back over some of this year’s most exciting moments. Follow along with us as we share the Minecraft: Education Edition highlights of 2020!
The Move to Remote Learning
No review of the past year can ignore the massive impact of the global pandemic. Lockdowns and social distancing restrictions made the conventional classroom experience impossible. Educators worldwide had to find creative ways to keep learning going, even when students were staying home. In response to lockdown measures, we announced that Minecraft: Education Edition would be available through the end of the 2019–2020 school year to anyone with an Office 365 Education account.
Many educators discovered that Minecraft was an ideal tool for creating a virtual and hybrid classroom experience, giving students the chance to connect and collaborate as they learned from home. You can read stories about the innovative ideas for remote learning solutions that dedicated teachers dreamed up, including virtual re-creations of schools in New York State, architectural exploration in Wales, and citywide collaboration in Canada.
We knew that graduating students would be upset about missing the opportunity to celebrate their achievements. Many university students decided to take matters into their own hands by re-creating their campuses to host virtual ceremonies in Minecraft. Inspired by campus builds like Berkeley University’s Blockeley U, our team decided to create the Graduation World as a space for educators and students to celebrate the end of a tough school year together.
Big Moments for Minecraft: Education Edition
2020 wasn’t all about lockdowns and remote learning. There were some massive announcements from our team as well! The biggest came in August when we revealed that Minecraft: Education Edition would be available on Chromebooks for the first time. This announcement meant that millions of students would be able to access Minecraft for learning. We’ve even made it possible for learners to use their Google for Education credentials for easier access through single-sign-on. And we couldn’t resist a bit of fun with our Back-to-School Update, so we brought bees into Minecraft: Education Edition to help teach students about pollinators!
For another first, October marked the launch of the inaugural Minecraft Education Global Build Championship. This international competition invited students to reimagine a world where humans and animals can coexist safely and happily in a school, home, workplace, or public space situated in one of five habitats. We received over 1,250 entries from students sharing their exciting ideas for an ecologically sustainable future. In the end, a team from Canada took the top prize with a truly epic turtle research habitat. You can see their entry and the rest of the winners here!
One handy update made it easier than ever for teachers to get lessons and learning content to their students. Educators now have the ability to share worlds and lessons to Microsoft Teams from within Minecraft: Education Edition!
We also wanted to ensure teachers felt supported with the right resources to keep them on the cutting edge of game-based learning and pedagogy, so we assembled two new training resources. The newly updated Teacher Academy takes educators through an 11-course learning path designed to build a foundation for using Minecraft in the classroom. The brand-new Coding Academy takes the learning a step further, outlining the ways you can use Minecraft: Education Edition to teach computer science. Our brand-new Community Hub contains mountains of helpful support materials and a place where educators can connect with colleagues to share ideas, get help from peers, or just chat about all things Minecraft.
A Whole World of New Teaching Content
2020 was one of our biggest years ever for new lessons and learning material. We tried to make sure there was something for everyone, across almost any subject you can name. Here are some of our most exciting highlights:
- Hour of Code: A Minecraft Tale of Two Villages explored empathy and inclusion through the power of code as students attempted to smooth over the grudge between Villagers and Illagers.
- The Build with Bees lessons helped students understand the secret—and fascinating—lives of these apex pollinators, from their anatomy and life cycle to how they collect nectar and produce honey.
- Conversations around race, equity, and inclusion came to the forefront in 2020, so we worked with educators and Teaching Tolerance to create Good Trouble: Lessons in Social Justice. The first lesson came out in October, and there are more on the way in 2021!
- In a year like this, student well-being is an essential focus for educators. Social-emotional learning content laid a foundation for building mindfulness, self-expression, digital citizenship, and more.
- It was a big year for computer science learning. We wanted to provide students with a path from the beginning of their coding journey to more advanced programming challenges. Our updated Computer Science Subject Kit now includes more than 150 hours of coding content arranged in a helpful progression from beginner to advanced lessons. Coding FUNdamentals progresses through three imaginative adventures as students learn to code. Artificial Intelligence lessons help learners engage with this exciting realm of computer science. Finally, two sets of Python lessons offer activities in a more advanced programming language. You’ll find all of these lessons and more in one epic resource: the Computer Science Subject Kit.
- Earth Day offered a chance to explore sustainable energy and urban design with the Lumen City and Power Challenges across two massive worlds, one set in a sprawling city and another amidst a series of power facilities.
- With Esports igniting students’ imaginations, we released a fantastical set of worlds where students could take part in competitive and collaborative build battles.
- The English Language Arts Pack included ten lessons designed to help students work on their reading and writing skills, from setting to character to narrative structure.
- If history fascinated your students, they could experience an in-depth look at the background, conditions, tactics, and technology of World War I in a new lesson pack.
- Learners had the chance to strap in and blast off to the International Space Station where they could explore space science in ten lessons, including physics, engineering, botany, psychology, and more.
There’s something for everyone in our 2020 content, and we know these lessons will continue to inspire students in the years to come!
Striking Stories from the Global Educator Community
It’s always educators who inspire us most, especially in such a challenging year. We heard from passionate leaders across the globe about the ways they use Minecraft: Education Edition to empower and delight their learners.
- In Atlanta, the Minecraft Student Ambassador Program gave students the chance to lead learning for their peers and teachers alike!
- More than 1,000 students from 31 schools participated in the first national NAIDOC Minecraft Education Challenge in Australia, blending Indigenous knowledge with modern technology to envision a different world.
- At Villanova University in Pennsylvania, a Classical Studies professor explored Roman ruins and scenes from the Iliad with Minecraft.
- The Queensland University of Technology’s Digital Media Research Centre partnered with our team to conduct research into how Minecraft supports math learning in Australian classrooms. The results were fascinating—and very encouraging!
- For Safer Internet Day, the Microsoft team in Croatia hosted a competition in a Minecraft world to teach students about online etiquette, safety, and digital citizenship.
- Girls Who Game empowered female students to pursue STEM through a country-wide build challenge in Canada.
- Wales launched a series of educator-led Minecraft Learning Centers to help teachers across the country build their game-based learning skills.
- Regional build challenges were all the rage, with national competitions in Germany, Norway, Turkey, and many more.
- When faced with the challenges of the worldwide pandemic, educators in Victoria, Australia, developed creative solutions for teaching in remote and hybrid learning environments using Minecraft.
- The Minecraft: Education Edition China Summer Camp invited students in China to take part in a summer of learning, with free lessons, online workshops, and a build challenge that produced some fantastic creations.
When you’re working with educators, you don’t have to look far to see the passion and inspiration that drives their work day-in and day-out. Nothing makes us more grateful to support their work than hearing amazing stories like these!
Now that we’re finally leaving 2020 behind, we want to thank every teacher who’s gone the extra mile for their students and innovated new ways to use Minecraft: Education Edition. We know you’ll continue to do great things in the coming months and years. Here’s to a great 2021!
If these stories have inspired you to begin your Minecraft: Education Edition journey, head to education.minecraft.net/get-started to take your first steps.