“The 14-year-old me was weeping inside” says Tom Bennett, the UK government’s school behaviour tsar. He’s recalling the time that Ian Livingstone – the co-creator of both Games Workshop and Fighting Fantasy, the series of role-playing books – called him a “luddite”. “It really upset me, I used to love the books and the games that came from them.”
The reason Bennett became the target of Livingstone’s ire is because of his views on Minecraft in classrooms. Last November, Microsoft released Minecraft: Education Edition, an enhanced version of the game that has extra tools for teachers to plan and set up lessons, whether that’s recreating a Shakespeare play or building the Great Pyramids. They can build worlds faster than usual, monitor their students’ activity and help them build online portfolios of their work. In an interview with The Times shortly after, Bennett said that the game was a “gimmick” that would “get in the way of children actually learning”.
The topic of Minecraft in schools sparks a lot of passion on both sides of the debate: some teachers, academics, and Microsoft itself believe that Minecraft can change the way children learn. By giving kids lessons inside a tool that they’re excited about, they will learn more, the argument goes. But Bennett and others say that in-game lessons hinder children’s learning by distracting from the subject matter at hand. The question is: how do we know who’s right? And, as Microsoft prepares for the first full school year since the Education Edition launched, what does the future of Minecraft in schools look like? Read the rest of this entry »