In a move that makes total sense to us, Microsoft has announced that they are acquiring MinecraftEdu and will be releasing a new product called Minecraft: Educational Edition. The edition is similar to the original game but with added features designed specifically for teachers. A free trial will be available when it comes out this summer.

If you’ve played Minecraft (or watched your kids play), you probably already know why this game works so well for educational purposes. It’s basically an open sandbox for creativity, providing kids and teachers with an infinite amount of virtual space for experimentation and creativity. With a bit of direction from a teacher, there’s no limit to what they can do.

“In education, we are constantly seeking pathways to explore learning beyond the confines of a textbook,” explained Rafranz Davis, Executive Director of Professional Development and Learning, Lufkin ISD. “When we see our kids enjoying the process of learning in this way, it’s a game changer.”

A bit of background: MinecraftEdu was formerly owned by a small game development company called TeacherGaming. They’ve been providing educational versions of Minecraft (while officially supported by Mojang) for years now, as well as special lessons, activities, and cloud server space just for classrooms. We’ve written about them before.

In addition to MinecraftEdu, TeacherGaming also has a project called KerbalEdu, in which they create educational versions of the game Kerbal Space Program. They’re going to keep working on educational software and resources for classrooms while Microsoft takes over their Minecraft projects. If you already use MinecraftEdu, you’ll be relieved to know that you can keep using it forever, and you will also get a year’s worth of the new Minecraft: Educational Edition for free. MinecraftEdu licenses will still be for sale all the way up until the release of Minecraft: Educational Edition.

So what comes in Minecraft: Educational Edition? For starters, it will have enhanced maps and coordinates for navigating large worlds, a portfolio feature for keeping track of student creations, enhanced multiplayer that allows for up to 40 students to work together, personalized avatars and login info so teachers can keep track of students better, and world import and export so teachers can create and save levels more easily for future lessons. There will also be built-in lesson plans to help educators get started. Microsoft has launched a new Minecraft Mentors page designed to connect teachers new to Minecraft with teachers who have been using it for years.

Right now the plan is to sell Minecraft: Educational Edition for $5 per user per year, though group discounts are available. Only educators will be able to purchase the new edition, though parents who want to learn more are encouraged to check out their website for resources. You can learn more on their FAQ page.

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Courtney is Pixelkin's Associate Managing Editor. While working with the Girl Scouts of Northern California, she mentored young girls in teamwork, leadership, personal responsibility, and safety. Today, she spends her time studying adolescent development and using literary analysis techniques to examine video games.