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Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms (backchannel.com) 55

Minecraft: Education Edition offers lesson plans like "City Planning for Population Growth" and "Effects of Deforestation," and a June preview attracted more than 25,000 students and teachers from 40 different countries. Slashdot reader mirandakatz writes: In the two years since Microsoft acquired Minecraft's parent company, it's discovered a brilliant new direction to take the game: it's turning it into a tool for education, creating both an innovative approach to classroom technology and an inspired strategy for competing with Google and Apple in the ed-tech market. 'I actually never believed there would be a game that would really cross over between the commercial entertainment market and education in a mainstream way,' says cultural anthropologist Mimi Ito—but Minecraft has managed to do just that.
In 2015 Chromebooks represented over 50% of PC sales for U.S. schools, while Windows PC accounted for just 22%, the article reports. But Minecraft is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris, and in the two years since Microsoft acquired it, "Sales have doubled to almost 107 million copies sold... If you were to count each copy sold as representing one person, the resulting population would be the world's 12th largest country (after Japan)." And as the article points out, "wherever Minecraft goes, Microsoft is there."
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Microsoft Weaponizes Minecraft In the War Over Classrooms

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  • Wut (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    How the fuck does Minecraft constitute ed-tech?
    Is anything ed-tech these days? Watching wall paint dry teaches me chemistry and thermodynamics about as much as Mincraft teaches me math, physics, programming, and chemistry.

    • Re:Wut (Score:4, Interesting)

      by 0100010001010011 ( 652467 ) on Sunday September 18, 2016 @08:57AM (#52911553)

      You can build an 8-bit computer in minecraft. Red stone is basic logic gates. People have built fully automated tools and processes using very basic resources.

      I'd hire a top Minecraft builder to build my Simulink models over most Engineers I've seen that use it.

      I'm interested in what paint drying you're watching that teaches you that much about chemistry and thermo.

      • Re:Wut (Score:4, Informative)

        by AthanasiusKircher ( 1333179 ) on Sunday September 18, 2016 @11:57AM (#52912279)

        You can build an 8-bit computer in minecraft. Red stone is basic logic gates. People have built fully automated tools and processes using very basic resources.

        And frequently in rather unrealistic ways. Don't get me wrong -- I recognize Minecraft is a GAME and thus uses different logic from the real world. Like any game with some creative components, it allows users to figure out how to exploit the game rules to do interesting things.

        I'm interested in what paint drying you're watching that teaches you that much about chemistry and thermo.

        Hmm... well, let's see...

        10 THINGS MINECRAFT TAUGHT ME ABOUT CHEMISTRY AND THERMO:

        (1) Water comes in blocks and stays in blocks... sometimes. But when you carry it up a mountain in a round bucket and put a block of it on the ground, it spontaneously regenerates and can produce a giant waterfall.
        (2) If I have two water "blocks," I can make infinite water forever.
        (3) Water has a large enough viscosity that you can swim up a waterfall.
        (4) Torches have a magical fuel source that can burn forever.
        (5) For some reason, torches can't show light when you carry them, but will produce light forever when placed on a surface.
        (6) Cows are magically able to produce unlimited amounts of milk.
        (7) Weirdly, carnivorous diets are much more energy efficient than vegetarian diets. Animals somehow magically create more energy for consumption, the opposite of in the real world. (E.g., consider how many pieces of wheat it takes to breed a new cow (and how much energy/life you'd get by consuming that wheat) vs. how much energy/life you get when you slaughter the new cow and eat the meat.)
        (8) Obsidian is a weirdly strong material rather than in the real world where it's a brittle glass that fractures under stress relatively easily.
        (9) Chemistry of materials is apparently very sensitive to direction. If you let water flow in different directions toward molten rock (lava), you'll get at least four different outcomes.
        (10) If you want electricity, you have to go out and find this stuff called "redstone," which can be mined and produce infinite sources of power. (And it behaves in all sorts of irrational ways.)

        I could go on. And this doesn't even get into the nonsense "chemistry" of "potions", etc. in Minecraft, the fact that making anything is usually just a matter of some obscure placement of items in the correct positions (maybe roasting something in the oven), or the complete nonsense physics.

        Meanwhile, by observing paint drying, particularly with decent tools and meters, I may be able to get a more realistic perspective precipitate and solid formation, realistic viscosity, polymer chemistry, effects of thermodynamics on evaporation and mass transfer, changes in reflection and frequencies of light interaction from pigments in various situations, etc.

        Again, this is NOT a criticism of the game mechanics of Minecraft. But saying it "teaches" you stuff about chemistry and thermo isn't very accurate... it just "teaches" you how to play a game. Along the way, it might teach abstract logical skills -- the same way doing geometrical proofs, composing rote sentences in Latin, and other stuff people used to do did. I'm not advocating for the latter, just noting the kind of "knowledge" gained from Minecraft is more abstract -- learning to follow recipes, being creative within the arbitrary constraints of a system/world, utilizing resources wisely, etc.

        • Weirdly, carnivorous diets are much more energy efficient than vegetarian diets.

          From the perspective of a human consumer, it absolutely is. Your body has to do very little to extract nourishment from meat and can sustain itself for far longer on meat than any other food source. Meanwhile, it has to do a lot to extract it from plant matter, and in fact our bodies can't even extract nourishment from most plants, save for those we've selectively bred over thousands of years to be less fibrous. This is why true herbivores can survive well off of just any grass or leaves, but we'll starve i

          • Weirdly, carnivorous diets are much more energy efficient than vegetarian diets.

            From the perspective of a human consumer, it absolutely is. Your body has to do very little to extract nourishment from meat and can sustain itself for far longer on meat than any other food source.

            You completely missed my point. I'm NOT talking about the "energy balance" inside the human body. I'm talking about the overall energy required to produce food, i.e., the thermodynamics of food creation in Minecraft. In the real world, all that nutrition in meat comes at a price -- you need to feed animals LOTS of food (some of which might instead be consumed by humans directly) as well as other resources to obtain that meat. In the real world, vegetables and grains may be less nourishing per pound, but

        • Hi AthanasiusKircher, I wouldn't worry too much about kids learning bad physics from Minecraft. They probably aren't learning anything other than how to play Minecraft.

          So, they're claiming that Minecraft is useful for achieving educational learning outcomes. Where's the evidence? What are the effect sizes, what are they for, and under what conditions? I've managed to find two papers that discuss effect sizes; one simply claims that proficiency at Minecraft is a good indicator of already developed spatial te

          • I think the actual strength of a game like Minecraft is not that it teaches you anything, but that it raises interests in things like architecture, electronics, farming, geography, etc. So it inspires kids to learn real-world things.
            I got interested in history, cultures and politics thanks to the Civilization games. Though I doubt the Civ games tought me much in and by themselves.

    • Re:Wut (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Pseudonym ( 62607 ) on Sunday September 18, 2016 @09:14AM (#52911629)

      How the fuck does Minecraft constitute ed-tech?

      To be fair, if anyone can take all the fun out of Minecraft, Microsoft can.

  • by lecithin ( 745575 ) on Sunday September 18, 2016 @08:48AM (#52911525)

    I taught a Minecraft class last year at our school last year for 3rd-8th grade kids. They tolerated Minecraft EDU, but would rather just play on servers or in LAN world as a regular Minecraft Client.

    They won't be having the class this year as the Education Edition requires them to upgrade their lab to Windows 10. They aren't going to do that and want linux in the classroom. Now that Education Edition requires W10 for both client/server, I no longer have any interest in the 'value add' of the EDU product.

    I can almost appreciate the need for a W10 server, but requiring all clients to be on W10? No thanks.

    • What's so great about edu edition anyway? You can get mods that give you programmable blocks and whatnot so it seems like an educational mod pack would be just as good in every way, maybe better in some.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by lecithin ( 745575 )

        I completely agree and that is why I recommended 'standard' edition. This was refused by the school because they have been sold on the EDU edition. The value adds are minimal, with the exception is that it was 'free'.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Minetest?

      It is minecraft using C++ and lua. Doesn't necessarily have every feature of minecraft, but it runs on windows, osx, linux, android, and a few others. If there are necessary restrictions you need for running it at school they should be doable with the source code or the extremely friendly user community.

      Furthermore its resource usage is extremely low. You can run it on a pentium 2 or 3 with an OpenGL 2.1 card. Maybe even lower, but that is pushing the minimum frame rate boundaries.

      If you get a chan

    • After looking through my kids future school's budget I really want to know how your school district started looking at Linux in the classroom.

      They were proud that they saved $20k on anti-virus software by buying in bulk... without saying how much they spent.

    • Have you tried Minetest?
  • 'Weaponize' ? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by lbalbalba ( 526209 ) on Sunday September 18, 2016 @09:02AM (#52911579)
    So education is 'weaponizing' now ?
    Note to ./ editors : stop making overly sensationalist headlines. Please.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

      So education is 'weaponizing' now ?

      No, tying a "free" educational release to Windows 10 is weaponizing it. There's obviously nothing so special about Minecraft that it would require any of the new APIs in Windows 10. Minecraft edu edition is part of Microsoft's strategy for spreading Windows Spyware Edition. There's nothing about minecraft edu that's superior to just using some mods with MC aside from the price, so this is not about education. This is about inducing schools to move to Windows 10.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        Your forget that windows 10 than also forces the use of Windows Office as obvious package deals and all those purchases, well special deals for the people, the individuals making the purchases and free trial copies for them et al. So corrupt business practices continue.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    They haven't "discovered" anything. Mojang has had a long history of social activism and using Minecraft for educational purposes, long before Markus sold everyone at the company up the river to Microsoft. Vu, Lydia and Owen did more to do good with the brand than Microsoft can ever hope to do by simply using the brand as a screwdriver in their toolbox to drive mindshare to their own products.

  • Are probably to a lot of the same people.
    • Same goes for Tetris, how many platforms has that been ported to?

      The versions aren't even all that dissimilar, why don't we just aggregate all the versions of Madden together while we're at it?

  • But Minecraft is the second best-selling game of all time, behind only Tetris

    If you count games bundled with a system, the best-selling game ever is certainly Snake, as it came with pretty much every Nokia cell phone since 1997. That must be well over a billion devices.

  • by JBMcB ( 73720 ) on Sunday September 18, 2016 @09:55AM (#52911797)

    Pretty good simulation of deforestation. If you don't chop down trees and built a fort, the zombies eat you.

  • If you're interested in introducing kids to coding in Minecraft, but without the Windows 10 lock-in, try out ScraM: http://scram.frequal.com [frequal.com]

    Don't throw away your Minecraft PC or Pocket edition licenses, you can use your existing hardware and software with ScraM. Mods and minigames you and your students create work in PC and Pocket Edition, from Linux, Windows, Mac, iOS, or Android.

    ScraM: Mod Once, Play Anywhere!

    See how easy it is to get started with ScraM in these YouTube videos: https://www.youtube.com/ch [youtube.com]

  • Isn't this a bit like sneaking kale and spinach in the burger? It's good for you but that's not why you eat a burger.

The only thing cheaper than hardware is talk.

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