For the first time ever, a video game will be widely distributed across an entire region in an effort to rekindle academic efforts in high schools. 200 schools, 30 libraries and various coding clubs across Northern Ireland are about to receive free copies of MinecraftEDU, courtesy of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure. The purpose of this project is to engage young boys and make them interested in learning, even if it takes a video game to do it.
MinecraftEDU comes bundled with the vanilla version of Minecraft and full server/client capabilities. It contains various tools that the teacher can use to help students understand how fluids and gases work, acquire coding skills, understand mathematical probability and other abstract concepts.
Released in 2011 as a one-man project, Minecraft boasts a massive modding community that has produced a variety of add-ons, from the inane to the extremely intricate. For example, the qCraft add-on focuses on teaching the player about quantum physics.
Of course, there is the issue of structured gameplay not being fun. Kids play video games because they give them a certain degree of freedom which isn’t present in their immediate surroundings. If killing monsters is replaced with solving quizzes and repeating lessons from the blackboard, is it even a video game anymore? Is there a way to make structured learning fun?
Probably not. In any case, video games have always been a great source of information and valuable educational tools. For example, Hexen taught me that pigs can viciously bite you, and are therefore not to be trusted.