A new version of Minecraft developed for the classroom is now available for early access. Minecraft servers Minecraft Education Edition was announced back in January alongside Microsoft's acquisition of MinecraftEdu the team who had been working on developing the game for teachers. The upgrade is free this summer until the per-student pricing model is launched for the academic year. Microsoft has offered MinecraftEdu customers a year's free access to Education Edition as a thank you. This will likely kick in after the trial expires.
The Education Edition of Minecraft has certain advantages over the vanilla version. It can accommodate up to 30 students learn together in one world. This eliminates the need for a private server via services like Minecraft Realms. Teachers can create non-player characters (NPCs) to create an easier experience and also equip them with web-based links so that students can access additional resources. A chalkboard can be used to give instructions, and students can also use a camera for taking photos of their work and create an in-game portfolio.
Microsoft states that it is working on many other features requested by the community. The new interface provides teachers with a map with markers for each student as well as the ability to teleport users (should anyone accidentally wander off or make a mistake) and a chat window that can be used to manage private and class-wide conversations. Minecraft has already proven itself to be a very effective tool for education. It can teach art, geology and even coding. There is an official version for schools.