This week Microsoft shared its aspirations and products to help students prepare for the jobs of tomorrow, that includes the online phenomenon and virtual construction game Minecraft.

CEO Satya Nadella and Terry Myerson, executive vice president of Windows and Devices, have announced a new Windows experience – Windows 10 S, Microsoft Teams for a collaborative classroom, Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition, a partnership with Pearson to use 3D and mixed reality experiences for immersive learning and a range of new Windows 10 S PCs, including Surface Laptop. 

According to some researchers, the human mind is a plug-and-play device itself; not built for being used alone. Our brains are hard-wired to be used in networks and games allow that. The rise of online games, where people compete with others around the world, allows us to build a collective intelligence. Many people are more intelligent when they form part of a collective.

Working with partners, including Acer, ASUS, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, Samsung and Toshiba, Microsoft will offer new Windows 10 PCs with features including Windows Ink and touch. Windows 10 S will be available for free for schools on any compatible Windows device along with Office 365 for Education, which is also free for students and will be available around the world in time for the 2017 school year.

 

Play is usually associated with non-academic pastimes, yet online games and exciting interactive digital products can become architects for engagement. Microsoft Teams is a digital hub for the classroom where students come to collaborate and learn. Together with OneNote Class Notebooks, a new assignment and quiz experiences, teachers can easily distribute content, grade work, personalize learning, and easily communicate with students, parents and staff.   

Teams also enables teachers to bring in rich and engaging content from the web, guest speakers, and 3rd party partners such as Kahoots directly into their classroom environment. And most importantly, Teams helps students develop the communication and collaboration skills they’ll need to be successful in the future.

Microsoft is broadening Minecraft’s appeal in the classroom with Code Builder for Minecraft: Education Edition. This new feature allows students to learn coding basics by connecting to popular learn-to-code platforms such as Tynker, ScratchX, and a new open source platform from Microsoft called MakeCode. 

School books may still be around for a while, but some experts think they promote a “single dimension” approach to learning. Online and digital games promote persistence, risk taking, collaboration and problem-solving – all good lessons for budding entrepreneurs and those heading into the (increasingly digital) jobs of tomorrow. While games alone are not the only solution, they certainly have a role to play in developing a well-rounded education and a critical approach to problem-solving.  Many games are actually hard; something an adult may only discover when they secretly peek at the games their kids have been playing.

A one-year free trial of Minecraft: Education Edition and the Code Builder extension are available for Windows 10 and Windows 10 S for schools around the world in the Microsoft Store for Education