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​Microsoft: Minecraft mentors help teachers grok the game

Educators who don't know a creeper from a piston can get online help from experts on using the megahit game in schools. Also new: polar bears.

Microsoft's Minecraft Education Edition turns the videogame into a tool for schools.
Microsoft's Minecraft Education Edition turns the videogame into a tool for schools.

A new version of Microsoft's Minecraft for schools means teachers won't have to struggle for expertise or inspiration using the game with their students.

The video game, which lets players explore its signature blocky 3D realm and build all kinds of fanciful structures, can be complicated. That's especially true if you're building interactive tutorials for students in Minecraft Education Edition.

Hand-picked mentors can now answer teacher questions or offer guidance for particular age groups or subjects, and now there's a larger 60-person team offering blog posts, live streams and videos, Microsoft said Tuesday as it released the updated software.

Minecraft is immensely popular with kids outside schools. The Education Edition, which costs $5 per student, is designed to capitalize on that popularity to help teachers do their job. Its wide-open customization options means Minecraft can be adapted countless ways to help kids learn, not just veg out.

So far 75,000 students are using it, Microsoft said. Teachers can use pre-packaged Minecraft worlds for tasks like exploring ecology, showing the fictional worlds depicted in books, experimenting with construction and architecture, teaching physics and recreating historical moments.

Other changes in the new version:

  • Higher skies -- a 128-block height limit now is lifted to 256 blocks.
  • A global pause ability so teachers can put an entire classroom's Minecraft activities on hold.
  • The addition of igloos and polar bears in snowy areas.
  • An easier process to upload Minecraft worlds for better sharing.
Now playing: Watch this: Kids with autism build life skills in Minecraft

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