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Victoria to introduce new programs for schools to build digital tech skills

Victoria to introduce new programs for schools to build digital tech skills

The state of Victoria
will grant all students in government schools access to Minecraft: Education
Edition, according to a press
release by the Victorian state government on 8th June.
 The move seeks to “give students access to the
very best digital and science technology”, and comes as part of a recent
agreement between the Victoria state government and Microsoft.

The release of
Minecraft: Education Edition for use by students in the state of Victoria
follows earlier releases of the game in other Australian states such as New
South Wales. Minecraft: Education Edition was first made generally available
in Australia by Microsoft Australia on 2 November 2016. Since then, the game
has been widely included in classrooms on a school-wide or state-wide basis;
the game has been in use in over 45 countries since launch.

Minecraft: Education
Edition is increasingly popular as a learning tool in classrooms around the
world, In Australia, the game’s pedagogical potential has already been
demonstrated by many Australian educators, which have since used the game to
teach students a wide range of subjects. Students have used the game to recreate a replica
early Australian settlement, simulate societies during the age of the Victorian
Gold Rush
and even mix chemical compounds.

Providing new
opportunities for interactive and collaborative learning within a “safe, shared
learning environment”, Minecraft: Education Edition is an adapted version of
the immensely popular Minecraft. In addition to the game’s original contents,
the educational version is tailored towards enhancing classroom learning
experiences by encouraging creativity, critical thinking and problem solving
between students. 

The virtual learning space provided by Minecraft : Education
Edition is expected to supplement in-class learning by providing students with
opportunities to directly interact with concepts learnt. The use of the game to
recreate physical structures like school buildings for example, as highlighted
by a number of educators, provides an opportunity for students to not only do
fieldwork, but also engage in concepts in art, math and design in ways that
conventional lessons cannot.

In addition to
providing an expanded, multidisciplinary learning experience that is both safe
and secure, Minecraft: Education Edition also comes with new features that allow teachers to
monitor student activity, and tools to prevent undesirable behaviour like
vandalism or “trolling”
. An in-built camera
function also allows students to take photos and videos of their virtual works
and send them to teachers directly, providing a simpler and more intuitive
alternative to the traditional print-screen function.

“This is about giving
our schools and students access to the best digital technology and programs to
prepare them for the jobs of the future,” said Minister for Education James
Merlino. “We know our kids will need skills in science and in technology as
well as critical thinking, and programs like this give them the opportunity to
develop in these areas.”

The use of Minecraft : Education Edition in enhancing classroom learning
is not without controversy. 

In 2016, The Chair of the UK Department of
Education’s behaviour group Tom Bennett debased the game as “gimmicky” and “(getting)
in the way of children actually learning”; while Minecraft: Education Edition
wholly demonstrated vast pedagogical potential, its success has done little to dissuade fears the the use of computer
games in education could give rise to problems such as video game addiction.

A study conducted in 2016 by the Academy of Finland showed a
strong relationship between internet addiction and school burnout;

Other studies have also pointed out related health risks such as obesity and
optical disorders.

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