A Short Guide for Library Computer Labs Wanting to Use Minecraft: Part 1
The following is a guest post by Chris Markman, Senior Librarian at Palo Alto City Library in conjunction with PLP’s recently awarded Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) grant, “Cybersecurity for Youth Using Minecraft”. This project is supported in whole or in part by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act, administered in California by the State Librarian. The opinions expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the position or policy of the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library, and no official endorsement by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services or the California State Library should be inferred.
In part 1 of this guide we will briefly look at the various versions of Minecraft out there and look specifically at the technical requirements surrounding Education Edition. Check back for part 2 where I’ll discuss some of alternative strategies for deploying Minecraft in a public computer lab setting, and part 3 where we crunch the numbers to compare different deployment options.
Did you know Minecraft went through some major updates last year in 2017? This was called the Better Together update and it changed how different version of the game interacted with each other. For example, prior to this update, if you had a mobile phone version of the game it wasn’t possible to join a multiplayer server with your friends on Xbox. By extension, library customers were limited to playing in a specific way or at a specific place. Each iteration of Minecraft was essentially stuck in a silo without the ability to meet up in cyberspace.
This is worth mentioning because if your library previously invested in Minecraft before version 1.2 was released, the landscape it a lot different now. Check out the official FAQ from Minecraft for more info about this major update.
In addition to platform melding, this change also introduced some new terminology to the Minecraft world. There are three major “flavors” of Minecraft now:
- Minecraft (formally called Minecraft Bedrock, Minecraft PE, etc)
- Minecraft Java Edition (an extension of the original Minecraft codebase, but renamed)
- Minecraft Education Edition (a special version of Minecraft Bedrock, based on a third party licensed version of Minecraft Java which no longer exists)
At first glance you might think Minecraft, Minecraft Java, and Minecraft Education Edition (MCEE) are three completely different versions of the game, or there’s a need to own more than one to get the full experience. This is not completely true.
The major differences between Minecraft and Minecraft Java edition are about how users interact with the wider Minecraft community, including things like game mods and custom skins for their virtual avatar—the “UX” of Minecraft, if that makes sense. These versions are similarly priced around ~$20-30 per person but are single user licenses. They are the “consumer” version. This is vastly different than MCEE which has a Microsoft Office365 sign-in component and “enterprise” style licensing model which is priced per-seat and per-month.
This might go without saying but I should also mention a key difference between MCEE and other versions is not only the ability to manage the game world easier as an instructor through various super powers granted by the software, but also the ability to easily leverage the ginormous classroom resources portal available through the MCEE website.
Two More Things
Another important difference between MCEE and other versions of Minecraft is the required OS. With MCEE you need Windows 10 or a very up to date version of OSX or iOS (for iPad edition). This is a roadblock for many libraries right now if your hardware refresh cycle or OS is of an older Windows vintage. The next major roadblock for many public computer labs using MCEE will likely be your default LAN configuration. At this point it might seem clear which version you want to pick. In part 2 we’ll look at some of the reasons why you may or may not want to take that path…