Belfast Telegraph

Minecraft free for every post-primary school in Northern Ireland

Minecraft is to be made available to every post-primary school in Northern Ireland as part of a technology project by the annual CultureTECH festival.

It is the first time anywhere in the world, that an entire region has made Minecraft available to its schools. The initiative, funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, means 50,000 children in Northern Ireland will have access to the game.

Licences for the game will be given to up to 240 sites including 30 libraries and community organisations, and a number of volunteer-led coding clubs

Minecraft, originally created by Markus 'Notch' Persson, allows players to build constructions out of textured cubes in a 3D generated world.

MinecraftEdu is a special version of the game designed specifically for schools, with additions that are more useful and appropriate for the classroom. 

Over 5,000 teachers in more than 40 countries have used it to teach subjects such as art, history and computer coding. They join such high-profile organisations as MIT and the UN, who have successfully used Minecraft to teach quantum physics and engage young people in redevelopment of their neighbourhoods.

CultureTECH will work with additional partners including Northern Ireland’s Creative Learning Centres and Honeycomb – Creative Works to provide training and support to teachers who want to use the programme.

Minecraft is one of the most popular video games in history, with over 100 million downloads since its launch in 2009.

Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin said: "This project is truly a world first and demonstrates the innovative and disruptive role that the creative industries can play in education and economic development. It is also a perfect example of the kind of thought-leadership emerging from the North-West, supported by our City of Culture 2013 legacy commitments.

"Game players regularly exhibit persistence, risk taking, attention to detail and problem solving skills, all of which they would ideally also demonstrate in school. By making Minecraft available we hope to encourage this kind of behaviour.”

Mark Nagurski, CEO of CultureTECH, added: "As anyone with a child will know, Minecraft is huge but what is really exciting is how it is being used by educators to help young people express their creative skills and develop their understanding of technology.

"As we’ve developed this project we have already been inundated by emails educators, arts organisations, tech companies and even local councils who see that same potential. Working in partnership with them, TeacherGaming, Mojang and Microsoft we see the next 12 months as a unique opportunity to develop exciting pilot projects with the potential to be adopted across the globe.”

The team behind MinecraftEdu, Finland-based TeacherGaming, were on hand at St Cecilia’s College in Derry to help launch the project and train teachers.

Santeri Koivisto, co-founder of TeacherGaming, said: “Last year TeacherGaming ran a tour and one of the major stops was Derry and the CultureTECH festival. This visit turned into a starting point for a collaboration that has very quickly led to MinecraftEdu's biggest deployment ever.

"We are very much looking forward in getting the Northern Irish schools equipped and creating an example for the rest of the world how innovative companies, with the support of local public organisations, can have a dramatic impact on how we teach and learn.”

DCAL has also supplied funding to create a mobile games studio which CultureTECH will be bringing to community events, schools and other initiatives throughout the year.

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Further reading

Minecraft: If you build it, they will play

Top Notch: Minecraft creator Markus Persson sold his $2.5bn stake to Microsoft after one tweet

Minecraft movie: creator Markus Persson in talks with Warner Bros 

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