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Microsoft acquires teachers' version of Minecraft, will launch Minecraft: Education Edition

Teaching tool was created five years ago with Mojang's support

Owen S. Good is a longtime veteran of video games writing, well known for his coverage of sports and racing games.

Microsoft has acquired MinecraftEdu, a version designed by educators for classroom use, and will use it to launch Minecraft: Education Edition, developer Mojang announced this morning.

Minecraft: Education Edition will be free for a year to existing customers of the five-year-old MinecraftEducreated in 2011 by Joel Levin, a second-grade teacher in New York City. It evolved into a teaching aid fully supported by Mojang, and used by more than 5,500 educators in 40 countries to teach subjects ranging from science to history and art.

MinecraftEdu was one of three initiatives owned by TeacherGaming, an independent games studio founded by three teachers on the success of MinecraftEdu. It also develops an educational edition of Kerbal Space Program.

Minecraft: Education Edition will be supported by a new education-focused community at the official Minecraft site, where newcomers to the teaching aid can connect with experienced users for advice on incorporating into their lessons.

"One of the reasons Minecraft fits so well in the classroom is because it's a common, creative playground," Vu Bui, Mojang's chief operating officer, said in a statement. "We've seen that Minecraft transcends the differences in teaching and learning styles and education systems around the world. It's an open space where people can come together and build a lesson around nearly anything."

Minecraft: Education Edition will launch this summer with a free trial. Pricing details were not announced. More information is available in this FAQ.