It is an exciting day, the MC:EE Beta program officially started today. With something like 4000 users trialling this software within schools, the next few weeks are going to be super busy for Microsoft's development team.
I have loaded it up and explored it myself, but am having trouble getting it installed on student machines so I have not been able to get students involved yet sadly. My other big blocker is something called a tenant. My O365 account is linked to my departments 'tenant', but I cannot get student accounts on that same tenant as far as I am aware. Which unfortunately means that even if I manage to get students online using locally hosted O365 accounts I will be unable to join their worlds unless I can change my 'tenant' or get my O365 account also added to my local tenant or get a new O365 account on the local tenant(about as clear as mud right?). All of which is going to take time and effort from my technician. First job is to get it installed and running on school computers, from there I will begin exploring how I can get students on, and join them in their exploration.
Many of the concerns I raised in my last post have not been addressed, I think the only one that has is that there is a mac version in the beta. However platform is still a big issue, it still only runs on Windows 10 and El Capitan. I think this is going to cut out many schools from getting involved in Minecraft for education. I hope the development team seriously consider this after the beta is over. I have not heard any more on the pricing structure and I believe that the modding option is completely off the table at this stage. It feels like Microsoft wants to make EE a self contained unit, which I can understand but at this point it is limiting the flexibility we are used to. Hopefully the key functions we used mods for in MCEdu will become a part of MC:EE without needing to add parts.
As it stands currently however I have a new concern, and that is the lack of a central server option. Since it is based off the Pocket Edition code, which allows players to easily connect to one another that is the process that the current form is taking. Any student can create a world and allow other students/teachers to join it. This could be a very big problem in terms of 'load' on the machine 'hosting'. Another concern is that it only allows others to join if they are a member of the same 'tenant'. Which means global collaboration is out of the picture at this point. So is teachers joining together on the one server and collaboratively building lessons, or helping each other out as others have done so many times for me and I for them. This is something I sincerely hope the development team look into and support teachers and students joining together and working collaboratively with people from around the globe, ideally on a central server of some sort rather than a client machine hosting and definitely with easier management of allowed users.
There are some very neat features that I am not allowed to talk about just yet, but rest assured that as soon as I can I will be sharing them. I want to stress again, having met and talked to some of the team behind this, they have their hearts in the right place, they are seriously open to feedback, suggestions and ideas, so if you have some let it be known on the user voice: https://feedback.minecraft.net/forums/345414-minecraft-education-edition
It is certainly an interesting and challenging time to be involved in the Minecraft in Education space.
Thanks for reading, please, as always, feel free to leave any comments below.