Tom Bennett, the UK government's 'schools Behaviour Czar', has criticised the use of Minecraft in the classroom as a teaching tool, claiming it's a gimmick which is detrimental to learning.
Microsoft is due to launch the release version of Minecraft: Education Edition tomorrow, having trialled the early access version of the phenomenally popular game since June. The tech giant had worked alongside organisation TeacherGaming, which also introduced Kerbal Space Program to classrooms, before buying the officially licensed MinecraftEdu from the group in January.
However, in a report in the Times this morning (Subscription required), Bennett quoted a favourite phrase of US President Elect Donald Trump as he dismissed the usefulness of the program as a classroom aid.
"I am not a fan of Minecraft in lessons," said Bennett. "This smacks to me of another gimmick which will get in the way of children actually learning. Removing these gimmicky aspects of education is one of the biggest tasks facing us as teachers. We need to drain the swamp of gimmicks.
"I would say to teachers: 'Do you need to use this game or is there something that is cheaper and better - like books?' By offering a game and a gimmicky way of learning a subject, you run a real risk of children focusing on the wrong thing."
Bennett is a behavioural expert, having practised for many years as a teacher before founding the business researchED to improve the standards of quantitative research in educational practice. In that role he has travelled to several countries and advised governments on issues of child behaviour, including the US. He has also previously been critical of schools' responses to OFSTED inspections, claiming teachers were "massaging figures" and concealing bad behaviour from inspectors, preferring to avoid the exclusion of disruptive pupils.
Nonetheless, many of the teachers who have been involved in early trials of the game in classrooms disagree with his assessment, claiming that the program offers a way to reach children who might otherwise be very difficult to engage and allows teachers to present lessons in much more engrossing and impactful ways, whilst Microsoft argues that it enhances problem solving techniques and gives children the scope to work on large collaborative projects at low cost.