Archive for February, 2022

There is a lot of discussion in education around motivation, with intrinsic motivation being the nirvana we are all seeking. Of course, we can all use some nudges on the way.  I always think those of us trying to motivate students should be looking at how we are motivated ourselves. to give an honest view of what makes us do the stuff we know is good for us, but we sometimes struggle to do.

When it comes to my fitness I am quite obsessed.   There are three apps that are hugely influential on me:  Fitbit, Strava and Participaction and each push me with very different motivators. In combination they have made be a bit (some might say a lot) obsessive, but also pushed me to health goals which I always knew were what I wanted theoretically, but never could really keep beyond a few weeks or months.

Fitbit – Since January 1st of 2014 I have taken at least 10,000 steps a day – through rain, snow, travel, illness – sometimes at 11:45 PM, but always hitting the target.  Steps are just one of the things I track obsessively on Fitbit.  I keep track of my nightly temperature to see if I might be getting sick, I follow my heart rate and try to look for behaviours that are leading to even a couple beat difference in my resting heart rate.  I also feel the buzz on my wrist 10 minutes before every hour telling me to finish getting my 250 steps for the hour.  And I see my sleep scores and I try to reverse my pattern I have of always having the poorest sleep score on Sunday nights. And in our house we also have Fitbit connected to our scale, so weight and body fat are regularly measured and tracked over weeks, months and years.  The metrics give perspective and motivation.  

I know many people who have got rid of their smart watch.  As all these things that I have listed as motivators, they see as the opposite.  The joy, they say, is gone from working out when you are driven my your watch.  They say they are happier and fitter without being tethered to the data – but for me it works.

Strava –  I became a daily Strava user about a year ago and it has made a massive difference in my life.  Strava has some of the metrics of Fitbit, but it is more the system of badges which motivate me.  Now, I know this seems silly.  While Strava is a social app, I am connected to maybe a dozen people.  I am definitely not collecting badges to impress anyone.  But I do love to collect them.  There are badges for doing a 5 km, 10 km and half marathon each month.  There are also badges for reaching 100, 200 and 300 km of running distance each month.  And a series of other badges for various accomplishments over periods of time.  I will think, when am I going to get my half marathon badge in February?  I don’t think I would have thought – when am I going to run a half marathon in February if not for this gently nudge.  Strava has a series of other features – including the ability to track best times over segments of a run.  And yes, when I am out a 5 AM running a 10 k, I will think, I am going to sprint the segment between 4 – 5 km mark today to try to record my fastest time ever.  Again a gently nudge,  a way to break up the monotony of the run and a chance to share a “gold medal” for my fastest time with my dozen followers.

Again, it is not all that logical.  While Strava is a social app, for me it is not.  It is a personal app.  I think the motivation on the segments help me realize that I can get older and still get faster – it makes me feel good!  And the badges are silly – I get it.  They are meaningless but take February, there are only 28 days, so I have 3 fewer days than January to finish my 300 km and earn the badge – I am planning now my running schedule for the month – crazy, but it works for me.

Participaction –  I am probably most embarrassed about my motivations in using Participaction.  You remember Participaction?  The people that brought us Body Break with Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod in the late 1980’s now have an app to get Canada healthy.  The app takes data from your fitness tracker (in my case Fitbit) and tracks steps, moving minutes and active minutes.  But why do I come back?  I come back for the prizes.  They have weekly draws for people who use the app, read the articles and watch the videos.  So, when I have a couple minutes I do these things.  And finally after using the app for a couple of years – just a couple weeks ago I won a $10 Amazon Gift Card.  In terms of value for return based on time spent, it isn’t great – but prizes, even small ones, can be a motivator.  And, I have learned a lot from the articles and videos – content I would likely have never engaged with.

Now, I know, I keep thinking about how bad it is to pay our kids for good grades, but here I am learning about health and fitness for the shot at a small gift card.  We all do like to win things, and the chance of winning a prize helps bring me back to Participaction.

So, that is my oversharing for the week.  Am I intrinsically motivated to be fit?  Sure.  I also find that technology helps nudge me along – it gives me data that allows me to feel ownership of my health, it gives me a sense of competition and of ongoing improvement, and it rewards me with prizes.  And through this, I better understand myself and my motivations and know there are lessons in all of this for the work we do in schools as well.  


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It is always dangerous to write about something you know only at a cursory level – but here we are – writing is a great way to work through ideas. I have been reading, listening, and watching a lot about NFTs lately, soaking in all I can about them.

It is probably worth starting with a definition – what are NFTs? Non-Fungible Tokens take digital works of art and other collectibles into one-of-a-kind, verifiable assets that are easy to trade on the blockchain.  They are unique cryptographic tokens that exist on a blockchain technology to verify ownership and value which cannot be replicated or hacked. 

I know for many that read this blog, you will now ask what is blockchain?  Again, this is all beyond my expertise, I am only about 10 pages ahead in the book than the rest of you who are learning these new terms today.  Blockchains are distributed databases that store data electronically and simultaneously in a way that both maintains a verifiable public record while enhancing (at least in theory) individual privacy and security.  A quick Google search can probably give you all you need to better understand blockchains and how they connect to cryptocurrencies, Bitcoin and all these other entities that are quickly becoming a part of our language.

But back to NFTs.

For many in the mainstream, it has been the Bored Ape Yacht Club that has brought NFTs into their discussions.  They have made news lately with owners like Eminem and Jimmy Fallon and the stories of their prices – starting last April at about $190 USD and now the cheapest ones over $200,000 USD and some much, much more expensive.  As with any new digital advances, I think it is important to look at what might be school connections.  It is easy to roll your eyes and tag this a fad like Beanie Babies, but there is something bigger going on. 

For schools to be relevant, we need to keep our eye on the world around us and always be asking what impact could this have for schools and how could we leverage or connect with this shift in our schools.  Our history with technology teaches us (think our recent history with social media) that if we don’t supply our strategic input in the beginning, the technology may likely envelop our classrooms without our guidance.

So, here are few thoughts on NFTs:

Transcripts and Credentials – My first thought of an easy entry for NFTs would be that students’ records and transcripts could be tokenized.  So rather than being something owned by the school or district and shared with the student, the student owns the record on the blockchain.   Some questions we should consider:  How will such tokenized transcripts be used?  How will universities and employers utilize the entire record of a student’s learning?  Do we want every ‘mistake’ in learning to be memorialized forever?  Are traditional letter grade style reports appropriate for this medium?

A Unique Grad NFT – What if every student that graduated from a school or district in a particular year got an NFT for that class.  This token might then be used for special opportunities like alumni events or partnered with local businesses that give them discounts or other advantages.  For many, the diploma on the wall is dated, so this new way of recognition might be a replacement.  I imagine a unique NFT for each year. Some questions to consider:  Can this move foster greater community / resource access for those historically disenfranchised?   Can NFTs be used to motivate students?  Do NFTs potentially create a more productive interaction between schools, businesses, students and families? 

Producing NFTs in art and other classes – I am sure this is already going on, but we should be creating NFTs in schools (If you are, let me know).  What a great opportunity to do some cross-curricular learning linking technology, business, economics, and art.  From time to time, we have student artists with works on displays in local galleries for sale, and this innovation seems like the modern next step.  Here is a story from last fall on teenage artists making millions of dollars on NFTs.   

Just a couple weeks ago, a Texas based company launched a business that will sell high school athletes NFTs – allowing these athletes (it is a bit tricky because of eligibility rules and making money) to profit off of their excellence.  And for considerations:  Who will own the NFT?  Do we want to commodify student art and athletics?  Can students and districts utilize art and sport NFTs for the school community?  How do districts find and develop the expertise to help teach students?

Modern Portfolios – Portfolios have been intended to be ways to capture learning as a set of experiences rather than just a reflection of content knowledge.  One of the challenges has been the storage of these items – like a child learning to read, or hitting a shot in a basketball game or making blueberry muffins.  The NBA has been selling moments through their Top Shot Digital Collectibles.  This idea could be replicated for students in school who collect their own learning NFTs.  I wrote a few years ago about digital badges and the NFT seems like the logical next step in creating a modern trophy case of your experiences.   And to think about:  Can NFT portfolios help enhance a collective meritocracy?  Will these portfolios help universities overcome  their admission bureaucratic challenges?  Can they accurately reflect a student’s learning journey?  Can such portfolios be created by districts and Ministries of Education instead of corporations to ensure their use and longevity in the K-20 system?

NFTs are really in their infancy and much is being made of the crazy economics around some of them and their role in the new digital economy.  There may also be a place for them in schools as these tokens become more widespread. 

As someone who was obsessed with trading cards growing up (OK, and maybe still am) this seems like the digital version plus so much more.  We are only just at the beginning, but that is often the best time to get involved.

Are any of you out there using NFTs in schools?  

Special thanks to Sean Nosek and Jason Buccheri who have been getting me up-to-speed and helped with this post.

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