Posts Tagged ‘cryptocurrency’

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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