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Education in the Cloud
Digital Classrooms as Data Factories
What is a “Smart” City?
Learning Ecosystems and the Internet of Things
Blockchain and “The Ledger”
How Austerity Generates Data
Reinventing Education for Impact Investment
The 6-minute video
Learning is Earning created
by Institute for the Future
context for the
information that follows.
More on IFTF HERE
What is blockchain?
Blockchain is a computer
sequence to digitally transfer
ownership of an asset
between two parties, without
the need for a trusted third
party to verify the
Parties can move bitcoin
and other types of assets
including tickets, digital
policies, proof of
records, stock, etc. via
Once transactions or
smart contracts are
initiated there is no
Everything is automated.
Blockchain is a digital,
distributed ledger that
keeps a permanent record
of all transactions that
take place across a peer-
It is being promoted as...
A frictionless system for the movement of capital
that will allow the number of transactions to
enabling virtually instantaneous transactions
without the need for a third party
which reduces the cost to process transactions.
But should we believe the hype?
How does this relate to education?
Ed Reform 2.0
envisions a future
report cards or
better place to store
than an e-portfolio on
A decentralized learning
demands many small
payments to multiple
provide infrastructure for
A smart contract
could be set up on
the blockchain to
trigger actions like
conditions are met.
Imagine a day when...
Every student has a wallet of digital currency as their Education Savings Account.
Families “shop” around for educational experiences.
Many are online courses. Those track student data via facial recognition or other
Others are in community-based settings like makerspaces. Those are tracked via
RFID card, biometric device, or IoT sensor.
Once a student meets a certain performance measure, say
attendance or demonstration of a competency, payment is
automatically transferred to the service provider.
Tracking Students in Learning Ecosystems
Online Learning Activities
Offline Learning Activities
Data Transmitted to “The Ledger” (Blockchain)
Credentials Issued When Conditions Are Met-Badges
Blockchain “Smart” Contracts Trigger Payments to
Educational Providers When Provisions Are Met
MIT and the Learning Machine prototype Blockcerts.
MIT has a number of
cryptocurrency and digital
Arizona already uses a debit
card to manage their
Education Savings Accounts. It
would not be a big leap to
transfer them to a bitcoin
Weighted Student Funding and ESAs
The Nellie Mae Foundation has been promoting “reform” around education funding.
Weighted funding, which allocates additional resources to students who are low-income, have IEPs, or
are English Language Learners, is one method being discussed.
But what if the endgame is to decouple funding from districts?
Weighted funding could follow the student via ESAs making some of the most vulnerable students
attractive targets for out-of-school and virtual educational service providers.
Families accepting ESAs release the state from their obligation to provide a Free Appropriate Public
Service providers would be under no obligation to provide accommodations or comply with IEPs.
Could that be why special needs students are being targeted for the first round of the ESA roll out?
has been holding
gatherings on his
private island for
the past two years.
The ID2020 initiative sponsored by the United
Nations aims to create a digital identity for
everyone in the world.
Identities would link biometric and financial
Because each block is linked through encryption
into the chain, and the ledger is distributed
among a multitude of computers, verified
transactions are permanent and immutable.
This creates a “permanent record” that can be
authenticated. There are no do-overs.
ID2020 Concept for Public/Private Partnership
In 2015 the Blockchain Alliance teamed up with law enforcement.
Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Investigations
Department of Homeland Security
US Marshal’s Service
Commodities Future Trading
According to a panel discussion from the
Milken Institute (K12):
2015 was the year of education. Open
dialogue among all market constituents
2016 was the year of proof of concept.
Paper transactions were set up.
2017 is the year particular use cases are
going into production.
Within 5 years they anticipate the
technology will scale, and people will use
it in their daily life. Source
March 2015 The Federal Reserve discusses blockchain payment
modernization with IBM.
May 2016 Former Delaware Governor Markell launches blockchain initiative in
the state that sets the national standard for finance law.
June 2017 IBM and Accenture (biometrics) team up to work with the UN on
the Identity 2020 project.
June 2017 IBM and AIG create the first multi-national “smart” insurance
contract on the blockchain.
June 2017 Nevada becomes first state to pass a law banning blockchain taxes.
What could go wrong with an ESA / blockchain system?
It would be the ultimate “free market” takeover of public
It would create a fractured, isolating, competitive system of
Educational providers would be released from any
obligation to serve all students.
Knowledge would become atomized.
Only skills suited to current workforce needs would be relevant; creativity and imagination stifled.
“Smart” contracts would be written to advantage educational service providers over students.
There would be no opportunity to correct one’s “permanent” record.
No do-overs. Your past follows you forever though the ledger’s transaction records.
How does blockchain work?
Each party has a bitcoin wallet.
A transfer is initiated.
Each party has a public key and a private key that the system uses in
The private key is a long set of integer numbers.
Each blockchain transaction is “signed” with this private key.
It verifies identity and the assets in the ledger.
The transaction is broadcast to the network of peer-to-peer computers, nodes.
Each transaction is encrypted with a security code.
The network validates transactions by solving a complex mathematical problem.
The computer nodes working on the problem are called miners.
The miner that solves the problem receives a reward in newly-minted bitcoin.
The bitcoin payment provides an incentive for the miners to keep the system
The chain is continually updated.
Every node maintains a complete copy of the ledger.
Transaction histories are saved in perpetuity and are verifiable.
Once verified the transaction is
combined with others into a block.
Each block has data included that
references the previous block.
The block is then added to the
blockchain, which completes the
It is a network of replicated databases that are synchronized by the Internet.
Because it is distributed it is more secure than transactions stored in a
Transactions are immutable, not reversible.
There are multiple blockchain platforms.
Plug-ins are being developed to make the platforms interoperable so
transactions can move across them.
A significant amount of energy is required to run and maintain the blockchain
computing systems and cool the servers.
Direct Talent Investment? Life on the Ledger?
We’ll close with another
short video from Institute
for the Future. It discusses
the concept of direct
talent investment where
an individual seeks
outside support to cover
training/tuition costs from
In exchange the person agrees to have their future earnings garnished for a
set period of time. It sounds a lot like indentured servitude.
While it may sound far-
fetched, such a program is
already being piloted at
Purdue University in
Indiana. The program is
called Back A Boiler. The
Purdue mascot is the
Imagine a future where such an agreement is put on the blockchain. Where
people seeking access to education and training are compelled to sign away
their futures and submit the oversight of algorithms and automated debit
processes. It is bleak indeed.
1-minute video in which Olive
debates whether to self-
Mandarin classes or to have
her future wages garnished
in order to take more costly
virtual reality programming
courses underwritten by an
investor. Transfers of
credentials, earnings and
payments are all run through