People, place, and purpose. I recently read an article about learning in a community posted on the Getting Smart website, and the TLDR (too long didn’t read) is that community schools and perhaps innovative schools at large are going to need to leverage networks that address people, place, purpose in meaningful ways. This intersection has been at the focal point of many of my personal and professional interests, which has led me to a new horizon. One that I’m super excited to begin to explore.
How did I arrive at this new horizon? I think that can be best described by telling you about two story arcs that appear to be meeting in the same crossroads: people, place, purpose.**
Story Arc 1
I’m an educator by profession, but have always had a passion for learning about technology and its impact on the future. Over the last several years I’ve been studying, learning, and writing about the future of work and more specifically how we can change education to better align with the shifts occurring in the workplace. From learning technologies to pedagogical practices, to leadership in emerging learning models, I’ve spent a good deal of time trying to understand the shifts that are required of education to meet the demands of tomorrow.
Even prior to the Pandemic many schools across the country have grown increasingly interested in new models of education that push back against the narrative of standardization that dominant the 2000’s and 2010’s. Those leading the shift in education are moving towards individual agency and autonomy, experiences that transcend time and space boundaries, and experiences that are inclusive of an individual’s needs and interests. The fact of the matter is that the model of education many of us grew up with was designed in a different era, one structured to meet different challenges and needs than those we face today (Education Reimagined, 2015). The Pandemic has only accelerated the desire for a broader range of educational experiences as evidenced by sharp increases in the number of homeschooled students and students enrolling in charter schools. People, places, purpose. Learners and their families voting with their feet.
Story Arc 2
The last 12 months I’ve been free from taking coursework and so that has left me the time to explore areas of personal interest. The result of my exploration has landed me back in the blockchain space, learning about the development of a new financial system in cryptocurrency and decentralized finance (DeFi), non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the rise of Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). Taken together many are viewing these technologies as the foundation of the next generation of the internet, web3.
Where I’m located, in the northeast United States, Covid-19 began to shutter schools, places of business, and social gatherings beginning in the middle of March 2020. What followed was a pivotal moment for many. Students were sent home, businesses closed, and suddenly we were all at home in some cases for several months. With physical connections severed, a whole new digital frontier laid in front of us. Some organizations quickly pivoted to work from home strategies, while others failed to meet the task. As we now exit the Pandemic and the tightest of restrictions many workers are now wondering what’s next. Some remain out of a job, while record numbers are considering leaving. A recent Forbes article shared the following statistics:
· 95% of employees say they’re ready to leave their organizations.
· Four million Americans have quit since April; 68% say they’ll leave if they are forced to return to the office.
· And three million women have already left because they’re finally realizing they can’t “do it all.”
The numbers are jarring and while there may be some debate around just how many people are quitting or leaving, the fact of the matter is that people are now looking for options that better suit them. People, places, purpose. People are voting with their feet.
Roughly along that same timeline we have seen the rise of blockchain technologies and the newfound capabilities that they enable. In the last 12 months we’ve seen the rapid growth of a new financial system in cryptocurrency, and decentralized finance (DeFi), the explosion of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and the rise of Decentralized autonomous organizations (DAOs). Cryptocurrency, DeFi, NFTs, and DAOs all represent frontiers where new communities are being formed across the web for a variety of purposes.
Chris Dixon succinctly captured the essence of web3 through his comparison of previous iterations of the web. Web1, web2, web3. Read, write, own respectively. Previous iterations of the web largely left users to only be able to engage with the web at a superficial level (web1), and later offered the opportunity to begin to build the web through platforms. It’s still very early in the next iteration of the web, but many contend that web3 is going to be the web where the users own the web. No longer beholden to platforms, users are free to take their digital identities with them, engaging with decentralized platforms in trustless and permissionless way.
We can all agree that the introduction of the web1 and more importantly web2 has created profound societal shifts. In short, it has transformed our world, and I would argue that the next iteration of the web will do so again. If the promise of web3 is realized, it will have substantial impacts on the themes mentioned before: people, place, and purpose.
In the coming months I hope to use this blog series as a way of sharing my explorations, validating (or not) beliefs about the impact of this technology on teaching and learning, and an exciting opportunity to be a founder and core contributor of an education focused DAO.
While I don’t want to be overly academic in the way I approach these writings, I think some structure will help define a clear direction for the work ahead. Accordingly, you will find below the statement of the problem (as I see it), the resulting need for exploration, and some of the research questions that I hope to answer.
Statement of the Problem
The problem that this series seeks to explore is our emerging understanding of the impacts of web3 technologies (blockchain, NFTs, crypto, and DAOs) on the world and more specifically how these technologies will impact teaching and learning. In order to support the impending technological shifts, new models of education will require educators to exhibit knowledge, skills, and dispositions that differ from those of traditional education. As education continues to shift, how we approach teaching and learning must also shift.
Need for Exploration
The need for exploration of this space is outlined into these broad categories
- Understanding: Blockchain will become omnipresent in the future. While some may debate this, the reality is blockchain is becoming the preferred infrastructure that ungirds many technological innovations in computing. Healthcare, credit cards, fintech, entertainment, there are few areas where you won’t find people exploring how to use blockchain innovation to improve our data architectures, security, capital formation, etc. I would therefore argue it is essential that we begin to Understanding what web3 is and what’s being built on top of it, why we use it and how it is being used is essential.
- Future of Work:Organizations built on top or that leverage blockchain technologies are beginning to demonstrate some of the shifts occurring in the future of work. Changes in work environment, incentivization practices, required knowledge, skills, and dispositions, etc.
- Community building: How we define community is going through a transformation. Gen z’ers are often the focus but many outside of this age span are viewing their digital identity and in real life identity as inextricably linked. For some, that digital identity is every bit if not more important than their physical identity. This paradigm shift means that communities will look, feel, and act differently than in the past. Understanding how we build communities, the tools needed for social coordination, and how to engage will shift in kind.
This is the starting point of the research questions I want to guide this work:
- What are the new knowledge, skills and dispositions that are required for participation in web3 and technologies being built under this umbrella.
- What must we do to reorient ourselves with regard to essential literacies for the future of work?
- How does new tech enable new approaches human-centered design
- How do we leverage new technologies to enable new forms of work
- What will the role of DAOs be in the future of work?
- What shifts are occurring in community building as a result of new technologies?
- What tools exist to meet the needs of community builders?
Disclaimer, this work will most certainly evolve and new questions will be formulated and added for exploration**
Education and educators will be essential to adoption and scaling of web3. Currently, education in crypto, NFTs, DAOs is a trial by fire. There are some awesome individuals in the space, but it can be hard for newcomers to discern what is signal from what is noise. It’s my hope that by exploring this space and more specifically those questions above, I can help bridge this gap. I hope you stick with me on this journey and more importantly hope you find value in this work.