Teaching Web3 in Schools

Public school districts in North America have an opportunity to [re]connect with our present generation of students by helping onboard them to web3. The benefits are potentially enormous and revolutionary to a generation of youth who have endured much hardship over the last few years. The primary benefit for these students is the ownership of their intellectual property in web3, a marked difference from web2 where content belongs to the big tech companies and not to the creators.

Web3 allows students to own, and potentially trade and get paid for the work that they do in or out of school – and many youth are already doing this in web3. In order for public schools to onboard many more to web3, the systems must see and help youth to see themselves more as creators, and not only as workers. This shift allows young people the opportunity to participate more fully in their local and global economies. Partnerships between students and the education systems they are a part of will help support this generation to benefit from web3.

Local and global student participation in web3 has the potential effect of reducing anxiety and violence in our schools, caused in many cases by lack of access local and global economies and ultimately a lack of hope. Web3 can provide many of the opportunities for economic and skill development that students need to regain their sense of hope, and school systems can help with this. But a balance must be struck – kids need access to arts education to learn the competencies required to be more independent creators in web3. Education systems that value democracy and support student voice can help with this.

Onboarding youth to web3 would give kids a better reason (other than compliance) to seek out educational opportunities that allow them to realize their passions alongside like minded global participants. It will also increase the creative output of students. They will be enabled to be the creators of the solutions required to meet the myriad challenges of our century. Public schools can either be a functional part of onboarding and educating this generation to web3, or continue as mechanisms of oppression that forces poor kids in front of computers all day while their affluent counterparts receive proper STEAM educations. 

Reading Marx at University about 30 years ago, I remember discussing theories of what his vision for work would look like in our future. My friends and I would talk about how robots would take over much of the menial work we require from so many. According to our reading of Marx, giving our work over to others is what alienates humans from our creative selves and as a result alienating ourselves from pretty much everything else. We do this to our youth when we deny them opportunities to become their most creative selves.

It’s no secret that our present capitalist economy has alienated practically all of us from our creative selves – or what Marx would have called Gattungswesen for the last few hundred years. Perhaps public education in the modern era has supported this alienation by viewing students too much as workers rather than as creators. Our global modern era requires legions of workers to build and maintain the cities we now mostly live in, and the cost of human suffering for those directly involved with the construction and maintenance of our global cities continues unabated. 

Our education systems in North America will still operate as systems designed to produce workers and not creators as long as our classrooms are places where student ‘output’ is predetermined, anticipated, and believed to be always measurable. A report card can be produced by either a teacher or artificial intelligence, as a display of the student’s ‘performance’ – i.e. suitability as a worker.  

The COVID pandemic has created the conditions for large EdTech companies to continue this modern trend of feeding the student content and collecting student data. The systems are increasingly designed to measure the student’s consumption of this content (in real-time), and produce reports of the student’s consumption of said content based on predetermined measurable outcomes. Completion of these outcomes (test, essay etc.), allows for access to the next lesson or task set by the computer, more or less difficult.

As a result, student consumption is measured and tracked and real-time feedback is or will be simultaneously delivered to all ‘stakeholders’, who now often include student, parent, teacher, admin, and of course the EdTech companies delivering these tech solutions. How this real-time data is inputted in the system becomes most problematic – teachers don’t have the time to collect it all, but surveilling computers do.

These growing unified technology solutions provided by large EdTech companies are built to determine and identify the youth as a worker first, and not as a creator, whose visions and dreams and passions are developed and nurtured by the child with the community’s help and support. The artistic outcomes and their results are not yet predetermined, and thus difficult for an algorithm to predict, measure and report on, though likely not impossible.

As a middle school teacher I see the daily result of a system that premeasures humans at the height of brain function (see Piaget’s Formal Operational Stage). It often produces aggression, hopelessness, frustration, apathy and inattention from youth who realize at an early age that the economic system the school is designed to get them ready for, was not built for them, and does not see them as creative entities. Many youth reject compliance laden tasks viscerally when viewed simply as workers, and perhaps they should. 

When viewed as a creator, youth gain confidence, take more risks, and become more tolerant and skillful working with others. They get better at problem-solving and dealing with ambiguity. They start to regulate their emotions better and their relationships in and out of school improve. Violence decreases, creativity begins to flourish, and the outcomes from students begin to become more and more unpredictable, surprising and sometimes awe inspiring. As one scholar I know put it “work that we have no right to expect from them!”. 

As the technology becomes more accessible, perhaps a more moderate view is required in the shorter term as we educate more teachers and students and their families to the benefits of web3. Of course we need workers, and everyone should perhaps have a ‘bread and butter’ income if they can, whatever that looks like. But youth will need to be both workers and creators, and public schools must temper their compliance requirements while also offering arts based or STEAM education in order to help make our youth future ready by teaching them competencies necessary to be disciplined and empathetic creators.

Web3 and tokenomics and NFTs are all instruments of investment, and students and their families, and schools and their districts, can put in their consideration – or stake – by investing in the skills students can perform now and will need in the future to become savvy global participants, which is what ownership of intellectual property in web3 allows. I believe public schools in North America can help move our youth closer to become the creators we are meant to be, likely with the help of AI and good teachers, and let the robots do the rest.

Thank you https://twitter.com/DaganBernstein for your support.

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