On June 8 my Grade 6 class from John McCrae Public School in Toronto, along with parent volunteers, took a field trip to a local eatery called Shereen’s Bakery, who care enough about us to participate in an initiative designed to help rebuild and regenerate* our classroom community, terribly affected by pandemic lockdowns, by celebrating together with a delicious meal after a tough beginning to a successful school year.
In order to facilitate this field trip, we created what we think is an analog blockchain ledger and token system where tokens earned by students at school will be redeemed at the bakery in exchange for pre-ordered menu items. Our analog currency, called the McCoin, was built to help restore our classroom community and our trust in each other, after a year-and-a-half of lockdowns, and in a community that is plagued by youth gun violence.
From the Students of 6B
As students in 6B, we show up everyday and bring our value to the class and the school. We are investing in our future and the community’s future. The Learn2Earn program is where the students of class 6B, participate to reach 10,000 points before the end of May, doing jobs to help improve the class. Once a student has reached 1000 points, the points will be exchanged for a token. Once the whole class has reached 10,000 points each, or 10 tokens each, we will go to Shereen’s Bakery to buy lunch. Students of 6B, April, 2022
How it Works
The point system developed by students is designed to help facilitate the rebuilding of the competencies necessary to learn again in the classroom. Student competencies such as communication, collaboration, empathy and the like, were essentially disabled for our students by the Covid19 lockdowns – but these competencies are necessary functions of any classroom and without them, learning simply cannot occur.
Points in our system are activated by competencies completed. The system is decentralized because the community of students award each other points, not solely the teacher, although teachers and other adults in the building are encouraged to give points if they so choose. If there were to be any disagreements about the awarding of points, or even fines, then we had at the ready a ‘Friday Court’ where these matters were meant to be resolved, although we never had to use it.
All 24 students achieved 10,000 points each in a very short time (about one week). The project achieved the goal in getting students to understand what it takes to create and maintain an environment that is suitable for learning.
The project cost is $240 ($10 x 24 students for lunch at Shereen’s). The school administration is funding the full $240 which will be used for the meal itself. A $2 buy-in by students is encouraged, and we’ve raised $40 that way which will be used to buy drinks or meals for the parent volunteers. The bakery will provide a venue in their parking lot (with landlord approval) for the day, and some extra treats. Since the students are 12 years old and under, the ride via public transit is free, and we will walk back and forth to the bus stops.
Did We Create a DAO?
We believe that we have created what could be defined as a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO), supported by a system where points are accumulated when students perform specific competencies from a list that was co-created by the students.
Analog ‘smart contracts’ are turned over when students perform the competencies. Students are responsible for keeping track of their own points accumulated and the community is responsible for monitoring points inputted on the ledger. There are six categories on the open public ledger (whiteboard) mirrored in the online ledger (Google Sheets). We think this replicates a blockchain/DAO where the community decides the structure and rules, as well as points allocation, and fines.
It becomes very easy for all students to gain 10K pts in a week, or $10. The focus cannot be on academic learning, because learning cannot happen unless the classroom community is supportive. Being explicit about which competencies are necessary to achieve an environment conducive to learning also allows students to meta-cognize their own performance via the points system.
We created a limited run of 240 numbered tokens, 10 tokens for 24 students. Ultimately we see a system of currency created and maintained by youth, their families and the broader community, who by investing in their own competency development, increases the value of the currency traded within and without the organizations where students participate as creators and critical thinkers.
The wider school community, including parents and in this case our friends at Shereen’s, can begin to understand what competencies are being met in our classroom, not only allowing learning to therefore occur, but perhaps provide an incentive to invest in the currency knowing that the kids are performing on the day-to-day.
This daily ‘performance’ adds value to the currency, and investment in the sweat equity of students puts the power of investment back in the hands and pockets of the students, families, and local business owners willing to participate in daily transactions of goods and services with local students using a common currency, knowing the value inherent in that currency and ultimately in our youth. We believe this proof-of-concept can scale.
A Word on Accountability and Web3
20 years ago the big buzzword in the global Edu space was school accountability, and what it never took into account is that teachers have always been accountable to the parents and the families of the students that they serve. Now it’s time for the power to shift away from the teacher to more decentralized organizations where students have the power to create and share their work to increase their reputations and marketability in order to more fully participate as creators and critical thinkers in Web3.
Foundational to one’s ability to participate in Web3 are the practicing of global competencies such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and character competencies such as empathy and integrity. Students will become agents in curating their own futures as creators, critical consumers, and active participants, to add value to the networks that they participate in ultimately to help solve many of our world’s problems.
Through our Learn2Earn initiative, we have established proof of concept that a point system and currency can help rebuild our sense of community to the point where the students are practically back on track. What we will do on June 8 is travel together to visit a local eatery that cares about us, and celebrate together with a delicious meal.
So the question remains – are we ready to pay our children to attend school? And what is their work worth, assuming that competencies are being performed? If competencies performed can be turned into smart contracts on a digital blockchain, as we think we have achieved in an analog version, is this then the beginning of a cryptocurrency for students in Toronto and beyond?
As of the first week of April our learn3Earn initiative had already accomplished its goal of helping to rebuild classroom community norms severely disrupted by Covid19 lockdowns. The initiative is a response to the damage done to the school/classroom community due to Covid19 lockdowns – 6B are rebuilding their class/community by [meta]cognizing the skills/competencies needed to ‘get along’ and build the environment necessary for learning.
As we move closer to our field trip date, more community members have added their consideration. As a class we figure students ‘earned’ $10/week (or $400/school year ). For the trip though, the cost (transferred to bakery) is $240 ($10 x 24 students) – but some students payed in one or two dollars (optional), the bakery is adding perks and a $60 discount on the cost (to be donated to a family in need), bringing the cost to the school down to $180. The landlord of the mall will cordon off part of the lot for our gathering, parent chaperones are giving their time, and the City Councilor plans to attend the event.
A burning question thus remains – have the tokens increased in value since project inception in February? With all the efforts the community has put behind this field trip – the first in over two years – I do believe the ‘value’ of the tokens has increased. Additionally, we know that all students can easily accomplish core classroom competencies. So my conclusion is that I would absolutely invest in this currency.
I would like to thank my school community for their bravery, including the administration of John McCrae Public School, the owners of Shereen’s Bakery, and especially the students and families of class 6B. Any comments or suggestions are always welcome.
Rich Baxter, Grade 6 Teacher, John McCrae Public School, May 2022
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Postscript and Related Media
The project pilot is a success due to the support of the entire community, including students, parents and volunteers, our local business, and the school’s incredible staff and administration. Thank you all!