It’s October 2019, and I think it’s fair to say that the U.S. education system and blockchain technology have successfully moved beyond the early triggers and hyperbolic hype of unfettered romance. The media attention seems to have steadied and matured, the first big date (The Summit on Education Blockchains) is but a distant memory, and by all accounts, both parties still seem quite interested (hopefully not to a fault); willing and ready to push their relationship towards the alluring apex of habitual dating, over-spending, and inflated expectations.
Those of us who have become enamored by the promise of immutable learning ledgers, blockchain pixie dust, and magic internet money, likely know this point in the hype cycle all too well. The bull run of 2017 (with Bitcoin hitting an all-time high of over $20,000) pushed FOMO and expectations in many financial circles to an insatiable (and unsustainable) popping point. And while cryptocurrencies are certainly relevant to the conversation of education, it’s the underlying technology of blockchains that are of a deeper interest in this escalating love affair.
Reaching the Peak of Inflated Expectations is far from insignificant. Many emerging innovations never even get off the blocks, and those that do, often leave behind a trail of hyperbolic publicity, a small handful of emergent success stories, and a much greater number of complete and utter failures. Within this swirl of uncertainty, some take action; many do not. And having lived through the dating dumpster fire known as my mid-20s, I can relate to the high probability of failure and paralyzing fear that often accompanies the thought of taking action. All of this to say, I think we should still be encouraged by the emerging successes stories and ongoing momentum these love birds seem to have garnered. Amongst all the failures, of which there are many, we’re also seeing some early signs of lasting love.
So, while an ivory-cracking, blockchain-based “killer-app” has yet to show its face within the U.S. education system (and perhaps it never will), there are a number of projects (both tangible and conceptual) that deserve our attention in spite of the steady march towards further inflated expectations. There is the Broward OpenCLR Lab (FL), Indiana NSF project, Learning Economy COLab (CO), DCCCD Greenlight Initiative (TX), as well as a range of broader networks and collaboratives, including the Education Blockchain Action Network, T3 Innovation Network, American Workforce Policy Advisory Board, Hyperledger Education Architecture SIG, and Education 3.0 Working Group (130+ pages…TL;DR).
A Foggy Love Summit
Does the continued hype and range of emergent projects and special-interest groups signify momentum towards (and perhaps get us up and over) the peak of inflated expectations, and if so, are we just that much closer to heading inevitably over the cliff into the trough of disillusionment? I’ve seen very little indication of this romantic flame flickering out, but there’s also obvious leftover angst from the ICO bubble of 2017. The promise of blockchain has yet to truly make its mark on education, and until it does, there will/should be vocal skeptics among us. As an eager community with a keen eye on the future, I suppose we’ll just have to wait to see what Stage 3 brings.
With this series, I hope to offer an exciting and useful preview of this evolving intersection between a nascent technology and legacy bureaucracy. There’s a growing network of professionals aiming to (re)define economic opportunity, workforce development, and the student experience of tomorrow. I hope you’ll join me in playing matchmaker (or devil’s advocate) as we collectively gaze upon (and help to #buidl) this exciting new relationship.
Stage 1: Early Attraction and Romance | Stage 3: Awkward Differences and Disillusionment | Stage 4: Slope of Renewed Connection and Stability | Stage 5: Plateau of Commitment and Matrimony