Don’t panic. We are going to be talking about Blockchain technology today. I know nothing makes you panic more than somebody telling you not to panic, but there’s something that happens on people’s faces whenever you mention blockchain. Their eyes glaze over, they look like they’re ready to run, and they certainly aren’t okay with listening. I’m in the business of edTech, and that means I’m all about making learning accessible. By the end of this article, you will understand everything you need to know about Blockchain technology and how it relates to edTech. Ready?
What is Blockchain?
Blockchain is difficult to understand and brand-new, right? No! Blockchain technology was invented in the early 80s. It just didn’t become well used until cryptocurrency bitcoin became part of our world.
Einstein said, “If you can’t explain something to a 6-year-old, you probably don’t understand it yourself.” To prove this little theory, I will make blockchain technology entirely understandable for somebody with no previous knowledge. If you have a toddler in your life, I highly recommend trying to explain it to them. It will deepen your understanding and challenge the knowledge-hungry child!
Blockchain is a way to trade with anyone worldwide without middle-men, such as companies or financial institutions. It uses cryptography to encode transactions and ensure security. One way Blockchain is making it very secure is technology within the “blocks” that allows people to cryptographically sign who they are and where the block has come from. While you can update the block information by adding to it, you cannot erase or change previous data.
Picture it like a colossal accounting system that makes it possible to trade things like bitcoin. People often think of bitcoin and blockchain being synonymous. Still, while blockchain is the technology that makes bitcoin possible to be traded, the technology itself has many more uses, including for edTech.
What’s the TLDR version?
Blockchain is a series of data records, which are time-stamped and managed by lots of computers. Each of these data blocks is secured and bound by a chain of cryptography.
Blockchain in the Wild: De Beers Example
An example of where this technology is being used is diamond giant De Beers. They use Tracr, a blockchain-based platform, to track a diamond securely from miner to cutter and straight to the jeweler. This creates peace of mind and could make blood-diamonds a thing of the past.
Blockchain and edTech
At first glance, the two concepts may look like an improbable pairing, but since blockchain can create and verify secure identity, it can ease learners’ and teachers’ bureaucratic pressure. Imagine if you could send your transcripts to any educational institution. It would no longer tie you to one specific study area and can free up and democratize learning. As a teacher, you could very easily prove your qualifications to businesses and educational institutions. Blockchain is here to rock the boat and have us rethink trust in online education as we know it.
3 Reasons You Should Care About Blockchain Technology in edTech
Downsides to Blockchain and edTech Combo
Trust all around, open systems, and privacy. That sounds amazing. Let’s have a look at some of the negative sides of blockchain technology.
1. Blockchain uses a lot of energy, making it quite bad for the planet. Companies that invest in the blockchain technology should think about ways to offset their carbon footprint.
2. The complexity of the technology makes it difficult for lay-people to understand, which means hackers can exploit a lack of thorough understanding.
3. As there is no central governance, there is no way to ensure democracy or a timely response if something goes seriously wrong.
4. Blockchain is open to abuse since users can employ it for transparency but also extreme privacy. Government regulation is slowly catching up, but technically Silk Road style abuse is possible even within edTech.
5. Innovatively secure, but not impossible to crack. With hackers gaining in creativity in changing the blockchain record.
Despite some of the blockchain shortcomings, it is impossible to ignore that the technology can rattle the educational technology industry similarly to rocking financial technology. After all, blockchain is how we went from in-person banking to online banking, to be able to pay with the waving of a telephone. Pretty impressive and impossible to imagine being without on a morning run to get coffee. Get ready to learn more about and with the aid of blockchain.