Another dot in the blogosphere?

Blockhead chain

Posted on: August 19, 2021

A contact of mine asked me if I had resources on blockchain for education. I found this paper in my archive.

But buyer of ideas beware, the paper offers dangerous ideas like this:

…blockchain can be used to motivate students by implementing “learning is earning” (Sharples and Domingue 2016). The smart contract between teachers and students can be applied to the educational scenario. Real-time awards can be given to students through some simple clicks by the instructors. Students will get a certain number of digital currency according to smart contract as rewards.

The authors of that paper seem to think that blockchain should make learning transactional in a monetary sense. I do not know if any of the authors are educators, but this idea should sound alarm bells.

The context for that suggestion was higher education. Enabling such an idea for young adult learners sends the wrong message that students should learn for extrinsic rewards. Learners at that age are self-actualising; they should not be treated like Pavlovian pups.

I have seen how the reliance on extrinsic rewards plays out without blockchain. When I was a professor, I had the privilege of travelling to different countries for consults and collaborations. In one country where was social support was strong, student teacher attendance was tied to their living allowance.

These students figured out the quota of classes they had to attend to get their money and did not attend sessions outside the quota. They were not learning because of the need to get prepared as future teachers; they attended classes to get paid. Would you want teachers with that kind of mindset teaching your children?

Photo by Moose Photos on

Another idea presented in the paper was that blockchain could be used in the evaluation of collaborative learning. It posited that freeloaders in groups were a problem and vaguely suggested how blockchain could record student behaviours.

This is overkill because educators can already evaluate collaborative group work, i.e., self, group-based, and peer evaluations. An educator might leverage on current technologies like online journals and feedback forms.

Not all the ideas in the paper were about nurturing mercenaries or monitoring student behaviours. Most were about distributing the registry and ensuring the integrity of things like degree awards and skills certification. These administrative ideas seem fine.

The blockhead suggestion for educators to reward students with the equivalent of bitcoin breaks a tenet in education. The other suggestion for evaluating student collaboration reeks of technological solutionism.

I could question how that article passed review. Instead I will offer a fundamental principle of educational technology: We should problem-seek before we problem-solve. We do not offer solutions in search for problems.

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