NFT learning

Neerja Singh

One crucial and contemporary way for schools to stay a step ahead is to include NFT* in their curriculum. While the world shifts to a technology-based existence, perhaps it is time for our students to step out of mere books and align with this transformation. Those days of classes trundling once a week to a corner studio in the school premises with their crayons and paint boxes may soon be gone. Art is rapidly outgrowing its esoteric identity as a medium of expression. There is a lot more than featuring in the annual art exhibition a student can hope for. Today a young child can make money through a unique blend of art, technology and economics called NFT art.

An NFT or a non-fungible token is a digital asset such as art, a piece of writing, music, or a meme. It exists entirely in the digital universe. You can own it without ever being able to touch it. An NFT might exist in any form, such as a photo, a video, or even a GIF. The process of publishing a unique digital asset on a blockchain, so that it can be bought, sold, and traded, is called minting. And although an NFT can be sold and bought just like physical objects, the currency involved is crypto. One can bid for these pieces at a digital auction where it can be sold and resold to the highest bidder.

There are two critical differences though between the NFT and the physical art. NFTs come with a unique copyright that establishes their ownership to the creators. This information is recorded on a blockchain ledger. Irrespective of the number of times an NFT gets sold, it will always be credited to the original creator who stands to receive royalty every time. There are cases of children selling their artwork for astronomical sums of cryptocurrency. NFT also differs from a bitcoin in that while the latter is fungible and can be split into different amounts, an artwork is non-fungible and cannot be substituted or exchanged with another. In fact, it retains a higher value in a world of fakes and copies owing to its digital authentication using technology. Some of the popular NFT marketplaces are Rarible, Bollycoin, Binance and OpenSea.

There are tremendous possibilities with NFTs of inculcating creativity, curiosity, excitement about learning, personal enterprise, and problem-solving skills in the minds of students. And today, one couldn’t begin early enough. Before long, every student of a well-equipped and forward-looking school will have an NFT to his/her name and all the recognition that they deserve.

Illustration: Sunil Chawdiker

Quite clearly, the creator economy is rising across the globe. India in particular with her compound annual growth rate of 25 per cent, is predicted to be an INR 2,200 crore industry by 2025. In recent years, many small, medium, and multi-national brands have begun promoting their products through social media influencers . More people express themselves, and the statistics are revealing. Given India’s diversity in art, culture, handicrafts and design, the visual media is finally coming of age, giving the young permission to embrace alternate and viable careers. In schools, a contemporary medium like NFT not just supplements the core subjects but it gives confidence to the students with the global exposure involved. It does not matter what geographical, economic or social background a child comes from. What counts today is the thought process a young mind exhibits and expresses through his/her unique talents. And the NFT protects the original artist by keeping track and assigning credit where it is due. For life!

The NFT technology is being put to increasing use in schools and universities. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology issues diplomas using blockchain technology. The university has been advocating use of NFTs and blockchain technology for authenticating college transcripts, student records, scholarships, and certificates. There is an emerging trend of titles and truth. And schools may no longer teach the expressive arts without introducing new modes of expression, new market platforms and new business models. The concept of digital asset ownership is here to stay. A photo, a GIF or a video, once your NFT is minted on the blockchain, its authenticity and ownership are carved in digital stone. What’s more, in time, the blockchain will replace the cloud as the receptacle for all kinds of contracts, records, and futuristic documentation.

In a unique fundraising initiative termed #JuniorNFT, organized by Cadbury Gems, children’s art was used to build NFTs that were then offered to potential buyers. The funds raised went to Save the Children’s education programmes in India. Two factors made this process potent. One, the buyers could store their NFTs in their wallet and continue to bid and purchase it again and again, giving the original creator royalty. And two, crypto fundraising is easier to navigate than traditional financial systems. A word of caution though. The relative anonymity involved and the amount of energy blockchain technology uses is under scrutiny at present.

Can NFTs be implemented in the education industry in more ways? The potential in fact extends well beyond the classroom. Imagine conflict zones where students may no longer have to experience loss of their academic records or certificates. Should a country’s educational records system fail, blockchain technology will allow displaced persons to validate their education and sustain their careers.

Schools can sell their digital courses as NFTs thereby giving virtual education a boost. As a matter of fact, this article can be marketed as an NFT! Consider how textbooks are sold right now. The authors and publishers receive their payments the first time but with NFTs, they get royalty every time a textbook is resold.

NFTs do not necessarily have to carry a monetary value. They can be used in the gamification of the educational system. While a teacher can give the students NFTs containing their grades, course and class descriptions, the students might award their teachers NFTs carrying information on their teaching and grading. A system of token awards could further incentivize this exchange.

NFTs could add to the legitimacy of badges and micro-credentials in institutions. They could be used to generate and access a variety of scholarships, free materials, event tickets and other student incentives. Imagine their utility in verifying experiential learning of a pilot or a surgeon, which is currently impossible to tell from a certificate or a diploma. What if their practical credentials were video recorded and preserved as an NFT?

In the final analysis, the primary power of NFTs in education is its potential for improving academic rigor and quality.

*Read the article Crypto kids, which appeared in the August 2022 issue of Teacher Plus, where the author talks about NFTs.

The author is a professional speaker on generational diversity with a background and training in media, having worked in advertising, public relations, documentary film making, and feature journalism. She is a TEDx speaker, has written four generational books and represents the Professional Speakers Association of India on the Global Speakers Federation Board. She can be reached at https://www.linkedin.com/in/neerja-singh/

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