New World of Work, PKM, and Learning Ledger of the Future

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National Public Radio wakes me up most mornings. Recently, Marketplace featured Amy Scott, the senior education correspondent, who riveted my attention to the broadcast at 5:00 AM. The titled segment “Learning Counts” reviewed work by the Institute for the Future in California and the ACT Foundation on the ledger.

graphic from Learning is Earning 2026 video, http://www.learningisearning2026.org/

graphic from Learning is Earning 2026 video, http://www.learningisearning2026.org/

Drawing from a video offered by the Institute and the Foundation, Scott explained that the ledger is a special digital database that “tracks everything you’ve ever learned in units called Edublocks.  Each Edublock represents one hour of learning in a particular subject. Anyone can grant Edublocks to anyone else.”

She went on to quote Jane McGonigal, Director of Game Research and Development at the Institute for the Future:

The Ledger would use the same technology that powers bitcoin, the virtual currency, to create a verifiable record of every learning transaction …. A new education currency could supplement, or offer an alternative to, the four-year college degree, … one that’s suited to a rapidly changing economy.

As WLS blog readers know, we have written many times about the new world of work and how as independent entrepreneurs and contractors, we are responsible for our own learning assisted by the resources of the internet: people and ideas.  We believe that learning should be lifelong, self-directed, relevant to one’s current interests and challenges, social, and just-in-time.  Ideally, it should be affordable and even better, free or supported by our employer and peers as we work together. We advocate for and practice PKM—Personal Knowledge Mastery in our DIY professional development efforts for ourselves and groups we work with.

This Marketplace topic was better than three cups of espresso to wake me up! I went to the shared Institute for the Future and ACT Foundation website to watch a 6 minute video that explains how the ledger will work. IT IS WELL WORTH THE TIME TO WATCH THE VIDEO TO SEE WHAT’S COMING OUR WAY IN THE FUTURE!

The Institute and the ACT Foundation forecast that more than one billion people will be on the ledger in 2026.  That’s just ten years from now!  They describe that future below:

Welcome to the year 2026, where strange and surprising things are happening…

  • Anyone can use the Ledger to teach or mentor anyone else. (And get paid for it.) In fact, you can pay down your student loans by teaching forward what you learned in school.
  • You can get credit for learning that happens anywhere, not just in schools or formal classes. The Ledger will also track skills you build just doing what you love, or spending time with friends and family.
  • Employers can match you with projects and gigs that perfectly fit the level of learning you have right now. There’s no need to finish school to have a thriving career.
  • When you master a new skill at work, that goes on your learning record, too.
  • You have a complete record of how much income each skill or lesson you’ve learned has helped you generate—so you know the exact value of every part of your education.
  • Investors can help pay for your education. In return, they get a percentage of your future earnings tied to the skills they paid you to learn. This fuels a new speculative economy as people invest in building a workforce for what they hope will be the most lucrative skills.

Could a future like this really happen? It’s already happening. Today, learning, working, and living are already combining in thousands of unexpected ways.

I am beginning my research on the learning ledger and the blockchain technology it uses. I recommend a blog post by Doug Levin at EdTechStrategies in March 2016 about using blockchain technology in education for curious readers. He is not jumping over the moon about blockchain technology (Learning Ledger) adoption for informal learning and digital badge record keeping as the ACT Foundation and Institute for the Future are because he believes there are other issues that need to resolved first. He is excited, however, about blockchain technology overhauling paperwork burdens in record-keeping relating to public school students’ educational attainment, educators’ credentialing and recertification, and school asset management.  At this stage, who knows who the realists and dreamers really are? They could all be right give or take a year or two. I do believe that dreams move us to desired realities and am excited by the promise outlined by the Institute and ACT Foundation.

I am also thinking about the learning ledger’s implications for those in the workforce now, and ten years from now. How will we need to change to embrace this new application of technology? How might it give us new opportunities to make ourselves more effective, more impactful, as well as influential within our communities? Will our mindsets allow us to benefit individually and collectively? What do YOU think?

Resources used in this blog post

Pictures from the Learning is Earning 2026 video, Institute for the Future and ACT Foundation website

ACT Foundation, Working Toward a National Learning Economy

Amy Scott, Marketplace Story, A Model for Higher Education Where All Learning Counts 

Doug Levin, EdTechStrategies, 10 Things to Know about the Future of Blockchain in Education

Learning is Earning 2026 Website

WLS Blog

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