Page 22 - THE Journal, October/November 2018
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information — and students (or former students) must undertake a slow and often expensive process to access these records or share them with prospective employers. The promise of blockchain is that it will allow students to maintain their own official academic record in a way that is safe and cannot be tampered with — while also building on this record throughout their professional life.
A software company called Learning Machine has built a toolkit of open-source components that any developer or school can use to create, issue, view and verify blockchain credentials. This toolkit is available free of charge at www.blockcerts. org.
Here’s how the process works: Using a mobile app, students would add a school to their list of credentialing institutions, just as they would add friends to an app. This would send the school their name, email address, and a public key that is unique to each student. Once the school has this information, it can begin to issue credentials as these are earned. When
a credential is issued, a record of the transaction is added to the blockchain
— and both the school and the student have an official “copy” of the transaction. When students later apply for college
or a job, they would simply submit a
link to their certificate, and the college
or employer would use an independent blockchain verification service to verify the information.
With this process, students no longer have to request a copy of their transcript — which is more convenient for both students and schools.
The technology is already in use at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Central New Mexico Community College, among other institutions. Learning Machine CEO Chris Jagers says it’s only a matter of time before K-12 schools are using it as well.
“Learner-owned records are extremely relevant for K-12 education, in particular the high school transcript,” he says. “Giving students their official record in a blockchain-secured format would ensure they have a permanent record of their accomplishment, which is useful when applying for college or employment.”
Other Technologies to Watch
Besides blockchain, Becker says, other technologies that K-12 leaders should watch for in 2019 include...
Haptic interfaces: These are systems that allow people to interact with computers through bodily sensations or movement. A haptic interface sends an electronic signal to a computer based
on different movements or sensory interactions. Each signal is interpreted
by the computer to execute a process or action. In turn, the interface also sends a signal back to the human body, such as an electronic vibration. When you feel your phone vibrate as you get a text message, that’s an example of a haptic interface.
Haptic interfaces have important implications for learning, although cost is still a barrier to adoption in K-12 schools. In higher education, haptic interfaces
are widely used in industrial and medical training. For example, medical students can perfect delicate surgical techniques via computer, feeling what it’s like to actually
suture blood vessels or make precise cuts. In Portugal, K-12 students and engineering freshmen have been using a haptic device to feel the elastic force on a spring.
“Now that we’re seeing handheld devices proliferate in K-12, the touchscreen technology we’re using is only going to evolve and become more sophisticated,” Becker says. “It makes sense that haptic interfaces will find their way into K-12 schools, because the technology is all about trying to interact with an object or device authentically.”
Extended reality: This encompasses virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and “mixed” reality, which combines a physical and augmented learning experience. AR is a technology that layers computer-generated enhancements on
top of existing reality, while VR is a fully immersive experience in a computer- generated environment.
For a long time, the hype surrounding these technologies outpaced their usefulness in the classroom. But now they’re beginning to make a real impact on teaching and learning, as hardware costs have come down and new applications have emerged that put extended reality within the reach of most schools.
For instance, extended reality technology can take students to places they can’t physically travel to and help them visualize abstract concepts, such as bringing chemical elements to life.
Dennis Pierce is a freelance writer with 17 years of experience covering educa- tion and technology. He can be reached at

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