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New kids on the Blockchain : What do NFTs and NTTS mean for Education?

February 1, 2022

Don't panic! We know that we just got used to the mute button on Zoom, and that using Google Classroom or the institutional LMS can be a bit of a learning curve for many of us, but here comes another bunch of acronyms we might just want to be aware of.

We never used the word "fungible" until now in our lives, and suddenly people look at you as if you're expected to know what it means, but many of us in education perhaps thought that all these new things were only relevant to cryptocurrencies, the metaverse, and didn't see any connection to education, well actually there is something we need to talk about.

New terminology is just appearing from all angles right now, and we should start by defining Blockchain, NTTs and  NFTs. In the interest of keeping everyone relaxed, we’ll come back to DAOs, DeFi, Tokenomics and the Metaverse in part 2 of this article. Let's get started.

All about the Blockchain

Everything you hear about in this new suite of technology has one thing at its heart: blockchain. From Web 3 to cryptocurrency, blockchain technology is the foundation. The origins of the tech are a little hazy, with most sources crediting a Japanese developer Satoshi Nakamoto (the rumoured inventor of Bitcoin, and quite possibly a pseudonym for one or more developers) with the invention, because blockchain is the underlying system that makes it work.

Blockchain is essentially a system that creates a shared database to record and store information in a way that is impossible to cheat. The digital ledger of all transactions gets shared across all the network of computer systems on the blockchain. The big thing is its verifiability. Blockchains can be public or private, so financial institutions can use blockchain to improve compliance standards, for example.

Deloitte pitch it like this:

"Imagine a shared computer accessible to anyone, a single source of truth within which to store events, ownership and activities, and to execute workflow involving multiple parties without the use of separate systems and databases - and with no reconciliation required."

What are NFTs and NTTs? 

Ok, are we all feeling fungible? Then let's get started. Fungible means something has units to count its quantity, and it can be exchanged like for other fungible assets. The simplest example of this is money, because we can swap a 20-euro bill for another 20-euro bill like for like and the value is the same.

NFT stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, and so this represents assets that are irreplaceable. NFTs are something unique, like a photo, a video or a piece of artwork, and because it is verifiable it cannot be swapped like-for-like with something else.

How can a photo be unique? Good question. Imagine a photographer takes a photograph, which becomes famous and is shared on platforms all around the world, well even though there are millions of copies, there is still one original. The photographer can go to one of the many NFT marketplace sites, such as OpenSea and "mint" the original photograph. This means we use digital blockchain technology to authenticate our ownership of the original version of this photograph, and nobody can ever create the same thing twice. There are many copies, but only one Mona Lisa.

Now that your NFT is minted, you can sell it at auction, just like any original. This can be any digital file, essentially, evidenced by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's sale of the very first tweet for $2.9 million.

If you have something that you want to store on the blockchain but do not want it sold or transferred to anyone else, then you are looking for an NTT or Non Transferable token. The usage license for a product you invented, for example, is good to have in NTT form.

NFTs and NTTs in education

So we have this blockchain technology, which is great at ensuring integrity, making something impossible to falsify, and managing massive amounts of data securely. Now think about the world of education, where learners increasingly go out into the world with an array of credentials, micro-credentials, qualifications, portfolios of work, thesis projects etc.

An NFT can be sold, but an NTT can't. Therefore, imagine putting your next degree or grade in a time capsule called an NTT. You can safely keep it on the blockchain, but it can't be sold to a third party for monetization. Now, let's push this further, and imagine ditching the traditional CV by putting together your collection of NTT credentials in your secure digital wallet, which would be accepted as 100% authentic by any institution or employer.

As learners start their careers, they start attending conferences and events which will deliver them POAPs (Proof Of Attendance Protocol). These are NFT badges received by the participants of the event, which testify they actually went to the event. Not only do these create a new sense of community, as they can relate to the exclusive people who went to the same experience and can collect it. Surprisingly, these are NFTs and not NTT, though the creators of POAPs never intended them to be sold. Current usage trends suggest that they have become more of a personal collectible item which is very likely to build up on the new-looking digital portfolio or CV.

All of these elements are tied to a secure vault: your digital wallet. The most popular being Metamask, this is set to become the new way of accessing the web. Forget logins, passwords, or accessing with Facebook or Google. Your wallet holds your centralized assets in the decentralized web.

Further on the NFT line, let's look at another angle. Art students will be learning about minting and selling their work as NFTs, with interesting opportunities that could never be possible in the offline world, such as being able to maintain royalties over resales. Yep, that's right! Every time your work is sold on to someone else, you could get a percentage of each sale in perpetuity.

Students learning about gaming will have to know about companies like Sony, who are already creating in-game opportunities to build virtual objects and mint them as NFTs, and of course music producers need never worry about proof of origin and ownership when their beats become NFTs.

But hang on, who regulates this stuff?

Glad you asked. The crypto space has no official regulation, because who would actually do this anyway? In which jurisdiction would you pay tax on a digital asset purchased in cyberspace? Governments are way behind on this, though there is a lot of talk on regulation at some point down the line, but they will probably look at cryptocurrency first. China started to send state-issued warnings about NFTs in 2021, but the popular AliBaba website in China simply started calling NFTs "digital collectibles" and that seems to be the end of it for now.

Learning together

As this exciting new field evolves, NEO Academy will keep an eye on how it might affect us in education and education marketing, so stay tuned on our blog and NEOchats podcast for developments. We believe in staying up to date because we serve and support progressive institutions around the world. Let's keep learning together, and please do reach out to be a part of our #NEOchats, to show us your first NFT, or even just to say a good old-fashioned hello.

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