This has become a question I hear with increasing frequency about a technology that, up until quite recently, was primarily associated with the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The subtext to the question, I suppose: do educators need to pay attention to the blockchain? What, if anything, should they know about it? Admittedly, I haven’t bothered to learn much about blockchain or Bitcoin either, despite the last few decrypt private key bitcoin of zealous headlines in various tech publications.
This is the early result of that research. It’s meant to serve as an introductory guide for those in education who are interested in learning a bit more about the blockchain and its potential applications in ed-tech. A Very, Very Simple Definition: What is the Blockchain? The blockchain is often described as digital ledger.
And perhaps a very, very simple definition should just leave it at that. It is a ledger, a distributed, digital ledger. Each block is identified by a cryptographic signature. See below for more details about the technology of the blockchain.
The blockchain was first defined in the original source code for Bitcoin. 1108 per Bitcoin in November of that year. But as its popularity grew, Bitcoin also faced scrutiny from law enforcement. Bitcoin has waned, the reverse seems to be true about the blockchain, the technological underpinning of the cryptocurrency, which in the last year or so has received interest from banks, businesses, and governmental organizations alike.
Let’s expand on the very, very simple definition of blockchain at the beginning of this article: the blockchain is distributed, digital ledger. Transactions on the blockchain are signed digitally, using public key cryptography. And now a brief description of that technology: public key cryptography uses two keys, which makes it harder to crack. That means that in order to update the blockchain, these multiple, distributed copies of it must be reconciled so that they all contain the same version. Each block of the blockchain is made up of a list of transactions. Each block also contains a block header.
To mine new blocks, miners on the network compete to solve a unique, difficult math puzzle. Solving this math problem is nontrivial. Since Bitcoin’s creation, the difficulty of this problem has increased exponentially, as has in turn the computational power needed to solve it. While cryptocurrency might be virtual, all this mining and computational puzzle-solving obviously takes an enormous amount of energy.
Bitcoin transaction uses roughly enough electricity to power 1. 57 American households for a day. Bitcoin currently handles about 360,000 transactions per day. 4 so far invested in the industry. So grain of salt and such. One of the names that comes up with increasingly frequency here is Ethereum, developed by a Swiss non-profit the Ethereum Foundation. 100,000 Thiel Fellowship for his work on the project.
Ethereum was first proposed by Buterin in 2013, and the second version of the Ethereum platform, called Homestead, was released earlier this year. Here is a more complete history of Ethereum via the Ethereum Foundation’s blog. Ethereum seems to be the platform upon which many big companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, are starting to experiment with the blockchain. And it’s probably worth noting that, to date, it’s been a big company rather than a little startup that’s made the first overtures towards blockchain-in-education. The company in question: Sony, which announced in February that it plans to develop a blockchain-based platform for assessment. And to be clear, most of what we’re hearing right now about the blockchain and education is precisely that: marketing. There are only a very, very few organizations currently utilizing the blockchain for educational purposes, although many claim they’re actively exploring the possibility.
Welcome to the year 2026, where learning is earning. Your ledger account tracks everything you’ve ever learned in units called Edublocks. Each Edublock represents one hour of learning in a particular subject. But you can also earn them from individuals or informal groups, like a community center or an app. Anyone can grant Edublocks to anyone else.