Cryptocurrency's Implications on STEM Education
The world has been experiencing a surge of engagement with cryptocurrencies, one of the most popular being Bitcoin. Cryptocurrencies are digital currencies relying on peer-to-peer networks, eliminating the need to rely on third-party (e.g., bank) policies, security protocols, and overall trustworthiness.
Cryptocurrencies are another technological tsunami shifting the world's economic and social landscapes as human transactions continue to be built on our digital landscape. The novelty in the cryptocurrency phenomenon, however, is that it represents a widespread support of decentralization to give the individual ultimate control over their economic privacies and securities.
As many schools still grapple with figuring out how to teach STEM in K-12, here are a few lessons on STEM education that we can pick up from the cryptocurrency craze:
1) Sophisticated economic digitization requires students to be more STEM-literate now than ever before.
Cryptocurrencies ultimately aim to give privacy and trust in economic and social transactions back to the individual, thereby eliminating the need for third-party organizations (e.g., banks, law firms). As the world not only digitizes its human interactions (e.g., online shopping, banking, customer service), but it continues to build on this digital culture by creating and defining protocols, the future generation needs, more than ever, to understand the frameworks of these new infrastructures in order to contribute to the future society. Otherwise, the tech skills gap will only continue to widen if our schools can't even remotely keep up with the pace of change our digital economy is undergoing.
Lesson: Starting at an early age, engage kids in STEM - and don't forget the T and E. Teach kids how to think analytically, how to independently conduct research, how to ask questions, and how to use the maths and sciences to create and contribute to society.
2) Cryptocurrencies are the new "Wild West"; STEM enables its exploration.
2017's surge in Bitcoin prices makes it clear that cryptocurrency investments are a new Wild West. While financially investing in cryptocurrencies is one way of interacting with them, understanding how cryptocurrencies work, why they are valuable, and how they can be used to make life easier and safer for the average person gives the individual full control over their exploration of this new technological expansion.
Take, for example, Ethereum. Ethereum is a decentralized platform that runs smart contracts that could also be represented as cryptocurrencies. To trade and sell Ethereum as simply an investment is one thing, but to understand the power of the Ethereum platform and to build or engage in DAPPS, or decentralized applications, leverages its potential to a greater capacity.
Lesson: Start early in giving students the capability and tools to explore our deepening tech structures. In elementary school, educators can begin by simply introducing students to the concepts of engineering, technology, innovation, and iteration.
3) STEM education should not only teach students to innovate using the maths and sciences, but it should also introduce students to a culture.
As a former teacher, one of the most gratifying observations in the cryptocurrency wave is to see so many techies and engineers collaborating for a collective good. Collaborations between cryptographers and programmers, and between talented individuals and groups all over the world, demonstrate the power and critical need to work together to secure the best ideas in securing individual privacy.
No individual has all the answers, and students should not be taught to function in silos if they are to be prepared for the future workforce.
Lesson: Teach kids the soft skills they will need to work collaboratively in the future economy. These skills include communication, conflict-resolution, giving and receiving peer feedback for iteration, and group brainstorming.
To learn more about Teaching Garage's elementary engineering curriculum, visit www.teachinggarage.com.