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All of the elements are in place:
- There’s piece work employment without financial security or due process.
- The opportunity for corporations to pay employees in script instead of actual cash.
- Smart Contracts and the possibility of a lifetime of servitude without compensation.
- Cradle to grave corporate surveillance of every citizen.
If George Orwell wrote a sequel to 1984, the idea of The Institute for the Future’s Edublocks and The Ledger would have a starring role.
The Institute for the Future (IFTF) prides itself on bringing “people together to make the future—today.”
IFTF is an outgrowth of The Rand Corporation and counts as partners corporate giants in technology, healthcare, manufacturing, and advocacy.
Groups such as AARP, the American Medical Association, AT&T, GM, Microsoft, Kaiser Permanente and Shell – just to name a few of the heavy hitters who have hitched their wagons to IFTF.
In case you’re not familiar with The Rand Corporation, it’s one of the U.S. military’s oldest think tanks, getting it’s start in 1948 as an offshoot of the Douglas Aircraft Company.
One area of interest for The Institute of the Future is education. IFTF’s blog reports on the various attempts to hack the future of education. Anya Kamenetz is considered a truth teller.
Kamenetz has made a career of sharing with America the “hard truths” about higher education and the need for all encompassing learning ecosystems to prepare future-ready knowledge workers. Think, College & Career Ready 2.0.
In that spirit, the IFTF released a video titled Learning is Earning 2026 which showcases such a future :
“You’re one of ONE BILLION people who are using a new technology to track their learning and income. This new technology is known as “The Ledger.”
The video goes on to explain how everything you have ever learned will be tracked in Edublocks, which represents 1 hour of learning in any given subject. Anyone can grant Edublocks including workplaces, schools, informal groups, individuals, and apps.
The Ledger’s role is to keep track of everyone’s Edublocks, which will be displayed in colorful, customized profiles.
Employers can browse these profiles and offer individuals piece work employment – IF they happen to have the desired skill set the employer is looking for.
The ever-helpful Ledger constantly advises users on which skills currently offer the best pay and how to earn Edublocks to build up those skills.
But what happens if you don’t have the money to earn Edublocks? Don’t worry, The Ledger’s dystopian future has you covered.
All you need is a digital investor, who will provide free Edublocks, in exchange for a percentage of your future income. Signing your life away is easy with a Smart Contract which “makes these contracts easy to manage and administer.”
Is it me or does the brave new wold of learning ecosystems sound remarkably similar to piece work sweatshops of the early garment industry. The era of very long work days and rock bottom pay – bluntly, the work until your last breath – pinnacle of capitalism.
Instead of toiling in front of sewing machines, The Ledger upgraded workforce will be using tools similar to Amazon’s Mechanical Turk – performing Individual Human Intelligence Tasks or HITs.
What a dismal future. The Ledger is nothing more than an online digital sweatshop with fancy gadgets and apps used to disguise its throwback nature.
All of the elements are in place:
The only winners in this dark future will be those who don’t have to play the game. And who would that be? The already wealthy, of course.
As fantastical sounding as Edublocks may be, the beta version already exist. They’re just called digital badges. Same idea, different name.
I’ll let Former Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, explain:
We’re excited that, this year, this competition will serve as a catalyst to advance the potential of digital badges. Badges can help engage students in learning, and broaden the avenues for learners of all ages to acquire and demonstrate – as well as document and display – their skills.
Badges can help speed the shift from credentials that simply measure seat time, to ones that more accurately measure competency. We must accelerate that transition. And, badges can help account for formal and informal learning in a variety of settings.
Today’s technology-enabled, information-rich, deeply interconnected world means learning not only can – but should – happen anywhere, anytime. We need to recognize these experiences, whether the environments are physical or online, and whether learning takes place in schools, colleges or adult education centers, or in afterschool, workplace, military or community settings.
In short, we must begin to see schools, colleges and classrooms as central points – though still very important ones – in larger networks of learning.
As we recognize multiple ways for students to learn, we need multiple ways to assess and document their performance. Students, teachers and administrators are hungry to move beyond fill-in-the-bubble tests, toward assessments that are more varied, immediate, and data-rich. Digital badges are an important step in this direction.
And, badges offer an important way to recognize non-traditional ways of learning. They’re a way to give credence – and ultimately, credit – for the skills learners and teachers acquire in a broader set of learning environments, and a wider range of content.
Badges also empower students and teachers to play an even stronger role in their own learning and development – to seek out the right tools among many resources available, and in their fields of interest – and build a record of what they have mastered.
The 2015 passage of the ESSA opened the door to digital badges by way of innovative assessments and the creation of “next generation learning environments.”
How do you know if digital badges are creeping into your school district?
Stay alert for phrases like: personalized learning, technology-supported learning environments, personalized learning paths, learning that is student-driven and technology-enabled, and blended learning.
Personalized learning is the feel good phrase that gets Edublocks in the door. We can’t let that happen.
And don’t forget: