What are NFTs, and What Role Can They Play in K–12?

Nonfungible tokens, or NFTs, have mainly gained popularity with digital artists because they can sell unique versions of their work via blockchain, which keeps a public record of ownership. The total value of digital art, audio and other NFT sales this year is likely to eclipse 2021’s $40 billion.

NFTs aren’t in routine use in most K–12 environments today, but some educators are exploring applications for the tokens.

“There is a fast-growing interest in it,” says Michael Cohen, director of innovation for Hebrew Academy in Miami Beach, Fla. “Our students are fully engaged with Web3 and NFT technology; they need us to know about it and bring this into learning.”

Cohen, a 2021 EdTech Influencer who is also known as “The Tech Rabbi,” recently co-founded the Ed3 Educators NFT Project. The project showcases some NFTs that serve as resources for teachers, including a microcourse that explores Web3, the next iteration of internet development.

Applications for NFTs in education range from distributing student-produced animation to NFT textbooks, like those from educational publisher Pearson. The following are some of the ways K–12 schools are utilizing NFTs.

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K–12 Schools Can Use NFTs to Store Educator and Student Records

One aspect of the blockchain that educators are particularly excited about is the decentralized ledger. This feature could allow schools to log educator credentials or share students’ cumulative achievements.

The data might also help teachers tailor their instruction and allow students to identify areas to work on, says Beau Brannan, a visiting humanities professor at Pepperdine University who has researched and lectured on NFTs in education.

Schools Can Use NFTs to Boost Student Engagement

Some tech startups, Brannan says, are working on creating engagement-oriented systems to allow educators to issue NFT badges when students finish assignments or gain new experiences.

The K12 Crypto platform, founded by the former Los Angeles Unified School District Principal Amen Rahh, rewards students for meeting academic goals.

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Rahh says the soon-to-be launched system encourages students to work on attendance, academics and other goals while teaching them key emerging tech and finance concepts.

“If we want to prepare our students for the workforce, we have to understand how the future of our economy works,” he says.

Schools Can Use NFTs to Raise Funds and Support the Arts

Schools can also produce digital projects such as yearbooks and offer them for sale on a blockchain, Cohen says. However, he is particularly enthused about potential art-related NFT uses.

“You could get an NFT that was created by our students that could be printed, framed and showcased in your business, on your website, on your social platform,” he says.

MORE EMERGING TECH: How are K–12 schools using the metaverse for education?

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