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ISTELive 23: AI + Web3 Revolution Coming to a School Near You

Former educators Nate McClennen and Vriti Saraf shared their vision of future schools powered by emerging technologies, namely artificial intelligence, blockchain and the metaverse, at ISTELive 23 on Monday.

Blockchain technology, decentralized ownership of the web, and the metaverse will play key roles in the future of generative artificial intelligence, a pair of former teachers now involved with technology companies told a gathering of educators Monday.

In their presentation at the International Society for Technology in Education conference in Philadelphia, “Leading Your School or District Through the AI and Web3 Revolution,” Nate McClennen and Vriti Saraf touted five key concepts that they expect will be crucial 20 years from now if educators want to use the rapidly changing technology effectively:

  • Learning is personalized by AI.
  • Learning is everywhere between everyone.
  • Learning is documented (transcripts and degrees) in digital wallets.
  • Learning is connected to work and purpose.
  • Learning is supported by human mentors.
“Everything will count for learning,” said McClennen, vice president at the instructional design consultant Getting Smart and a former teacher, robotics coach and school principal.

Blockchain is a system in which decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) are linked in a peer-to-peer network in which digital currency is used to secure and decentralize transaction records. Web3 is the concept of a newer version of the web that is powered by blockchain communities. The metaverse concept incorporates the use of virtual reality or augmented reality devices like headsets or smart glasses to provide a more realistic experience when visiting places or talking with other people on the web.

McClennen said a partnership between AI and blockchain is inevitable: AI will help blockchain create better protocols for data ownership, and blockchain will help AI gain more data.

Saraf, a former teacher and CEO of the consulting company k20 Educators, said there are already some private schools that use ChatGPT in conjunction with the blockchain community, and she predicted that eventually every school will have its own metaverse.

Saraf identified five workforce trends that will foster the use of AI in schools: the gig economy (freelance workers), the creative economy (online content development), remote and hybrid workforces, and skills-backed hiring, where companies are increasingly dropping college degree requirements to fill specialized positions.

Meanwhile, Saraf said, by 2025 there will be 97 million new technology jobs as 15 million jobs in various disciplines are eliminated. To better position students for the future, schools will need to place a larger emphasis on vocational learning to accommodate the gig economy and do a better job with personalized learning, which will likely involve the use of AI, to keep up with the creative economy. Metaverse technology will be used to teach students who have left public schools, or to prepare them for remote working environments in the future. And to prepare students for skills-based hiring trends, teachers will need to leave their comfort zones inside their school and be prepared to usher learners toward a more global environment.

“They need to be able to point them to lessons from around the world,” Saraf said. “They will be the curators.”

McClennen said teachers and educators must change their mindsets to meet the challenges ahead of them, focus on purpose over product, and shift the paradigm of AI to IA — “intelligent augmentation."
Aaron Gifford has several years of professional writing experience, primarily with daily newspapers and specialty publications in upstate New York. He attended the University at Buffalo and is based in Cazenovia, NY.