Leapfrog with LearnCard
Walk to any park or playground and you might see kids playing leapfrog. Leapfrog is the game where one child crouches down and a second child vaults over them, using their back as a platform to propel themselves farther forward than they could jump on their own. The second child then crouches down for a third, who crouches for a fourth, and so on, creating a fast-moving path through the playground where the level of entertainment and success is based on cooperation and inclusivity. The more that play, the higher and farther each child can jump, and the longer the game line becomes.
Leapfrog isn’t confined to the playground. In the world of education, best practices and tools can be built and shared, creating a “platform” from which learners and educators can “vault” themselves forward to more rapidly improve and accelerate the reach and quality of learning.
In the realm of technology, leapfrogging provides a shortcut in the traditional and sequential stages of development. The Center for Universal Education (CUE) at the Brookings Institution calls developmental propulsion "non-linear progress." You can think of it as going straight to mobile phones without the initial need to lay telephone lines; or instead of buying an entertainment system and wiring it through your home to speakers, you get a wireless Sonos system.
Leapfrogging is a phenomenon we’ve seen with various technologies:
- M-Pesa launched in Kenya to enable citizens to transfer money over their mobile phones. In a country where most of the population didn’t have access to a bank, M-Pesa leapfrogged the work of building a physical financial system throughout the country. As of 2019, over 80% of the population now uses mobile money compared to only 20% of Americans. Researchers have determined that M-Pesa lifted 2% of Kenyans out of poverty—almost 200,000 households. M-Pesa helped Kenyans leapfrog into the future of banking.
- Estonia built E-Estonia—an effort to connect citizens with the government using technology—when the country was re-established in 1991. There were no existing legacy institutions or systems, so the country could re-imagine what public institutions look like in a digital age from step one, including electronic residency for people outside the country. E-Estonia helped its citizens leapfrog into the future of governance.
In both of these examples, a clear trend is set: True leapfrogging occurs when digital technology is used to incite exponential growth in physical systems and infrastructures—the digital world of bits creating change in the physical world of atoms.
Education has the opportunity to start its own game of leapfrog. LearnCard is one tool working to kickstart this effort.
The Opportunity of Leapfrog
One of the most exciting prospects about leapfrogging into a future of education is the direct effect it will have on the future of work.
It is now possible for individuals to validate their experiences, knowledge and skills into a Learning and Employment Record - or LER.
Individuals own this LER, meaning they can use it to find and apply for jobs online and offline. Employers can be more confident hiring because they can see validated evidence that an individual can do the job, regardless of where they live or their official schooling. As individuals work, they continually build their personal portfolio, unlocking more opportunity.
The future of work is a world where talent can better find opportunity and education can more quickly develop talent.
For places with underdeveloped infrastructures or outdated and inefficient legacy systems, the future of education is a leapfrog opportunity.
As a 2017 World Bank study on development in Africa succinctly put it: “Vertiginous changes brought about by the digital revolution in the past 20 years make leapfrogging . . . not only a possibility but a necessity.”
However, although the proliferation of tech development has produced a generation of digital-natives who have been exposed to the world of tech since childhood, they are not the majority. Most people are still digital-immigrants, meaning they were not saturated in the digital world at an early age, and so they have to learn, adapt, and become aware of their digital presence. For this very reason, Educational Technology (EdTech) that bridges the world of atoms and the world of bits can quickly improve the quality of life globally.
The ABC’s of Leapfrog
To inspire educational leapfrog globally, projects that focus on using technology to solve critical real world problems should focus on the ABC’s: atoms, bits, composability.
The very nature of EdTech means it's primarily grounded in the world of bits. And yet much of its potential to leapfrog education is founded on its ability to connect to the physical world of atoms. This means that focus needs to be placed on helping people who live the majority of their lives offline. At the same time, working in the physical world may not be the forte of EdTech organizations, which is why partnerships will be key.
Working with partners in arenas spanning from finance and education to transportation and governance, will allow the distribution of new EdTech solutions to reach more people and bridge the digital divide separating those who are online and those who are not. Experts already working in these fields include non-profit organizations, educational institutions, financial companies, job placement agencies, and more. Combining the skills and strengths of these entities could ensure equal opportunity to access digital benefits regardless of their technical skills or location.
The current problems of accessibility and operability in education and employment can be solved by EdTech using decentralized technology, often referred to as web3 or blockchain technology. This technology can underpin the creation, ownership, and movement of learning and employment records, placing agency in the hands of the learner, and restructuring the future of work.
For example, when someone attends an in-person course or class, that experience can be documented and stored digitally. This process allows experience from the physical word to be used in a system that uses bits. In addition, digital credentialing means learners can focus on more specific and applicable training, further preparing them for a future of work that will be centered around digital platforms and opportunities.
But, bringing the benefits of digital progress to the aid of real world problems means a new set of demands for how people interact with, and move through, education and employment. As a result, education projects that can anticipate the challenges of bringing digital advancements to the physical world will not only be affecting short term change, but preparing individuals for the future of work.
Making an impact means creating composable technology and sharing results so others can build.
In the game of leapfrog, this is called "giving a back." After a turn leaping, each child crouches down so the next can vault forward.
Projects that are composable—meaning they can be re-used, remixed, and replicated—will help other projects bridge the world of bits and atoms. In the world of EdTech, this means creating technology and projects that can be reused, remixed, and replicated. An openness to building and sharing will help others bridge the world of bits and atoms, extending the developmental leapfrog further and faster.
By blazing the trail and sharing blueprints, EdTech will create the foundations needed for future work. The easier it becomes for digital technology to create change in the physical world, the more talent will work on these problems.
Few EdTech organizations or projects through working to solve problems in the world of atoms and bits. Learning Economy is attempting to do just that with LearnCard.
The ABC’s of LearnCard
LearnCard is a project from Learning Economy built in line with W3C international standards.
Conceptually, LearnCard is a safe place to keep and share important things, both online and offline. Think of it as that safety deposit box or password protected folder where you keep everything from educational transcripts to important identification papers to money you may need to use later. Unlike a safety deposit box or folder, however, the LearnCard can safely share that information with either a physical or virtual swipe, much like a debit card.
There are many ways this super safety deposit box could be used:
- If you need to make an online transaction or a purchase at a local grocery store, LearnCard can help.
- If you want to earn a badge for an online course or apply to the local university, LearnCard can help.
- If you are a refugee needing to prove your identity or a teenager excited to get your first driver's license, LearnCard can help.
Atoms and Bits
Practically, LearnCard is a digital wallet (a W3C-compliant universal wallet for iOS, Android, and Web to be exact) and a physical debit card.
The digital wallet can hold digital money, known as cryptocurrency, in the form of a stablecoin to offer security and utility. It can also hold digital learning and employment records, known as verifiable credentials. Cryptocurrency from the digital wallet can be spent using the debit card, while records can be shared with schools or employers. A traditional wallet holds money, identification, photos, and more. Your digital wallet will do the same thing.
In this way, both crypto and personal records become usable in the real world. Anywhere that has credit card capabilities can accept cryptocurrency. Anyone that needs to validate information online or in an office can quickly and safely access the records.
The simple but revolutionary result is that digital items become immediately useful in a physical community. This is the essential bridge to unlock true leapfrog potential in education for people around the globe.
Digital natives can use LearnCard as a digital wallet, much like they would with MetaMask or Coinbase. They can also use their digital assets in the real world, better connecting the virtual and physical. As an example, their cryptocurrency can now be easily spent at the grocery store. Their online NFTs or certificates could unlock opportunities, such as tickets to an art show or qualifying them to interview for a job teaching at the local university.
Those in the world of atoms can use their physical LearnCard to enjoy the same capabilities and opportunities as digital natives. The physical debit card creates virtual opportunities and creates their digital accounts. This integration closes the opportunity gap between those who are frequently online and those who spend their lives in the physical world. In fact, the people who previously had poor digital access and fewer educational, financial, and/or technological opportunities stand to benefit most from the chance to leapfrog ahead. Unlocking the world of bits provides significant benefits.
LearnCard users would unlock physical and digital capabilities with one tool:
- Individuals can learn new skills and have proof of those skills securely stored with LearnCard. LearnCard could show who issued the credential, the work the individual did to earn the credential, and work the individual could do with those skills. LearnCard provides professional opportunities remotely and in-person.
- They can then earn money that would also be stored in their LearnCard, enabling access to the financial system even if they don’t have a credit history or access to a physical bank. Any location that accepts credit cards would also accept LearnCard.
- They can live and work in a physical community but enjoy the benefits of virtual technologies when, and if, they need them. A LearnCard provides digital accounts without the need to login to create those accounts.
LearnCard users will be well positioned for the future internet and the future of work. They will own and control their data no matter where they live, work, or move. For people in areas with an unstable government, volatile financial system, or limited professional opportunities, LearnCard provides the benefits of individual control, financial security, and professional mobility.
The composability of LearnCard lays a cornerstone for future projects that support the world of atoms and bits. LearnCard is built as an open source wallet that will run on iOS, Android, and open source tools. As such, it can be integrated into websites and apps. As Learning Economy notes in their concept paper:
LearnCard can be integrated into any existing applications, providing a web3 digital wallet layer for existing web2 systems, including elearning platforms (e.g. EdX, Coursera, Udacity), HR and hiring applications, and learning management systems. It will also be modular and extensible by design, allowing it to connect to any layer one or layer two blockchain, cloud, or traditional server-based system. The LearnCard will become a standards-based global public utility for any and all edtech, HRtech, governments, institutions and learners worldwide that wish to utilize the power of digital verified credentials.
John Goodwin, Chairman of the Learning Economy Board and former CEO of the LEGO Foundation explains:
“Learning Economy is focused on global public goods infrastructure that will enable any number of applications to be developed while retaining the power of the individual owning their personal data.”
Existing companies in the world of atoms and emerging organizations in the land of bits can build on top of LearnCard to more quickly bridge the two worlds. The trail blazed by LearnCard could inspire other projects to pursue a similar ABC strategy.
Projects that utilize web3 are ideal participants in this global, world-building game of leapfrog because of their continual momentum of progress. New economic models and models for work are emerging, built with blockchain technology. Using this technology in partnership with real-world partnerships could combine the idealism of web3 with the logistics experience of existing organizations.
Leapfrog is a game that is never static, and the same can be said for the mission of creating a standard for education and employment that is not hung up on old infrastructures, but instead focuses on the learner, and in doing so, makes accessibility the central component of the future of education and employment.
Goodwin notes that most EdTech interventions digitize existing practice from the world of atoms, often conforming to flawed practices that drive inequities. By starting with the infinite possibility from the world of bits, EdTech projects that utilize decentralized technology can help organizations in the physical world refocus with a design-thinking approach. They can identify a problem first, talk to those in need, and then use the scalable power of the blockchain to find relevant solutions that work for digital and physical natives.
The population most in need of these solutions and best positioned to leapfrog into higher qualities of life are refugee communities.
Refugees Leapfrogging with LearnCard
The initial pilot for LearnCard will seek to focus on refugee communities. With 80 million refugees today, including millions fleeing Ukraine, and another 200 million refugees expected globally in the next decade from climate displacement, LearnCard can provide critical aid and access.
Refugees often have:
- Limited access to the financial system
- A need to share financial opportunities from their new homes with their families who may still be in a refugee camp or in an impoverished area
- No records or way to demonstrate their skills to potential employers
LearnCard solves these problems by:
- Enabling transparent, direct support from the international community to individual refugees most in need— transforming charity with DeFi
- Providing digital wallets and physical debit cards so refugees can safely store, transfer, and access their funds when needed
- Creating earn-to-learn opportunities that result in verifiable credentials so refugees can learn employable skills, get paid along the way, and share their expertise with employers
Chairman Goodwin argues that any attempt to help refugees should begin by talking to refugees to understand their challenges and whether technology can help provide a solution. Although this design-thinking approach sounds obvious, it does not always happen.
LearnCard is leveraging the partnership strategy to maximize input from refugees and experts from the world of atoms. This feedback is helping build the bridge between the physical and digital worlds:
- MyGrants helps over 300,000 immigrants worldwide to earn money while learning high-demand skills. Employers are then matched with these potential employees. According to founder Christian Richmond Nzi, 86% of these refugees are still working in their positions six months after their placement. With this partnership, LearnCard can rapidly deploy education to refugees in need and connect them with professional opportunities.
- Credit card providers and fintech startups will help translate digital wallets into physical debit cards. With an existing financial infrastructure accepted at locations worldwide, these partnerships will provide leapfrogging access to refugees who are unbanked and less familiar with digital technologies.
The Composable Blueprint
LearnCard has enormous potential to create change.
However, its greatest impact may be providing a blueprint and inspiration for other builders to enter the world of atoms.
LearnCard is gathering myriad technologies and tools and repackaging them into a single point of entry for others to use. In short, LearnCard is the first jump in the game of leapfrog for future projects working to use the innovation of EdTech to solve some of the globes most pressing systematic and structural challenges.
LearnCard is built with a composable tech stack that includes:
- Verifiable Credentials (VCs)
- Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs)
- W3C Universal Wallet Draft Specification
- A Trust Triangle that operates modularly with plug-ins for a variety of ecosystems, including traditional information systems, IPFS, and any layer 1 or layer 2 blockchain.
It also includes a skills library system built on a variety of open-source, composable tools that includes:
- Open Skills Management Tool (OSMT)
- Rich Skill Descriptors (RSD’s)
- Open Competency Framework
- Open Badges 3.0
LearnCard is the outcome of decades of work by multiple organizations. Building educational infrastructure across atoms and bits may be slow, but it continually accelerates when it is composable.
Join the Game of Leapfrog
Leapfrog is more fun when everyone is playing. The world of education is the same.
New educational technologies can improve the quality of life globally. Using the above ABC formula will help projects create new leapfrog opportunities for individuals, particularly refugees, that will prepare them for the future of work.
This transformational change in both the world of atoms and bits will only happen with collaboration.
More talent is needed. More projects are needed. More building is needed.
LearnCard is an important step in building the future of verified learning, financial mobility, and professional opportunity. The important question is who’s next?
Learn more at www.learncard.com.