"Learning Is Earning" on the Blockchain Ledger Melds Education Badges With Gig Biotech Work

So, I wanted to build off of @stephers post about Just One Giant Lab, iGEM, and Gingko Bioworks.

It’s worth noting that Gingko Bioworks was put in charge of diagnostic testing in PA schools.

It immediately reminded me of the “Learning is Earning” video (remember @ldaven) from 2016 about life on the ledger and earning edu-blocks.

The one-minute clip features a high-school teen who does online protein folding puzzle games for scientific research and gets paid for the ones she solves. She says that she’s a scientist now. She also earns badges for her digital wallet.

To me this evokes the push for girls and STEM and citizen science I’ve seen promoted in Philadelphia over the past decade.

These are images from a presentation I gave in Salt Lake City in January of 2021 from this slide deck. It includes iGEM as well as human capital investment and education opportunities linked to genetic makeup.

You can see how this meshes with gig-work in synthetic biology, pay for success impact markets, and work-based “learning” using an under-age labor force from the video.

This past month Learning Economy with pilots lined up in Colorado and Broward County, FL held an event in conjunction with the United Nations on sustainable education in partnership with Pearson, Walmart.

This came to my email last week.

It goes with their recent post about “leapfrogging,” which is setting up digital identity wallets for people, including youth and refugees where you can store educational credentials, government documents, as well as NFTs that “unlock” opportunities like concert tickets, etc. It’s everything I’ve been warning about.

" 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.


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."

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This is an email I sent to someone in the blockchain education digital identity space. I suspect this person was at the Learning Economy gathering in connection with the UN.

"I wanted to run something by you. I just came across the work of Ian Grigg, a financial cryptographer who established Ricardian contracts in the 1990s and has been working in the digital identity space for a very long time.

Here are some of his papers: Iang - Papers Page

On a recent panel he was describing the need for more transparency and regulation around initial coin offerings to address crypto-fraud. This is a 90-second clip.

I got to thinking - you know me I read between the lines - what if we were to swap ICOs with tokenized impact agreements?


What would it mean to enact regulatory oversight over debt finance products linked to human capital? Could that look like a SIB structured with PII data of inner-city children’s literacy scores? Indian teens trained in coding bootcamps?

For me that starts to feel a lot like hypothecation - mortgaged humans going back to the domestic slave trade in the mid 19th century. I wrote a bit about this here in relation to community schools.

I was just wondering if you or the people in your circles around education finance have been discussing this at all?

Also, check out this very strange video made by Grigg and friends in 2005-06 in Austria - pressed flower backed digital currency with references to an article about the Templeton Fund - money teaching you how to pray.

This is the article: https://wrenchinthegears.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/Science_-Money-Teaches-Prayer-_-TIME-ONLINE.pdf

Alison McDowell"