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Tales from the Moral Frontier — Interview with Mike Peck, Ed. D.

A discourse on education, DAOs, and self-sovereignty

This series is a showcase of individuals who are striving for positive social and ethical change in the blockchain and web3 space. The idea behind this project is to shed light on the insightful developments within this industry, and to promote overall flourishing within the wider community.

This series will be a collection of interviews, led by thought leaders who are instigating such activity. My first guest is Mike Peck, Ed. D. He is the co-founder of Ed3 DAO, an education-focused DAO aimed at fostering innovation. He is also on the board for the Center for Research and Innovation. Additionally, Mike is a major component of the upcoming Ed3 Unconference, where like-minded people will virtually meet up and share ideas and beliefs on decentralized education.

In our interview, Mike discussed the aims and challenges of educational DAOs, and discussed how the space explores self-sovereignty.

You are a proud member of the Ed3 community. What does Ed3 mean to you?

Ed3 is a meme, and the meaning behind it is still emergent, but we have all seen the power of memes and what they can do, and so we are all focused on how it will conceptually transform and take shape. I would say that Ed3 is a reflection of the shifts that are occurring within our technology that are allowing for pedagogical changes– meaning there are new ways to teach and learn. So really, Ed3 is an opportunity to explore these changes that are allowing us to move from the classical structures of the past and shift things towards the learner/individual. We want to think about how we can help focus on the individual and help them grow, in a way that has not been happening in other (traditional) methods.

The Ed3 community is all about bringing together innovative educators. This expands beyond schools and learning centres, as there are teachers and innovators in this space everywhere. It is open and inclusive, and recognises there are people with educational experience in all aspects of life.

Ed3 has a different focus from other educational sectors. Whereas traditional spaces would focus on things like raising scores and raising reading (which is definitely very important), Ed3 places a level of importance on autonomy and the personal learner experience. This is different from most other education sectors that have never been about focusing on the individual and their educational journey. There is an encouragement of uniqueness and creativity when focusing on learning in Ed3.

It helps to understand it better by examining Ed3 against a backdrop of previous times in education.

  • Ed1 was very much talking and delivering to the student.

  • Ed2 was much more “give-and-take” where students and teachers would occasionally speak between each other.

  • Ed3 is all about agency.

We are looking at how the power balance is changing. We are moving past the teacher being the gatekeeper of the knowledge, towards a more open system. The power is shifting and we are thinking more holistically about education now. What we envision is the shift of power continuing to the individual– just like in Web3. And what that looks like is where learners are increasingly in charge of their own decisions. They gain more agency and power because it is their lives, and we are preparing them for what their lives and goals may be about.

Could you explain what the Ed3 DAO is?

Our big mission is to provide a space where we can have educators learn about, and onboard into, web3. There are two benefits that come with that. The first is that we want to give teachers the skills they need so they can teach others about the space. Web3 is a pretty tough area to navigate, and it can be scary and overwhelming. We wanted to provide a space where people can learn about it in a safe manner without having to worry about how it works.

Our focus is on educators. But there is a recognition that it will be the students who will really lead this and move it from zero-to-one. But the quickest way to do that is through the educators as they are sitting face-to-face with multiple students at a time.

The second benefit is that we give teachers skills to help them engage in this space, because web3 desperately needs the help of educators. Traditionally, educators go through schools and these systems and learn a great deal of knowledge on a wide-range of topics and concepts, but they often feel they are stuck in a box, where they cannot use this knowledge elsewhere. Or at least the others outside the industry think they can only work in a school. But this is not true, because these skills are extremely necessary and portable to a wide range of topics. Tech and web3 is a huge place that can happen.

For example, teachers and educators are well-versed in community-building. This is something that can seriously help any DAO and web3 project (even outside the education sector). This is a type of specialized knowledge that could help this space flourish.

Essentially, Ed3 DAO is a launchpad for the tech and education sector, where both web3 will benefit by the inclusion of educators who can help guide and shape the space, and education will benefit from developers and those well-versed in tech who can build the best tools to positively affect their students.

There is an education problem in web3, both in quality and in scope. This is not to criticise the space, as it is definitely still new. This is more so a point that there are not enough skilled and knowledgeable people in the area to help push the space and make it flourish.

As an example, we have recently heard that Starbucks wants to get involved with web3 by creating NFTs. This means that a large number of people will be introduced to web3 for the first time through them. But this is extremely important because it must be recognised that the philosophical ideas that underpin what they are doing will be permeating into the consumer, and so there must be care and education to make sure that this is handled correctly. This is also what Ed3 DAO is helping to push towards.

A lot of people focus on the tech, but web3 is not about the tech. Neither is education. What we are trying to do is make it clear that these spaces are about the people. The tech is the tool, the people are what makes it important. That is what we are trying to explain to the world/space.

What do you think somebody should know before they join an educational DAO?

All educational DAOs are different, so there might not be one specific thing a person should know. But I would say that people should think about what they aim to get out of the experience. People should know their personal “why”. Joining these web3 DAOs and communities focused on education brings about a certain level of agency, which really puts the ball in each person’s court. You get to decide when you engage, how often you engage, and what you engage in. So knowing that beforehand is key.

Another thing is that people should be very conscious of their bandwidth, because this space is very prone to burn-out. I’ll speak for myself, but those who are heading into this frontier are probably pre-disposed to being curious. This can be an amazing thing, but you need guardrails because otherwise, it can be easy to lose time and focus.

If you are comfortable with these ideas/concepts, then you are going to have an extremely rewarding experience here.

What is the role of autonomy and sovereignty when it comes to web3 educational projects?

I think it is important to consider the place where everybody is coming from. They could be considered guardrails, but they are much more defined than that. People have their “lanes” and everybody must stick to those. We call those silos in education. Math has its silo. Science has its silo. Etc. Part of the role of web3 projects and communities is to help people unlearn what they have learned from traditional education. If somebody is struggling to think beyond the current structures in place, then we need to help unwind them so they can be ready to engage in a different and more autonomous type of experience.

And so on-ramping is key. So we try to get people to recognise what they know and then put that to the side, so we can get them prepared for a level of education that involves more self-sovereignty. Some of this gets tied into biases. If you are a teacher who has experienced a lot of success from the traditional method of doing things, then you might struggle to understand a new system where there is more student-autonomy. We need to explain that it is not the teacher’s fault that the current systems are built in this way, and that a change to that is not questioning their abilities… And we can help them rethink how they look at their classrooms.

What is the biggest challenge that educators face when moving to blockchain and web3 technologies?

As far as challenges go, I would say the mindsets of people who get involved is important to understand. People need to be ready to guide their own education and understand the importance of self-sovereignty.

Another key aspect is that of values-alignment. What I mean by that is right now, our educational system doesn’t really value web3 and blockchain tech. And so trying to get a teacher to put aside what they are doing and what their livelihood depends on is hard. And that is of course not their fault. We need to find ways to of explaining how important this tech and this field is, and how it can help them and their students. It is about telling them how valuable this space can be, and then convincing them of this. And not only that, but also finding common ground on which to build things. And there is a lot of common ground.

For instance, digital citizenship has been a big push in the last decade. Critical thinking, community building, and communication skills, and creativity are also huge areas that overlap between education and tech. These are some examples of common-ground for things we can build on. There are challenges but we are already approaching solutions. And that is what we are trying to do.

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