Investigating the Potential of Blockchains

Open University, Aug 10, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is a very clearly written description of blockchain technology and how it can be used in education. It mostly quotes from John Domingue, director of the Open University's Knowledge Media Institute. See also this position paper from Domingue and three other authors and an article by Robert Herian on trusteeship in a post-trust world, and a webcast by Hugh Halford-Thompson on how blockchain technologies will change industries. But of course the best proof is in the demo, and the web page has a number of videos illustrating what the blockchain running on Etherium could enable, including conference registrations, reputation systems, and open badges. It's easy to become enthusiastic about blockchains, but it should be kept in mind that a blockchain is nothing more than a ledger; the actual work takes place outside the blockchain environment. And we should be careful not to overvalue things that can be represented in blockchains, and to question whether we actually need the representation. Do students need badges, or job offers? Do contractors need reputation points, or trust?

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