Robo-Writers, Translators, Chatbots: Developments in NLP and What it Means for Education

Prior post on Getting Smart

Did a student write that essay or a robot? Did a teacher provide that six trait feedback or was it an automated feedback system? Did that student understand that Mandarin dialog or did they translate it on the fly? Is that student talking to a mental health professional or a therapy-bot?

If you are worried about plagiarism, things just got a lot more complicated with developments in Natural Language Processing (NLP), a branch of artificial intelligence that enables computers to understand, process, and generate language.  

AI, and particularly NLP, is changing the way humans create, consume, and evaluate content. Financial reports, sports news, and legal briefs are increasingly computer drafted. NLP is changing the nature of employment and will increasingly show up in classrooms–welcomed and otherwise.  

Language Processing

Natural language processing is a branch of computer science, specifically artificial intelligence, that enables computers to understand human language, process it and create language to interact with humans to communicate. Computers have been trained to process large quantities of data and language and then generate communication in return. It’s highly likely that everyone is interacting with NLP every single day because of all the places it is found. 

Some examples include the use of chatbots, voice assistance, translation tools, and search engines. In my eighth grade STEAM course on emerging technologies, a good part of our year is focused on artificial intelligence and its various components. We explore a variety of materials such as AI4K12, ISTE U AI Course Materials, and have recently come across AIClub which has activities for students to see NLP in action and also work with some of the projects. They offer many free activities to explore AI. We want to move students from consumers to creators, especially in these areas, and with AI, it is impressive to see what students create, especially with chatbots. A group of sixth-grade students created the Calmzilla app to help middle school students deal with stress through a chatbot, showing a great way to focus on SEL through the use of chatbots and having students create.

How does NLP work?

NLP is possible through machine learning. Through algorithms, it is able to understand the meaning and structure of human language, analyze text, and even respond. The system stores all data whether that’s words, sentences, books, or any information that is loaded into the system. The computer then uses its data to find patterns to analyze.

Chatbots or messaging systems read the language that we use and can learn over time.

NLP can be used for different processes such as in documents for correcting spelling, translation of words, it can also respond to human language and react based on the information that it receives. Computers interpret what humans say, process human speech and then respond or react. It can evaluate speech based on context and intonation and then respond. We often use it for machine translation, text to speech, image description, and speech recognition.

Developments in NLP for accessibility and language creation

There have been many developments in NLP that promote accessibility and language uses from a variety of providers including Facebook, Google and Microsoft. For promoting accessibility, with NLP, companies can leverage the technology to provide more language capabilities. 

Launched in 2020 by San Francisco R&D shop OpenAI, Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) is a third-generation model that demonstrated dramatic progress in creating human-like text. 

Amazon Comprehend is NLP that locates insights and makes connections in text. There are many advances in large, “pre-trained transformer-based language models” such as BERT (Biodirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers). BERT, developed by Google is leveraged in its search engine and was trained on language modeling and next sentence prediction and its use has continued to grow.

The use of NLP is expanding into all areas of work and life. There are some key trends with NLP to look out for in 2022 and here are some of the new developments (with thanks for Jack Clark for regular updates):

  1. Facebook teaches language models to speak about 30 languages: These developments have been referred to as being better than an equivalently sized GPT3 model…” To do this, Facebook trained a family of language models that are better at translation than GPT3. The XGLM ( an autoregressive language model) was trained on a mixture of 30 languages, varying from languages with a lot to very little data. They found that by training with more diverse language data than GPT3, the Facebook models performed better, especially when using ‘few-shot’ prompting. Few-shot prompting is where the model is fed a few examples of the target language, and then is asked to translate. 
  1. Facebook new AI supercomputer: Facebook introduced a new AI supercomputer to be used for AI research in what is called the AI Research SuperCluster (RSC). Facebook (Meta) believes it is one of the fastest AI supercomputers available. The use of this supercomputer will be for moderating the content on its platforms, creating new services for the metaverse and developing augmented reality tools. 
  1. Google’s big text model – LaMDA is a GPT-3 competitor which is part of a family of language models ranging in size from 2B to 137B parameters (GPT3: 175B), and that have been trained on a massive dataset of 1.56 trillion words. LaMDA is different from other big language models because it is centered around dialogue, with 50% of its data coming from “dialogues from public forums.” With this new capability, LaMDA can be used in a variety of useful applications that will be more practical and safe open-ended dialog, which is why we need people with the skills for the program to ensure the safety of these technologies.  
  1. Microsoft makes MoEs easier to train: Microsoft is trying to scale-up mixture-of-experts (MoE) networks, which are one of the more promising routes for creating trillion-parameter-plus AI models. MoEs are more efficient to train than GPT3, which is a more dense model. MoEs work well for auto-regressive natural language generation tasks. With improved efficiency and training models, the result is great improvement in language accuracy. Beyond the efficiency, there is also a potential reduction in cost. Microsoft has stated that it can train 350M and 1.3B parameter MoE text models that have better (or the same) performance as GPT3 for a range of different tasks. What this means is that it nets out to models with the “same quality with 5X less training cost”. DeepSpeed-MoE offers massive MoE models with up to 4.5x faster and 9x cheaper inference when compared with quality-equivalent dense models.

NLP Applications 

NLP has applicability in a variety of sectors of work and daily life. 

  • Sentiment analysis: NLP tools can “read” giant data sets to assess consumer brand sentiment and identify areas for improvement. It can detect negative comments as they are posted and can respond proactively. 
  • Chatbots: NLP streamlines communication in many areas of work and has been used to process customer requests because it is able to analyze the language and create a response to common requests. When a request is not understood, the message is sent to a human agent. There are many companies that are using virtual assistant technology to facilitate calls. For example, when you make a call to the electric company, airlines,  banks, or hotels, many of the most common requests can be responded to via chatbots or customers can manage their accounts using some of the voice commands. Companies often use the Alexa Skills Kit that is provided through Amazon.
  • Reducing online bullying: detection of Cyberbullying is another way NLP is being utilized for good. On social media, classifiers are being developed to detect the usage of abusive and derogatory language, as well as hate speech. 
  • Fake news detection: While it may contribute to the problem, NLP has become a critical tool for detecting and reducing the spread of fake news and analyzing speech on social media. NLP is being used for automatic fake news identification this year, and this is an area we will likely see more of in 2022, with so much incorrect information about Covid-19 and other world issues circulating. 
  • World of Work: NLP is being used in various sectors such as finance, healthcare and human resources. In healthcare, NLP can analyze voice records and convert them into text to be added into patients’ records. NLP is being used to train algorithms on mental health disease which can then be used to provide cognitive behavior therapy or virtual therapy assistants to patients with PTSD, autism, or depression. In finance, NLP can extract data for credit scoring or combined with machine learning and predictive analytics to detect fraud. In human resources, NLP screens resumes and recruiting chatbots use NLP to schedule interviews, facilitate onboarding of candidates and more.

What NLP Means for Edu

Students should have an understanding of what AI is, the impact that it has on our lives and how it could shape the future–both good and bad. They should know that they are living through the first decade of widespread human-computer co-created content, art, and music–an amazing opportunity that will challenge historical views on intellectual property.  

Upper elementary school is a good time to teach digital literacy and critical consumption. Middle school is a good time to introduce AI ethics and begin the conversation about what it means to co-author with a machine.

High school should create opportunities for students to use machine learning tools to attack problems and create solutions. This could happen in a computer science course, a social studies and tech block, or an after school program (see AI4All).

And, keep an eye on student writing. Plagiarism detectors will be challenged by new content creation tools. Live performance assessment will remain the best way to determine if it was Robbie or robo-writer. 

Finally, a real person wrote this post. But the next one you read, well, you may not be able to tell. 

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Guest blog post via James Kapptie @jpk38 @cowboyedpod

Opinions are those of the guest author

Covid 19 made the entire world reimagine what work should look like. The work environment and non-negotiables ( time & location) suddenly became negotiable. The world suddenly was not so concerned about where the work was done but simply that the work was done. Education made changes to what school delivery looked like, but was continually highlighting the idea of when we get back to normal. Now as we get back to “normal’, educators are leaving education at a rate we are not prepared for. So now what…

While there are lots of aspects to address for schools to continue to attract educators, one simple option is flexibility within their schedules. The stresses of teaching have never been greater, schools are expected to ensure everything from proper nutrition to emotional health all the while delivering content that guarantees students reach standards and are academically proficient. Educators need us to reimagine what their days look like. How do we do that? Start with a simple idea. Talk to them! Ask questions and listen to answers. We have solutions to lots of concerns that don’t increase cost but can change morale and the future of education.

Question One: What about your schedule would you change and how so? Can we flex time within a group of teachers? Can we mix virtual and in person learning? Can we work with community groups to offer engaging learning opportunities? Should paraprofessionals be hired by teachers? Could those paras take rolls like Physicians Assistants? What does Professional development add to your schedule?

Question Two: How can the community and parents be more involved? What are the ways that communities can take active parts in all these areas that schools are tasked with? Is the community involved in your school? Should parents be expected to be in school on a regular basis? Parents were forced to deal with sudden change of balancing work and children when COVID hit and employers adjusted. How can employers support parents being more active in their children’s education experience. Will more community involvement help build respect for teachers and the education arena? Will behavior issues inside schools decrease because of parent and community expectations and presence in schools?

Question Three: If educators need to be gone, how do we deal with that? Consider substitutes in other professions. Doctors, short term absences, they reschedule appointments. Long term absences, can they get someone to cover. Teachers need freedom to be gone when they need to be gone. Teachers should not face the burden of, I need to be gone but it’s so much work to do lesson plans, get sub and on and on. Can we take the focus off of content and move toward student experiences if educators need to be gone?

Question Four: What are the perks of this profession? What are perceived perks? What are industries offering as perks that educators would benefit from? The common issue that most educators face is that their job has lots of time off and that should balance everything else. How much time do teachers have “off” compared to other professionals?

Question Five: What was the hardest challenge for parents and students during COVID? Why did so many parents want their kids to go back? DO we want the answer?

Education has run on the same schedule for over a century. If we aren’t willing to consider what it can look like, we will never get to what it should look like. Solutions are all around us. There is no one right answer but there are solutions in each of our communities and states to address those needs. The biggest question is do we have the courage to ask? Do we have the courage to listen? Most importantly, do we have the courage to act before we miss out on that next great educator? We often ponder, maybe our student will find the cure to cancer or be a great musician or the next awesome developer. We need to wonder what if that next great educator is “lost” in some other profession.

**Are you an educator interested in writing a guest blog for Rachelle’s site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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Celebrate Women’s History Month with Buncee & Capstone!

Buncee March

March is Women’s History Month and throughout the month we take time to recognize and celebrate women who have made contributions to the world. The month-long celebration grew out of what started as a week-long celebration held and organized by a school district in California in 1978. Students at the school participated in a “real woman” essay contest. The event drew a lot of attention which inspired more school districts and organizations across the United States to participate. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued a presidential proclamation that declared the week of March 8th as Women’s History Week.

Six years later, the event became a month-long celebration in March after the National Women’s History project petitioned Congress to make the change. In March, we also celebrate International Women’s Day which first took place on March 8, 1911. Many countries participate by having celebrations and engaging in activities to recognize the contributions of women. Each year a theme is chosen for the month. This year, the theme is “Women providing healing, promoting hope.” It is focused more on recognizing how women from around the world and from different cultures have impacted society and supported others.

To help our students become more aware of these important events and to broaden their cultural awareness, it is important that we find resources that will help students to explore in authentic and meaningful ways. Once students have time to explore and learn, they need opportunities to create and share that learning with classmates and even beyond their school community. Buncee and PebbleGo Create make this possible because together they provide the right resources to create a meaningful and engaging learning experience for students.

Choosing a focus

To help students learn more about impactful women from history, teachers can get started by exploring some of the templates available and lessons from the Ideas Lab. Depending on the grade level or specific content area, there are a lot of options to choose from. Students can start with one of the templates available for Women’s History Month or start from a blank template to create something more authentic and personalized to their specific interests and needs.

For younger students using PebbleGo, they can choose from the resources to search biographies about women history makers. They can then design a Buncee to visualize and share their learning. Teachers can get started quickly with PebbleGo because it provides lesson plans and all of the materials that teachers need, which makes it a great choice.

Learning together.

Having students share their creations and learn from their classmates builds social awareness and understanding of different perspectives. To enhance learning and encourage students to share their work and build essential SEL skills, we can use a Buncee Board. A Buncee Board promotes collaboration in a digital space, helping students to develop many of the essential skills for the future and also to feel connected, especially if we are in virtual learning environments. Buncee boards can even be shared with other classrooms!

Check out some of the great examples for Women’s History Month in this Buncee Board.

Buncee Board of templates for Women’s History Month

Provide them with opportunities to share their ideas, engage in inquiry based learning, and explore different resources as they build their self- and social-awareness. By sharing their work with others, they focus on building social awareness and relationship skills during the learning process and develop a greater cultural understanding of others and their experiences. With Buncee, we have more choices available that will engage students in meaningful learning during Women’s History Month.

There are many templates and wonderful activities that you can do using Buncee and PebbleGo in your classroom. Perhaps have students select a woman from history to research and to create their own Buncee to share what they have learned about this woman.


Students could even decide to interview someone about the work that they’re doing, a person that inspired them, it could be a family member, someone from their community, a business owner, anybody and they could use all of the features to share what they learned about that person in a Buncee. Being able to talk about what they learned using all of the graphics and media options available within Buncee would enable them to create something truly authentic and meaningful. And the best part is that students will be able to create something that is purposeful and will help others to learn about and honor influential women from history.

More ideas

Create a timeline and consider specific events that change history, for example in 1920 when women gained the right to vote.

Create a Buncee with a famous quote from a woman and express how students interpret it and share information about the woman who is known for it.

Explain an experiment, a process, a complex idea and find innovators and inventors throughout history who are known for work in this area!

Research writers or artists and create a Buncee to share information about them and create a work of art or a poem in their style.

Explore careers and women who are known for their work in these areas. Maybe a Buncee job shadow or career exploration would be a great idea!

Whether students choose to focus on a particular area, perhaps someone that made an impact in the medical field, in science, in history, in the arts, in sports, in any area of interest, promotes student choice and voice in learning. Connecting their own interests with learning about a person who made a difference in that area, will boost engagement and foster creativity in learning.

Rachelle Dené

Rachelle Dené Poth is an ed-tech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior-Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear, and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is the author of seven books and is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, and NEO LMS.

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU

5 TECH Inclusive Platforms

Laura Steinbrink, posted in education

If you have never considered how tech can make your class more inclusive, I encourage you to do so. If you have considered ways to meet the needs of your students in more diverse ways while helping to build a positive culture in your class, then this post may be just a refresher for you. I will briefly feature Pear Deck, Buncee, Microsoft tools, Wakelet, and Flipgrid to show how these tech tools can help you create that inclusive classroom we all need.


In my classroom, one way I allow all voices to be heard is through the use of the Google Chrome add-on for Pear Deck. I have been using this tool, Pear Deck, since 2015 to facilitate classroom discussions because it allows me to make Google Slides interactive so that students see my presentation and then can respond to questions with short answers, draggables, multiple-choice, and drawings. When I have them respond with short text or long text answers, I can show student answers on my projector screen and it also displays them on all student devices. We can examine all responses one at a time, and all student names are automatically hidden so that we can discuss answers anonymously. This allows students to take risks and respond without fear of not sounding smart, sounding “too smart,” or of being wrong. If an answer is wrong, I love to have students look at it and justify to me why someone might have put that as a response. I pay for Pear Deck premium service monthly in order for me to see the student names with the responses, because I have to have some accountability when teaching high school, and I can use it as a formative also. When students know I won’t “out them” for their answers as long as they are appropriate, they feel safe taking those risks and respond with a deeper answer more often than not.

I display responses and students discuss with me what is good and what needs to be rethought. Having students take on the perspective of the author for weaker answers and then justify the why behind those answers helps build a safe classroom.


I also explore educational technology (edtech) companies that build inclusion within the tools they offer, such as Buncee, a tool in which students can create presentations, graphics, videos, audio creations, and so much more. Students like to see representations of themselves and their families in the clipart tools use, and Buncee does an amazing job at this. Their clipart, which they call ‘stickers,’ has students in wheelchairs, blind students, and students of various nationalities, races, and religions. Family stickers include those with two moms, two dads, a mom and dad, as well as grandparents. The company is used by educators internationally with elementary through high school students to create presentations, audio or video recordings, graphics, cards, and more. Students can even customize an avatar to make it look more like them instead of just a general representation of themselves. The amount of care that Buncee puts into making their users feel included is a big reason why I began to use their tool in the first place.


Buncee adds multiple versions of the same student sticker so that students can find what fits their needs.

As for making special education students feel included, Microsoft tools and those within the Microsoft partner family, such as Buncee, Flipgrid, and Wakelet all help me achieve this goal. Microsoft’s Immersive Reader is a free tool that is embedded directly into Microsoft products and in many of their partner products, such as the three I previously mentioned. This amazing tool adds a sound icon by any text which students can play to have the text read to them. It also has over 30 languages that it can translate the text into, and it can highlight words as it reads the text to the student. The text highlight can even be color-coded to help those with dyslexia. The features it has will depend on which program is using it. With native Microsoft tools having more options than their Microsoft family partner counterparts.


To access Immersive Reader (on a MacBook) in a Microsoft Word document, on the toolbar where you see “Home, Insert, Draw, Design, Layout, References, Mailings, Review, and View,” choose View. You should then see it as an option. 


Wakelet and Buncee have the Immersive Reader tool plus the Flipgrid integration (Wakelet) or native video integration (Buncee), among other integrations. Flipgrid and Buncee both have options for students to create a video or audio response, which can be used for differentiation, as well as for an alternative form of assessment. Flipgrid uses their video response without activating the camera (a blacked-out screen effect) which is also a great option for students who have to provide a response but don’t want to be on camera. Buncee’s audio option works a bit differently. After adding a “sticker” to the page, then you get the option to add audio to that sticker. Students can choose or design a clipart version of themselves, add it to a slide, then add audio which they record in app. It is a fabulous way to bring their creations and learning to life, and allow their voices to be heard.

Flipgrid has the Immersive Reader built in also!


Once you add an element to a Buncee, you can then add audio.
Flipgrid’s options, like mic only and screen recording, have really amped up the ways for students can share their voices.


I encourage you to look at these tools with inclusion in mind. You may find a new way to use them that fits your students’ needs and provides inclusion in ways you didn’t expect. When you decide on the “why,” you are using tech, the how becomes much simpler to discover.


**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

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FETC 2022!

It is hard to believe that it has been two years since I was in Miami for FETC (Future of Educational Technology Conference). This year, the event was held in Orlando at the Orange County Convention Center. It was the 42nd year of the conference and my sixth time attending and presenting.

The biggest highlight was being back in person, connecting with friends and learning together to continue to improve ourselves for our students. If you’ve never been, FETC provides a space for educators to gather to share innovative ideas and best practices for schools and Conference Chair Jennifer Womble always delivers a fantastic and welcoming space for educators every single year.

A personalized professional learning experience

One of my favorite things about FETC is that it offers tracks and theaters specific to different roles in education focused on topics that attendees want to learn about. Navigating the conference schedule is easy whether you’re online or you use the FETC app. Being able to search for and quickly find a session connected to a specific role or a certain area of Interest, makes it possible to personalize your learning experience while at a conference so full of choices.

The conference tracks

FETC offers five tracks to help attendees focus on their area of learning: Administrators, Coaches, Educators, Information Technology, and Library Media Specialists. Within each track, there are concurrent sessions and workshops on a range of topics from cybersecurity, inclusivity, interoperability, emerging technologies like AR/VR and AI, social emotional learning (SEL), STEM, and best practices for online and personalized learning environments.

The theaters and expo

The expo hall provided a great opportunity for attendees to connect with more than 400 companies to learn more about their products and to engage in meaningful conversations. FETC also offered five content-focused theaters. In the Information Technology Theater, presenters spoke about cybersecurity and wireless technologies, and how to create a solid and secure infrastructure for our schools focusing on innovation and emerging technologies. There were sessions with live demos about how these technologies are improving the learning experiences for students. ​​

The Thought Leadership Theater had speakers focusing on equity, school management and social emotional learning. Attendees could ask questions and have one-on-one conversations to learn how to provide more opportunities for professional development in their schools.

The Esports Theater had product demos and people available to answer questions about Esports clubs and the benefits for students in areas such as digital citizenship and social emotional learning. The STEM theater offered sessions about the benefits of STEM and methods and tools shared that will help students to build these skills in preparation for the future.

Keynote speaker and Best-selling Author, Shawn Anchor.

The keynote speakers always leave me inspired. Shawn Anchor, a best-selling author, spoke about rethinking the formula for success. He shared some personal experiences and said “Happiness is the precursor of success. Our support system is an integral part of our happiness, we can’t do it alone! Lean on your friends, mentors, and those that are there for YOU!!” A good message to kick off the conference, especially since for many it was the first time being in-person at a conference and two years since FETC took place.

De Filippi, a Faculty Associate & Researcher at Harvard Law School and National Center of Scientific Research, spoke on leveraging blockchain technology in education. Focused on what the impact of blockchain might be for our schools, she said “Blockchain creates a world of interconnected academic credentials & curriculum.”

Tech Share Live!

An annual favorite is the Tech Share Live! with Adam Bellow, Hall Davidson, Leslie Fisher, and Kathy Schrock. This is a session for anyone to learn about apps, exciting gadgets, and focus on topics like AI, Esports, augmented reality and more. It’s always a fast-paced and fun session to join for engaging ideas. Adam Bellow was a hit with his “Piano Man” song this year!

There were also five Mega Sessions during the event with speakers including Jenni Buccos and Kari Byron who spoke about STEM. Robert Kennedy III spoke about upgrading virtual teaching strategies. Ken Shelton inspired with his focus on Techquity and creating learning environments for equity, sustainability and access. Joe Sanfelippo shared his vision of transforming “Moments to Movements,” and Thomas Murray shared how to create a culture of innovation in our schools.

Hearing the stories

The Edtech Startup Pavilion is a space  to meet some of the people behind these emerging products, learn about their entrepreneurial journeys and explore some new technologies that might be coming into our schools. The Meet The Authors event is a place to connect with friends, talk to each author, and learn about their journey to writing a book and exchange stories has always been a great part of the conference.

Jon Spike

Jonathan Spike, creator of GamestormEDU, explaining his game concept to attendees.

Gamestorm specializes in designing educational games, providing engaging curriculum, and facilitating engaging professional development. Jon showed me how to play the game and there are so many possibilities for students and teachers. He even made a custom Gamestormers card for many attendees! 

Don’t miss out!

The variety of sessions and scheduling each year enable attendees to customize their FETC experience and select focus areas and sessions that resonate the most. I would recommend educators add FETC to the list of must-attend events. The conference will be held January 23-26, 2023 in New Orleans, LA next year and proposals to present a session will open soon.

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!

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NFT in Edu: What Does the Future Hold?

Prior post on Getting Smart

  • In education, NFTs have become a topic of conversation.
  • Students are interested in learning about NFTs and discussing what it means for the future and for education, and even brainstorming what they would create.
  • We can expand access to careers in human expression while leveraging the emerging technologies in our future.

NFTs (or non-fungible tokens) have become a hot topic in conversations when it comes to emerging trends in technology. Even though it feels like they are something new, the first NFT was actually launched in 2017 by CryptoPunks. Now, NFTs are now being used at an increasing rate and value every day. In one year, the value of NFTs in the market has increased from $340 million to $14 billion dollars. There are many areas of work where people are starting to use NFTs and one question many are asking is, “What role could NFTs play in education in the future?

What are NFTs?

According to the Merriam-Webster definition, a nonfungible token (NFT) is a unique digital identifier which cannot be copied, substituted or subdivided. Once created, the NFT is then recorded in a blockchain which is used to certify its authenticity and ownership. An NFT is not a tangible object but rather a form of proof that shows ownership and purchase. These blockchain-based tokens can represent artwork, digital content, media or even event tickets. An NFT is an irrevocable digital certificate of ownership and authenticity for a digital or physical asset.

NFTs have unique digital identifiers and are stored on a blockchain, a system that is used to keep a record of transactions made in bitcoin or some type of cryptocurrency. NFT records are kept across multiple computers that are linked in a network and through the blockchain, can be sold or traded. NFTs are created through a process called “minting,” in which they convert digital files into a cryptocurrency collectible. The process of minting is how NFTs are uploaded to the blockchain.

A difference between bitcoin and NFTs is that bitcoin can be traded for another bitcoin, whereas NFTs are unique and cannot be traded as an equal value. In my eighth grade STEAM class, I shared this video explainer which provides some examples to help students and teachers better understand NFTs. One example shows how a $100 bill can be divided up into different amounts but keeps the same value. However, when it comes to NFTs, in art for example, you cannot take a painting like the Mona Lisa, divide it up, and equally distribute it because there is only one original Mona Lisa. That’s where the value of NFTs comes in, especially in areas like music and art. While you may be able to print a copy or take a picture of it, the value will not be the same as the original. Because of the ability to forge works of art or music, which makes it difficult to identify whether or not it is an authentic piece, this is where NFTs can be highly beneficial.

How are NFTs created?

NFTs are created by artists, designers or license holders through a process referred to as “minting.” Minting involves signing a blockchain transaction that provides the specifics or outline of the fundamental token details. NFTs can take various forms whether it is a photo, video, or even a GIF. The information is then sent to the blockchain to trigger a smart contract function which creates the token and assigns it to its owner. Each NFT has a unique identifier which is then stored on the blockchain. Once it is on the blockchain, it sets the authenticity and the ownership.

Where are NFTs being used in education?

In education, NFTs have become a topic of conversation. Over the past few months in my STEAM course on emerging technology, we have explored bitcoin, cryptocurrency, blockchain, and NFTs. Students are interested in learning about NFTs and discussing what it means for the future and for education, and even brainstorming what they would create. There are several universities that are using NFTs for credentialing and also for working in remote learning environments. One example is Duke University which has provided educational credentials in the form of NFTs for its Master of Engineering in Financial Technology degree.

Other universities are exploring some unique uses of NFTs. Seton Hall University held an Annual Entrepreneur Hall of Fame Dinner in February and alumni were presented with NFT awards. At Pepperdine University, one educator has been using NFTs in a personal finance course to award NFTs to the students. The NFTs represent academic tokens, without monetary value, that represents when a student has passed the course. The NFT contains unique details about student performance. MIT has done research and has been advocating for the use of blockchain for authenticating college certificates and transcripts.

Students are interested in learning about NFTs and discussing what it means for the future and for education, and even brainstorming what they would create.

Rachelle Dené Poth

NFT’s may also be used in the future in order to give people permission to events and to better manage which parts of the event people have access to. Over time, this may even become some kind of alumni status, i.e. special rewards or privileges to those who have attended SXSW EDU 5 years in a row, etc.

What does this look like in K-12?

At a high school level, think about times when we use assessments for learning or we share evidence of work that students have done whether that comes in the form of a certificate, maintaining student records, accessing results from a standardized test, or recording other academic achievements. These require time to obtain and to store and in some cases, can easily be forged. With so much technology available, we can make certificates and other documents look authentic. However, with NFTs and the inability to forge them, schools are likely going to consider using NFTs for a variety of reasons.  

When a student or teacher does well, to make it memorable, the academic sector can now create and design an NFT. The use of NFTs as diplomas and resumes could help better track and access what students have earned throughout their school careers. By using NFTs, it serves to stop students from falsifying their academic certifications because the token serves as a permanent, unchangeable and unique “transcript.” There are many ways NFTs are being used now and which can benefit various areas of work and life. Rabbi Michael Cohen, educator and author, has been doing a lot of work in the area of NFTs and even holds a Twitter Spaces chat on Tuesday nights about it. He sees the potential for using NFTs for creativity and in the arts.

Mark Cuban, a billionaire and investor on NFT platforms, believes that textbooks will become part of the NFT experience. Digital textbooks can be resold and royalties can be collected for each resale.

Preply, a global language learning platform founded in 2012, minted three NFTs on Open Sea as a way to reward tutors in 2021. Amy Pritchett, the Student Success Manager of Preply says: “We wanted to experiment with NFTs as a way to reward Preply tutors and the great education they provide our students. Once you have one of these tokens you can keep it or sell them. Pritchett added some ideas for using NFTs such as creating online ‘trophy cases’ of their NFTs as artifacts or perhaps creating digital portfolios, which can be shared with prospective employers or even college admissions. Teachers can also issue NFTs to represent when students successfully demonstrate learning the class material. Pritchett added, “We are only starting to see the beginning of how NFTs and education can come together. They are an emerging trend that we all continue to be curious about.”

What is the difference between NFTs and Verifiable Credentials?

Both NFTs and verifiable credentials (VC) offer ways to uniquely identify something in the digital space. NFTs are publicly displayed and VCs are a privately held digital fact, however, each of these spaces provides more security and authenticity, and are capable of being monetized. Each proves that something, whether a token or a piece of art, belongs to someone. However, there are differences. A VC uses link key infrastructure and has three entities: the issuer, the holder, and the verifier of the credential. Each party signs the license and gives it the authentication. An example would be a driver’s license. An NFT can only exist on the blockchain and as soon as it is created, everything is time-stamped which makes it easier to verify ownership. NFTs can be monetized by creating something new and then selling it whereas a VC cannot be tampered with and all information is verified cryptographically to prove the identity of the individual or entity. NFTs can be transferred, but VCs cannot, which means that the original owner remains the same.  

The value of NFTs

The value of NFTs are determined by the availability of a digital asset or what it represents. If few are in existence then the value will be greater. Earlier last year, digital artist Beeple sold Everydays, a collage of 5,000 images for $69.3 million and Jack Dorsey, Twitter CEO sold the first tweet he made as an NFT for $2.9 million. Podcast Host has launched the “world’s first-ever generative podcast NFT collection” under the branding of “The Curious Companion” introducing a new medium into the world of NFTs.  

NFTs create a unique way for artists and creators to express themselves by making digital art and artifacts that are collectible, sellable and authentic. When it comes to human expression and preparing students for the future, Tom Vander Ark says “We can no longer teach the expressive arts without introducing new modes of expression, new market platforms, and new business models with the opportunity to make a career in the arts sustainable. It’s time to teach creativity not just in the arts but in audience development and entrepreneurship.”

With NFTs and the potential for infusing creativity in the design and developing a plan for distribution, we are fostering essential skills such as entrepreneurship and agency in learning. Students are now creating artwork and maintaining ownership of their work as an NFT or they can develop entrepreneurial skills to build a business and make a profit.

As we seek to prepare students for the future, Vander Ark believes that schools and colleges can help by “Integrating the expressive arts with emerging technology and new business models so that more young people graduate ready for sustainable arts impact.”  We can expand access to careers in human expression while leveraging the emerging technologies in our future.

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Virtual Immersion: How to Make the Most of a Virtual Space


Over the past year, we’ve had to adjust so much of our personal and professional lives. People who may not have used a lot of technology have found themselves using it for nearly every part of their day for work and personal life. With limits placed on so much of our daily lives, we had to adapt, grow and persist throughout the many changes we experienced in how we communicate and connect with others. Technology already played such a big part in our everyday lives and in the past year, through technology we have been able to keep schools going, to keep working, to access essential items that we need for our homes, and probably the most important, to stay connected with family and friends.

We saw and experienced an increase in familiarity with using video conferencing tools like Google Meet,  Microsoft Teams, Zoom, or the many other options that are out there for connecting us with others in the same virtual space. We relied on these tools during our sudden shift to remote work and learning to be able to teach, learn, work, and connect. Businesses found new ways to survive and thrive in what was definitely a challenging time and have emerged with new ways to work, creating even more opportunities for collaboration and the knowledge that we can persist when met with challenges, we need to simply explore new ideas and innovate in our practice, regardless of our work.

These spaces were not only beneficial to educators and the world of work. Thinking about the activities that we enjoy like spending time with family and friends, traveling, engaging in activities from conferences to concerts, these technologies created a means to find some normalcy amidst uncertainties.

Impact on education

Last year, there were a lot of missed opportunities. We saw high school graduations, academic ceremonies and sporting events carried out through unconventional means. Schools held graduations at drive-in theaters, held band and chorus concerts through live streaming or meeting platforms so that families could join in.

When schools first closed last year, my school was not using a specific platform like Microsoft Teams, and so I used Zoom to connect with my students and try to keep some consistency in what was a very inconsistent time. This year, we are using Teams which works well for creating a space where students feel more connected and can collaborate. But even with tools like Zoom or Teams, we don’t truly get the feeling of being in the same “space.” This is where I believe that the web VR tools can make an impact.

Web VR makes it possible to experience virtual reality from right within our internet browser. With Web VR, everyone can experience virtual reality without needing a specific device or even a headset. My initial experience with Web VR was through some experiments for playing games that I tried with my eighth-grade students in my STEAM course. There are many Web VR options out there that can be used for education, work, or even to explore a different way to connect with families and friends. For anyone looking to explore virtual reality meeting spaces, depending on your role or the grade level that you might teach, several of these might work. While not all of these might be a good fit for your specific purpose, it’s good to know that there are several options out there that we can try, if only to explore something a little, and promote a discussion with our students about the potential impact of these technologies.

Here are four options that I have been exploring. Some of them are easy to get started with and the ones that I used with students didn’t require much instruction from me at all. I was learning from them faster than I probably could have taught them how to interact in the spaces.

1. InSpace Chat. The most recent one that I tried was InSpace, which I learned about after joining in a conversation about the future of education. Thinking about the future, I’m always interested to learn what opportunities these tools might bring and what we can provide for our students. With InSpace Chat, you can sign up for a free 2-week trial and set it up to use it with one class with breakout rooms or set up an event that has four different rooms. You can set different backgrounds in the rooms, screen share, play a YouTube video, have a chat, and more. As you move closer to people in groups or in the room, you can actually have a conversation, which I think this takes it to a higher and more impactful level than using some of the traditional conferencing tools. I created an account, got started very quickly, and was impressed with what it offered.

2. Mozilla Hubs. With Mozilla, you create a virtual meeting room. You have an avatar to represent you and can interact with students or with other educators, in a way that is different from being in our standard class or school meetings. It is a space where 3D objects and other content like PDFs and videos can be shared. What I like about this also is that for anyone who prefers to not have the camera on, they can be represented by an avatar and be involved in a class but in a more visually engaging way. You can even upload images or take photos with you and the other  “people” in the space. It was a fun experience with my eighth graders.

3. Kumospace. I’ve heard about a lot and dove into trying Kumospace as well. With this, it’s not specific to education but you can create a customized space for use as a library space, for businesses, for gatherings in places such as a rooftop restaurant, and other spaces that enable you to feel like you are meeting in a more authentic way because of the background. Choose from the different backgrounds available and be able to feel like you are meeting in a real classroom or in an office, it just gives it a different experience With spatial audio, you can have clear conversations with others, and with the live video feed through your avatar, be able to see and interact with others in a more engaging way.

4. Frame VR.  Probably the most complex but again as with the other options, it does not take too long to get started or at the very least, to experience what it offers. My first time exploring this was with my friend Jaime Donally. Frame VR enables you to design a more immersive space for collaboration that can be experienced through your web browser, desktop computer, mobile devices, or using a VR headset. In “Frame”, you don’t need to download any app and you can simply share a link with others to join, and do a presentation which includes sharing a whiteboard or screen sharing, engaging in conversations, and more. With the photospheres, you can provide virtual field trips or tours. You can also import and play audio files that those who join in can hear.

With each of these options, you want to learn more about the options and of course, make sure you can use these depending on the grade level you teach. The best we can do is inform our students about these tools because they may need to learn or interact in one of these web VR spaces. To best prepare students for the future, we need to give them experiences that will likely be part of their future in education or in the workforce.

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Things I Wish […] Knew

“Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what now seems so obvious in hindsight.”

—Judy Belmont

Over the past couple of years, as I’ve become more reflective in my teaching practice and grown my learning network, I’ve really tried to think about how I’ve changed as an educator since I started teaching. From my first few years of substitute teaching to the first couple of years in my current school, fast forward to the last few years, I have definitely grown personally and professionally. How often have you thought to yourself… I wish I knew…. then?

It’s easy to look back at when we started our careers, and think about how we could have or should have done something differently. If only we had known… If only we could go back and try again. If only I knew…. What an impact that could have been made in our lives or more importantly, in the lives of our students, and those we lead and learn with.

But we all know it’s easy to look back and think about how we might change things. We can beat ourselves up about not having the knowledge when it would have made a difference, but there’s still something that we can do with that knowledge. We should take what we now know, all of those things that we wish we knew, and share our experiences with others. Use our experiences to help others to push through challenges, to take risks, ask for help when they need it, avoid isolation and connect with others. We can use what we now know to do better.

I have always been a fan of quotes because they help me to process my experiences and push my thinking. Other times they lift me up or I use them to lift others up. A quote by Maya Angelou, “When we know better, we do better” is what I keep in mind when I have those “I wish I knew” moments.

So why write this book?

When I started to think about things I wish I knew when I started teaching that would have made a difference in those first few years, I realized how much I have learned since then. The challenges and those experiences helped to shape the educator I am and have led me to help others who are starting on their own teaching journey. I started thinking about things that I wish students knew, like how to overcome the fear of failure, to understand the importance of learning, to know that it’s okay to struggle.

What started as a book where I would share all of the things I wish I knew about teaching became a book about things that many educators wish others knew.

Like several of my other books, I sought stories from educators around the world, some within my network and others who I might have just met. I provided the open-ended prompt “Things I wish… knew” and asked them to share a story.

As the stories came in, I thought about how to best organize the book into sections because there were so many stories with great advice. I decided to separate the types of stories into advice for first year teachers, all teachers, advice for and from administrators, for parents, and everyone within and beyond the school community. It was not an easy task at first because the lessons shared are applicable to so many areas of education and life and work in general.

Why choose this book

My hope is that this book will be read by educators and even those who are not in education. When we hear from others, it leads us to share these stories and through our own reflection, to then share our own. We all have things that we wish we knew, that would have helped at another time in our life, something that would have made a difference or led us down another path. The best that we can do is to reflect and improve each day and to remember to share our experiences with others.

I am most proud of being able to share stories from 50 educators around the world. There is so much power in sharing our story and while it opens us up to being vulnerable, there is tremendous strength in vulnerability. As Brené Brown said, “When we deny the story, it defines us. When we own the story we can write a brave new ending.”

It’s so important that we continue to tell our stories so that we can learn from one another and continue to grow personally and professionally, to be the best that we can be for our students, our family, and our friends. My hope is that this book and the many stories within will offer inspiration and push us all to reflect and to grow in our practice each day. We can always look back and wish that we could change something, but the key is to use that knowledge and make a difference now.

About the Author


Rachelle Dené Poth is an edtech consultant, presenter, attorney, author, and teacher. Rachelle teaches Spanish and STEAM: What’s nExT in Emerging Technology at Riverview Junior Senior High School in Oakmont, PA. Rachelle has a Juris Doctor degree from Duquesne University School of Law and a Master’s in Instructional Technology. She is a Consultant and Speaker, owner of ThriveinEDU LLC Consulting. She is an ISTE Certified Educator and currently serves as the past -president of the ISTE Teacher Education Network and on the Leadership team of the Mobile Learning Network. At ISTE19, she received the Making IT Happen Award and a Presidential Gold Award for volunteer service to education. She is also a Buncee Ambassador, Nearpod PioNear and Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.

Rachelle is the author of seven books and is a blogger for Getting Smart, Defined Learning, and NEO LMS. Books are available at

Follow Rachelle on Twitter @Rdene915 and on Instagram @Rdene915. Rachelle has a podcast, ThriveinEDU

**Interested in writing a guest blog for my site? Would love to share your ideas! Submit your post here. Looking for a new book to read? Find these available at

************ Also check out my THRIVEinEDU Podcast Here!