New Money for a New Generation: How Technologists and Kids are Advancing Digital Currencies

So I learned about Bitcoin in 2012 and have been following this fascinating digital currency ever since. As adults, understanding this emerging and growing financial technology can be challenging, especially if we don’t have a technical background. This is the main reason why I’m fascinated by e-currencies and people that have opted in to provide a user-friendly environment for our younger generations – kids and teens – to understand the future of money.

Government initiatives  around the globe are looking to equip students with basic personal finance tools and concepts. Twenty-six countries have begun developing a national strategy to introduce financial literacy in the classroom, and in the United States, 82 percent of parents and 89 percent of teachers agree that personal finance should be a graduation requirement.

Major efforts are being made in teaching our youth about personal finance, which is great, but how about getting them to understand what technology is doing to shape the future of money and our current financial system?

I think it’s worth doing a quick review of some facts to understand how this phenomenon has been developing:

 

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The Sabra Sisters and the first ever Bitcoin book for kids

The Sabra Sisters, three “tech tweens” (aged 10, 12 & 13 years old) started a blog about Bitcoin in 2013 called BitKidz. BitKidz was created for kids and their parents to understand how safe, secure, easy and fun it is to use Bitcoin. The sisters also wrote a book series called The Bitcoin Beginner for Kids Trilogy in collaboration with their mom and manager Pon Sabra, and with Trace Mayer as Bitcoin editor. Even though their latest blog post was apparently made in December last year, their book is available on Amazon for free.

15-year-old Erik Finnman makes $100,000 on Bitcoin

In 2012, Erik Finnman got $1,000 from his grandmother which he decided to invest in Bitcoin. At the time, the digital currency was worth $12 says Finnman. A year and a half later, he sold his coins for $100,000 and used the earnings to launch  Botangle, reports Mashable. Botangle is an education startup that offers an online tutoring service that runs on video chat.

The Bitcoin Kid

The Bitcoin Kid started a blog in September 2013, and has published a few videos interviewing influential Bitcoin companies such as BitInstant, Lamassu Bitcoin Ventures, and Bitpay. He also wrote a book called The Scary BlueBerry that was initially sold for Bitcoin only. 

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19-year-old Jeremy Rubin raises $500k for MIT undergraduate students

In his second year as an MIT undergraduate, Jeremy Rubin partnered with MBA student Daniel Elitzer to create an ecosystem for digital currencies at their university. The pair raised $500.000  for the MIT Bitcoin Project, and plan to distribute $100 in bitcoin to every undergraduate student this fall. The project seeks to learn how the cryptocurrency will be used by the students so Rubin and Elitzer are aiming to get approval from the Institutional Review Board to study the behavior of using Bitcoin and to document the process. An MIT Bitcoin Expo was held in early May to start educating students about what Bitcoin is, and the pair also announced  BitComp, a summer-long competition that will have developers create innovative, bitcoin-related apps.

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PiggyCoin - “The Bitcoin for Kids”.

PiggyCoin, launched in February 2014, aims to get children involved and interested in the emerging world of digital currencies in the most entertaining way possible.

“Succeeding in educating this generation is one of the main steps that can help cryptos be widely used and accepted,” said PiggyCoin founder João in an interview with Coinjoint. This is why PiggyCoin has a school program and is trying to get educators to learn about it and to adopt the digital currency in their schools.

The team is also making it fun to interact with the currency by introducing a gaming aspect to the scene. In order to get coins, the team has been developing educational games that reward kids with coins just by playing; among these games, Piggy Facts. Also if you send them your best piggy art to be featured on their website, they’ll send you some coins.

Interested? Want to get your inner piggy rolling? Get some Coins!

http://www.piggy-coin.com/vouchershop/ 

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KidCoin - Bringing crypto to kids

On March 4, 2014 at a Bitcoin Meetup "Show and Tell” sponsored by Bitpay in LA, Video Game designer Jimmy Gorham proposed a video game that “actually pays kids to play it”.

In his presentation, he proposed a separate cryptocurrency with its own blockchain. The coins can be earned by playing a game where data is into the hashing function so people, as they play are preserving the blockchain and allowing transactions. As for the theme of the game, Gorham suggested an actual mining game where kids can dig through a mine and collect diamond and dinosaur bones.

There’s no doubt that both kids and teenagers are getting interested and involved with the new “shapes” of money. Not so long ago, digital currencies, Bitcoin in particular, were focusing on the financial, political and security aspects. With growing interest from our youth to learn about e-currencies, social and educational aspects have been brought into consideraton. And educational aspects also mean fun. Companies like Piggycoin making cryptocurrencies kid-friendly through engaging educational games, and rewards and initiatives like MIT’s are introducing Bitcoin to students through real-life situations on campus including a Bitcoin expo and a summer competition. This is just the beginning. Technology triggers our curiosity and desire to learn. I think, in the not-so-distant future, personal finance classes will twist to have a focus on currencies that have been made through technology, and I’m excited to see this happening.

Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’

Albert Einstein 

Maker Fair San Mateo 2014

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Last Saturday, I attended the Maker Fair in San Mateo, California. I was a volunteer at the littleBits booth. littleBits are tiny modules that snap together with magnets and make it easier to build circuits. No soldering or wiring skills are required. littleBits was launching both their Space Kit (a kit built in collaboration with NASA) and their Arduino Starter Bundle which main differentiator to the other modules it’s its capability to be programmed.

Being a fan of littlebBits and having run workshops with kids made it really easy and fun to share their new products with the Maker Community. I had some time to wonder around the fair and check out other’s inventions and I was amazed by everyones creations. From tape inspired art to drones, home made robots and 3D printing, the fair overwhelmed  and inspired it’s crowd of curious kids and adults. 

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Other inventions such as futuristic cars,  and fire spitting machines worked in collaboration to generate the look-and-feel of a post-apocalyptic world. In this world, “Free Hugs”  were too conventional for the audience so a team decided to offer free electroshocks! But no worries, it was a very tiny electroshock to explain the basics of energy conductivity. ;)

But one of the best sections of the fair was the dark pavilion with flying dancers, an LED inflated forest, and a giant shiny cat-car that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland!

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The Maker Fair was an excellent experience and I’d definitely make it a goal to attend it every year. Thanks to the fair I now have a better understanding of Chris Anderson’s quote on the Maker Movement;  “Makers, we are at the start of a hardware revolution.”

A big thank you to litttleBits for the volunteering opportunity and the Space Kit which I’m really enjoying!

 

On March 6, I organized a Bitcoin inspired art show and meet-up at 20Mission Coworking in the city of San Francisco

The art pieces were for sale, as well as on view – with set prices on tags placed beside each work. Fiat currency was accepted as a payment method as well as Bitcoins. (Of course) 

Merchandise was on sale too – with Bitcoin swag such as t-shirts, soap and even physical coins on sale!

To learn more about it read the Coindesk Article.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

 Steve Jobs

Welcome to Brightworks: An extraordinary school

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Last Wednesday, I had the opportunity to visit Brightworks School. I was given a tour by Gever Tulley,founder of the school and TED speaker. We spent a couple of hours discussing the methodology of the school which is based on 3 fundamental phases (exploration, expression and exposure) that go from 6 to 12 weeks. 


These phases are driven by a specific topic, mirrors was the theme selected during my visit. In the process, instructors look for those moments of inspiration where kids come up with their own ideas to proceed to the next phase. The school also brings people from the community and from around the world to share their knowledge in the topic. Tulley mentioned that sometimes kids bring industry leaders into the classroom and that speakers are more likely to attend a session when this happens rather than when the teacher is scheduling with them directly. 

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At Brightworks, kids get to use unconventional tools such as screwdrivers, saws and knives. These tools are a synonym for danger in the mind-set of many parents and kids but at Brightworks, they are used on a regular basis.  Kids are instructed to use them and to build projects with them. Even though this may be seen as a factor to increase  the risk of accidents, Tulley mentioned their school had one of the lowest injury rates in California. 

A regular day at Brightworks ends in a circle where everyone gets to see each other, share experiences and clap in different rhythms that according to Tulley, can sometimes sound like chaos or a  Hollywood performance ;). Brightworks is definitely a unique experience and a brilliant invitation for kids to be the co-authors of their own education.

“Don’t get me wrong. I don’t for a second believe that toy selection will turn kids into something they are not—but I suspect that toys (in combination with books, movies, teacher expectations, and family attitudes) do help foster interests that can turn into hobbies that can turn into careers.” – Andrea Schwalm of Wired’s GeekMom

This Is How Teens Are Using Social Media

Found this interesting via @Edudemic

Did you know?

  • The average age when a child begins regularly consuming online media is 8
  • Even though Facebook’s minimum age requirement is 13, there are about 5 million users under the age of 10
  • About 10 hours and 45 minutes per day are spent online (for 8-18 year olds)
  • 25% of teens log into to social media 10+ times per day
  • 51% of kids say they’ve been bullied online, and 49% say they have been the online bully
  • Only 50% of parents have installed parental controls for their kids online interactions, but 72% worry that their kids will reveal inappropriate information online
  • 88% of teens value social media because it helps them keep in touch with friends they don’t see often

Check the infographic here.