Redefining How We Use Blockchain
First impressions last and this is significantly true in the case of Mitch Rankin, Co-Founder, and CEO of English Forward. He is a man aptly described as “living on the creative edge of our culture” and his life exemplifies this by being at the forward reach of how he thinks about and acts toward the world in which he lives and in global perspective. Humanism resides at his forward reach, as well as at the growing tip of what he now passionately advocates — blockchain.
How would someone write about your life for a magazine or newspaper?
I’ll answer this with this quote from Edward Abbey that helped define my life early on:
One paragraph of advice: do not burn yourself out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast, a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourself for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land: it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still there. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends. Ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.
Teach me something I don’t already know.
A truth you may or may not know is a quote from Seneca. It’s useful to be reminded of it
“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.”
What are your 3 biggest accomplishments?
First: My greatest by far is my family, my wife and children and the relationship we have.
Second: I have an incredible group of people around me, friends and colleagues that have allowed me to achieve much of my success to date
Third: I have been able to create and bank time to spend on the things that are important to me in life.
Thanks. Could we switch to Education and Blockchain?
You are building a blockchain application on the English Forward platform. How do you see the company changing in two years, and how do you see blockchain creating that change?
English Forward is a “Learn English Q & A” and community website which has served over 250 million people, has 2 million “Q & A threads” and is in itself a very useful utility for someone learning English.
Blockchain helps us achieve 3 goals:
First: Modernize the platform.
Second: Increase the number of tools, activities, and content to provide a more comprehensive ecosystem for any “learn English” goals.
Third: Implement a rewards mechanism for the many contributors, linguists, professors, tutors and volunteers who provide help to users visiting the site.
Why do you think Blockchain will serve your needs?
It immediately modernizes the company’s technology, allows for new avenues of content and creative tools implementation … while also enabling all contributors and volunteers to earn “crypto tokens” for their support.
Why blockchain for education? Why now?
I am cautiously optimistic about the future of blockchain. We’re living through a pivotal turning point in blockchain’s history. We’re on the cusp of some really great progress that will redefine how we use the technology, and create reward and incentive mechanisms in learning.
Remember how gold mining started? Miners used shovels, pickaxes, hammers, chisels, and pans. Today gold mining is a very sophisticated process.
The blockchain engineers of today are busy building the shovels, pickaxes, hammers, chisels, and pans. (paraphrased from a conversation with Francis West, Senior developer, and decentralisation-ist)
What’s Really Behind Blockchain’s Success?
It’s easy to read a headline or news article and make a quick judgment on the state of blockchain without understanding it fully. Most of us don’t see what’s going on behind the scenes, and our cynical natures can easily jump to conclusions without proper understanding. There are many thousands of super talented people pouring energy into a new industry that will shape our future. We at English Forward want to be a part of the future
Do you see blockchain as a money-making opportunity in education?
Blockchain success in education isn’t just about financial gains, it’s about something much more important and long-lasting. Sure, every company needs to make money to grow and survive. Blockchain and crypto can spread some of this prosperity around in a “earn as you learn” process.
Building a company is hard. Most startups fail. Building a community is a very big part of building a successful company.
At English Forward, we have a very strong, passionate community, and adding blockchain and crypto only strengthens it and allows it to flourish in our modern world.
Why do you think adding blockchain and crypto to English Forward will be successful?
Many companies that are trying to build a blockchain and crypto solution are focusing only on that part of the challenge.
At English Forward we are adding it as a layer to an already successful company, with cash flow and strong user engagement, a real use case and not just a new invention with a hope of success.
There are no overnight successes. English Forward is an established 17-year-old community with a great track record in English language education. We will look at steady progress over the long term, building on a strong culture and actually add value to people learning English.
Do you think that blockchain will solve the current problems we have in education?
No, I don’t believe blockchain is the be-all and end-all. It is an enabler that can play a crucial role, but there are many other factors that need to be considered, and the challenges in education must be looked at holistically.
Do you believe then, that blockchain can play a part in solving the challenges we have in education right now?
Yes, I do. It allows everyone to learn on an equal playing field
What challenges do you see in education that blockchain could solve?
Well, student debt for one. I think it’s a crime that students finish their studies and start out in their careers with a mountain of debt. There are more than 44 million borrowers who collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loan debt in the U.S. alone. If you borrowed $25,000 you would pay back $150 per month on a 20 year loan period.
Imagine turning the tables on that stat and finishing your education with no debt and maybe even some money left over? Why do you think English Forward can develop a workable blockchain solution?
Before we decided to follow a blockchain route, I asked myself these questions:
- Is our use case real with blockchain and crypto in mind?
- Can our target audience understand it easily and will it be an intuitive process?
- Could it materially benefit and improve the life of one student? If it can, then it might benefit 10 students, then 1000 students etc.
The answer is YES, we can definitely develop a workable blockchain solution
What do you predict to be the pros and cons of blockchain in education?
As with all technologies, there are pros and cons, but the pros far outweigh the cons, such as:
- Eliminating paperwork
- Updating and modernizing an antiquated education processes
- Helping to create transparency and level the playing field for all students
The cons are that “the pioneers get the arrows”. We’re happy to take a few arrows for the sake of progress.
What approach will you take in using blockchain and crypto to enhance English education?
We will look at serviceable products rather than reinventing the wheel. Testing and finding solutions our students want and need. Make the UI intuitive and easy for everyone to use. Keep it simple, no fancy gadgets and applications, with one goal in mind — helping you to learn English.
Looking to the Future, how far do you think we could go with blockchain in education?
I think we are on Day 1. The blockchain is evolving at such a rapid rate, every day there are new iterations and developments. How far could we go? I think we should rather start by asking “Can we help, and will this help students?
I see the answer as “YES”, so let’s just start and be a part of the solution and contribute where we can.
No one knows what the future looks like (sure we can guess) but we know what today looks like. That’s good enough. It’s enough to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in.
My mother had always said “If you want to give advice, be prepared to be part of the solution”
How will you start with blockchain for English?
Have you ever made a fire from one single ember? You start by adding a few blades of dry grass and gently blowing on it. Too much blowing will put it out, too little won’t give it enough oxygen. As the grass starts smoldering, you add bigger pieces of kindling, and the flames grow. Once the fire is established you can add huge logs, until you have a bonfire. Now you can blow as hard as you like and it won’t go out. All from one tiny ember.
We’ll start with what we have and develop from there.
What do you love about blockchain?
I love that the innovations happening in blockchain are global. It’s not centered in one place, and this makes the opportunity for impact available to everyone.
Why do you think English Forward can be successful in the blockchain arena?
First, as a company, we are genuinely interested in making a difference through the English language. Second, we have an excellent team of experts and are willing to research, learn and ask critical questions. Third, because we are willing to start. Now.
Do you think blockchain is the solution to education and English Forwards progress and success?
English Forward is already successful. We have positively impacted over 250 million people, with the goal of impacting 1 billion people over the next 10 years. I believe blockchain is a part of the solution, and can definitely assist in helping us achieve our goal and in making a difference in the world.