The students at Mt. Tamalpais College in San Quentin are preparing for their future in society by learning about the fundamentals of blockchain crypto-currency and crypto-wallet technologies.
“I am interested in this subject because of the endless possibilities this technology holds,” said student Kinning Jefferson. “I think about how it’s going to help get us closer to generational wealth.”
The idea to teach a class on blockchain came from Mt. Tam student Sherman K. Newman, who has been a member of the Coding 7370 program for the past five years.
“I decided to teach this class because I think the students should have the requisite skills for the new economic financial system that’s coming,” Newman said.
The extracurricular activity group was quickly pushed through and approved by Mt. Tam administration after inviting proposals.
“We looked for something new for curriculum and the feasibility,” Priya Kandaswamy, academic program
currency director, said. “This stood out because it was one of the few proposals for technology.”
Blockchain technology, a decentralized ledger of all transactions across a peer-to-peer network, is relatively new. Using it, participants can confirm transactions without a need for a central clearing authority.
Two examples of blockchain are Bitcoin and Ethereum, the second biggest crypto-currency by market cap after Bitcoin. Newman has been studying blockchain for several years, reading books like Mastering Blockchain and Mastering Ethereum.
“That’s another thing that interests me,” said Jefferson. “It’s a decentralized financial system, which eliminates the gatekeepers.”
No one computer or organization can own the chain. Instead, it is a distributed ledger via nodes connected to the network. Nodes maintain copies of the blockchain and keep the network state in consensus.
Newman teaches classes Sunday nights from 6-8 p.m. There is also a long waiting list for the 12-week workshop.
Daniel Alem is one of the students who made it into the first workshop.
“I took this class because I want to learn more about crypto-currencies and to stay informed about modern technology,” said Alem. “Thus far I’ve learned how crypto-currency is mined and its benefits for the future.”
“I think it’s the wave of the future,” said student Malik Ali. “I’ve been seeing a lot of commercials about this. I think they renamed the Staples Center after this new technology.”
The Staples Center in Los Angeles was renamed Crypto.Com in December of last year.
Trevor Woods said he was already “dibbling and dabbling” in crypto-currency investments, so he decided to take the blockchain class.
Woods’ daughter has been helping him invest in crypto-currencies by using platforms like Robinhood and Ally investment firms. These companies act as middlemen for investments. But Woods thinks that learning about blockchain will help him eliminate the middle man.
“Blockchain could possibly eliminate banks,” Woods said. He was also talking to Newman before the idea for the class developed.
“Sherm (Newman’s nickname) eats, sleeps, and breaths this stuff,” said Woods. “I was learning from him long before the class started.”
One of the things Woods and his classmates are learning about are crypto-wallets, used to make deals without a middle man fee.
“If I bought Ethereum through Ally, they got my keys,” said Woods. “They got control, but having my own crypto wallet means I have the keys.”
Besides Blockchain, other student-run extracurricular activity groups offered this semester include Music Theory and Prevail, a Black studies class.
Newman encourages students who are interested in financial independence and investment to get on the waiting list. For those who cannot attend Mt. Tam classes, he encourages them to study up on the new technology by reading books like Mastering Blockchain.
“It’s really different. I was really excited to get the proposal,” said Kandaswamy. “It is the most popular thing we offered in the last year.”