One of the big questions Mary Beth Hertz often posed to his students is broad and subject to interpretation: “what is art? »

And recently, the answers to this question have become even broader – Hertz has begun exploring the world of Web3 and NFTs and their relationship to art with his group of high school students at Science Leadership Academy at Beeber in West Philly.

In its eighth year of teaching, Hertz has ninth-grade students in an introductory technology class and 10th-12th graders in a visual arts class and a media and design class. Hertz said she has been teaching with technology for a long time, starting with Web2 in 2006 or 2007, but recently implemented Web3 in her curriculum.

Hertz’s interest in Web3 and NFTs began when she followed the account The Technical Rabbi on Twitter, and she started participating in conversations about education and the Web3. She also joined a Web3 for educators Discord where she realized there were a lot of people who shared her thinking. She’s since joined new discords and worked on three hit projects and put her own NFTs up for sale.

“I kind of realized that I had to start integrating that stuff, right, because that’s the big conversation right now about the future of the internet, and what our data and what privacy looks like and all that kind of stuff,” Hertz said. “So I’m still learning and I’m learning and that’s part of why I joined the community that I joined.”

One of the ways she implements Web3 in her art class is by looking at artists whose art is on OpenSea and watch AI-generated art. She said she talks to her students about NFTs, Ethereum, and the use of cryptocurrencies to buy and sell art. Along with the media and design course, Hertz said the class discusses design features and how to design a website, and in the second semester, students will create and pitch a business.

“So the web3 link in there is if they want to build a web3 business, and they want to know more about what it means to build web3 and what it means to build your business that way, this door is open to them,” she said.

She said her classes discuss how artists make money, how Web3 disrupts the art market, and how it affects artists. The fact that artists can make a royalty on a work of art each time it is sold is something that has never happened before in the world of visual arts, Hertz said.

Hertz said she was not completely sold on the use of Web3 and NFTs in the future of art. There are conversations about using blockchain technology for education and credentialing – meaning children would have NFTs that symbolize they learned a subject or acquired a skill. The idea is interesting because it places less importance on whether children go to school or whether they go to college, she said. It would also streamline people’s skills and certifications.

But Hertz is concerned about what would be put on the blockchain, such as disciplinary or health records. Hertz said she is concerned that certain things will follow children through their lives if they exist on the blockchain.

Hertz said his students were also quite skeptical of Web3 and NFTs. She said this reaction was likely related to the lack of knowledge combined with the influence of the media on what NFTs are. Before diving into the subject, Hertz thought that more students would be familiar with Web3, but only a few knew what OpenSea was initially.

Hertz said it’s important for his students to learn more about Web3 because it will eventually impact the jobs his students pursue later in life, even if they’re skeptical. She said it was okay if they laughed at NFTs or made fun of them, but they couldn’t ignore them.

“If we’re doing our job as educators, we’re looking to the future, okay, we’re not preparing the kids yet. We prepare children for the future and where they will be,” she said.

Hertz said she wants to connect her students with Web3 builders and NFT people (like NFT Philadelphia) and expose them to more people in space. She said she also wanted to keep her students’ perspectives open on how to make art.

“I don’t think it’s helpful to be a purist,” she said. “If the question we have in class is, ‘what is art?’ Then we really need to explore all forms of art and talk about what’s happening in the art world right now, what’s happening in our world today is a lot of digital art.


Sarah Huffman is a 2022-2023 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism. -30-