The Cloud, Our Kids, and Colleges
Over history, technology repeatedly seems to embrace the young. The older members of society either reject the newfangled whiz-gangs or work hard to incorporate it into their already structured lives. Those born in the 1980s were the first to grow up with a computer; 1990s babies are learning times-tables while they hold down social networking accounts. Cloud computing has already begun to ingratiate itself with the next generation. While the cloud continues to stump many old-timers, children benefit from a supple mind which lets them elegantly absorb what it all means. A video released by Accenture drives this point home, featuring 10 year-olds explicating what is meant by cloud computing with aplomb.
“I don’t know if there are limits,” imagines one freakishly insightful girl in the previously mentioned video. Growing up in this technologically astute way, these children will always associate a tweet with a small hashtagged message before it reminds them of a songbird’s cry. They will also expect their education to keep pace with their grasp of technology and to reflect that maintenance of trend in as many facets as possible. To that end, universities have wised up to the value and necessity of moving into the cloud immediately and completely. A recent Guardian article revealed higher education’s willingness to embrace the cloud, and not solely as preparation for a new crop kids coming to campus anticipating it.
The most visible benefit the cloud offers to universities, as the article’s roundtable of technology-in-education experts clarify, is the reduced cost and increased ease and flexibility of establishing a collective infrastructure between individual campuses. Cloud computing substantially lessens what it costs to mount a brand-new interconnected framework, simplifying the process of mounting computer systems for research projects and college classes reliant on a quick burst of computing wizardry. The Guardian piece reveals a fissure between campuses in America and those across the pond, however.
Whereas British universities have expressed reluctance to fully integrate into the cloud — likely due to a commitment to uphold independence in university structures — American colleges like Stanford and MIT, progressive to a fault, already offer courses on the cloud, and have staged venture labs on ways to include it into their daily operations.
Clearly, the already cloud-adroit youngsters of today will experience a dynamic interaction with such universities, particularly who most warmly embrace the technology. Higher learning will definitely attract these kids, who’ll see college as a way to deepen their knowledge, not only on cloud computing, but of whatever may be the latest tech status quo of the moment.
At the same time, these kids eventually sidestepping the formal education system, a la Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, would not at all surprise me. The cloud itself is the best metaphor for power of these children’s brains: limitless and impressive indeed, which higher ed ought to work hard to accommodate asap.
We should all take lessons from the ten year-olds out there, with wit beyond their years. They know better than we do that cloud computing is a continuous learning experience in itself. Grasping the cloud’s ABCs are essential for those who wish to remain relevant into futurity. And to keep up with the smart kids.
By Jeff Norman