Getting Students to think Innovatively about the Cloud

We have been slowly but surely integrating cloud computing into our curriculum and as we go through this process, I have noticed a few things.  First of all, students are having a hard time thinking “outside of the box” when it comes to the cloud.  Sure, we can show them the business scenarios where cloud makes sense, but those are decidedly “in the box.”  While this is OK, I believe that the true potential of cloud computing lies in its undiscovered uses and not in the appropriate business scenarios.

We have been using the Microsoft Imagine Cup as a way to get students to make the switch from “appropriate” thinking as it relates to cloud computing to “innovative” thinking about the cloud.  The Imagine Cup challenges students to come up with innovative solutions to the world’s biggest problems and our students are increasingly including cloud computing as part of their solutions.

The Imagine Cup projects that we have seen are encouraging evidence that our efforts to get students to think innovatively about the cloud.  However,  I have noticed that they generally focus on using the cloud for storage and not for processing.

This makes me wonder if we are adequately informing students about the processing side of cloud computing.  Another possible explanation is that students are having a difficult time breaking out of the mental model of processing that is done in a client/server architecture.  This could possibly explain their reluctance to consider cloud computing for processing rather than just storage.

This is an interesting topic  that I plan on investigating further in the coming weeks.  In my opinion, it also has great value as producing students that can think innovatively about any technology will be much more valuable in the workplace than those that follow the same old paradigms.  I will keep you int he loop.  Additionally, if anyone has any insights on this topic, please leave a comment!

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