Mainframe vs Cloud — Has Education Stepped Into the 21st Century?




The desire and the ability of children to learn are activated with their first cry. Sadly, outdated methods of education suppress children’s innate curiosity (desire) and their urge to explore (ability). Nevertheless, children learn.

We live in the 21st Century having evolved beyond the Industrial Age into the Information Age. We pride ourselves in astounding advances in technology.Today’s mantra is: Work smarter not harder!


Question: How come so many of our methods of education are stuck in 19th and 20th century Industrial Age concepts, such as assembly line,and mass production?


The predominant symbol of the 21st Century is the computer. Its rapid evolution reflects the accelerated development of technology. In 65 short years computer technology has come from massive mainframes to PC’s to laptops to hand-held smartphones—shrinking in size but expanded in capacity.

Although this advance in technology is truly amazing, it doesn’t compare to the astounding capacity of the human mind. Is today’s education actually developing the potential of children’s minds and equipping our children for the realities of today’s world? Our mandate as educators, both parents and teachers, is to bring our methods of teaching into the 21st Century with the same creative diligence of the pioneers of computer technology.

One of the most fascinating innovations of computer technology is cloud computing. The contrast between mainframe vs cloud computing serves as an insightful analogy of 19th and 21st Century methods of education.


Much of our education follows the mainframe model—learning is static and inert, students are de-motivated and bored.


 Simply put, the primary function of a mainframe computer is to store and process huge amounts of data quickly. Most teaching today involves someone lecturing to a classroom of students and students memorizing information from notes and textbooks. Like a data entry clerk, teacher enters pieces of information into her classroom of computers (students). This data is stored in their data banks (memory) to be processed quickly (homework and exams). Classroom and homework assignments generally serve to reinforce already-stored information rather than expand knowledge. Rote learning is the default setting on these computers. The end result: learning becomes static and inert, and students are de-motivated and bored.


Critical thinking is a default setting of the cloud model— learning is an engaging process of exploration and discovery without limits.


Cloud computing is defined as “using a network of remote servers hosted on the Internet to store, manage, and process data, rather than a local server or a personal computer.” Using this model, the emphasis shifts from teaching (i.e. disseminating knowledge) to facilitating learning (i.e. learning how to access information, process it through critical thinking, and then apply it in problem-solving). The source of knowledge is no longer limited to teacher and textbook. Information is now available from a network of sources anywhere in the world. Access to information is no longer derived from sitting passively listening to a lecture or struggling to read a cumbersome textbook. Knowledge is now at the students’ fingertips on interactive devices that engage them as they pursue their topic. The emphasis is no longer on how much students can remember but on how well they can function in the learning process. Learning and critical thinking are the default settings of this model. The end result: learning is an engaging process of exploration and discovery without limits.


Teaching methods not teachers are out-dated.


Does this 21st Century model eliminate teaching? Teaching methods not teachers are out-dated. In fact, teachers (and parents) are even more necessary to hone reading, math and thinking skills and competent use of technology—tools which are critical in the learning process. In light of the rapid developments of the Technology Revolution, education must be quick (but wise) to change.




Endnote: My professional career spans more than 45 years in the field of education. The transformation from teacher to facilitator of learning has been a learning process. Neither the process nor my transformation is yet complete.


In 1965, the IBM 7094 mainframe computer (shown in image above), had all the same components as the computer in your pocket, input, storage, processing and output, though it ran a thousand times slower than yours and cost several million dollars. <>

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