For most adults, the Cloud is a developing story, a natural progression in the process of technological convergence that has been going on in computing and, more importantly, in networking for three decades and more; but for the youngest generation, the Cloud is simply their world. From the perspective of young children in particular, the Cloud is not a technology, it is nothing to do with delivery mechanisms or network management or storage systems — it is none of those things that we currently bring to front of mind when we think about the Cloud. Rather, for children, the Cloud — a term, of course, that they will rarely use — is simply the world they are living in and growing up in.
What it means to them, though, is that they are growing up in a world in which they have access to a universe of limitless knowledge and boundless possibilities -– we may use the term “Cloud,” but really, for children, it should be seen simply as a metaphor for the way that children today live, learn, and play in the networked world.
Immersive Transmedia Stories in the Cloud
In the Cloud, children perceive a direct, one-to-one connection between themselves and the world they live in. The growing range of devices we use to access the cloud, and the many platforms and applications that exist in the Cloud, offer possibilities for building narratives that are complex, real and educative in the widest sense. With the capacity to access what is in the Cloud using any device, anywhere, any time, and as the devices themselves become ever more mobile and user friendly, then all of us, not just children, will be able to create, access, and participate in increasingly immersive transmedia stories.
Education will be able to exploit such stories in the Cloud, engaging learners in increasingly interwoven patterns of creativity, of reading, writing, responding, and “performing” across multiple platforms. Children themselves are likely to be ahead of teachers and schools on this, because all they see is the natural ecosystem of knowledge and activities that comprises the Cloud for them, enabling them to participate in narratives and to create content, as well as to collaborate with others, physically and virtually, nearby or anywhere across the globe, through their chosen media.
The Space within which Stories Live, Grow, and Develop
To children, the Cloud is natural, automatic, infinite, accessible, fluid — it just is. It is ubiquitous, and it is the space within which stories live, grow, and develop organically, creating limitless opportunities for participation, learning, and fun. The psychology of ”mine” might become a thing of the past; instead, we see emerging an embrace of the collective in storytelling. Rich possibilities exist for cooperation, collaboration, competition, and communication in the context of what children are likely to perceive as “games” but which, in transmedia terms, go much wider than that. Children in particular will be drawn into that shifting and developing paradigm in ways that will combine game-playing, storytelling, creation of narrative, and, of course, learning.
The Cloud is a place of continuous, boundless, real-life learning, and children know that truth probably better than anyone.