Children today—as natives to technology—are growing up in a world where boundaries are blurred. Within the present and politically-correct society, gender distinctions are in question. We understand that Race no longer has a scientific basis. The corporate hierarchy and rank that industrialized the world is being replaced by project oriented, team playing personnel whose "roles are ill-defined and shifting" (Lawson, 2000). Even our physical human identity is blurred by the introduction of virtual worlds enabling participants to engage in multiple realities both physical and imagined. Clearly delineated time boundaries are blurred by asynchronous communication tools. The Internet brings information to us that is no longer boxed in by time and space. And according to Thomas Friedman, author of New York Times bestselling book, The World is Flat, says we are at the "end of the beginning" (flat earth, 2000). Friedman believes we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg compared to what lies before us. According to Friedman's research, we are embarking on a shift of a magnitude that boundary-restricted minds are unable to conceive or manage. He calls this next wave of technology to come, Web 3.0. I call its impact on learning "Education 3.0" and technology will drive us there whether we prepare for it or not. Just as we moved from Web 1.0 (Static web-based documents with hardware as the intersect) to Web 2.0 (Social networking with software as the intersect), we are now on a collision course with Web 3.0 where the Internet itself becomes the intersect. In the same way the World Wide Web has evolved, education has evolved from teaching the three R's (1.0) to the incorporation of multiple channels of input and interaction (where we are today—2.0), to the fluid and boundary-less future (3.0) on the horizon. The impact of this shift will be as paramount as the invention of the wheel, but the speed of the change could occur in the twinkling of an eye.
The distinction between the two immigrant schools of thought reacting to these changes is important to understand if we are to critically discern the situation for what it is and our role in its transformation. Those insisting on going back to the good ole' days of clearly defined boundaries (we could call this group the fence builders) see the coming changes as other and therefore uncomfortable and difficult to navigate with the customary tools of the modern age they thought they knew. These technophobes perceive technology as outside, apart, and foreign to human existence (though some acknowledge technology's added convenience). Technophobes don't mind progress as long as it fits in a box and can be taught in the traditional way. Yet even the technofascists differ little in their final assessment despite their desire to increase technology's use in education. Technofascists still seek control in order to manage (box in) the increased use and usefulness of new technologies.
These two sides—represented by the technofascists and the technophobes—take issue with each other at every juncture along the path of current pedagogical theorizing. The fence builders believe the construction of the computer as "educational" is hype induced by political and corporate greed. Neil Selwyn, when researching what he saw as a techno-romance between U.K. governing authorities and the use of the computer in education, wrote, "There is now currently mounting political pressure on teacher and other educationalists to 'prove' technology's worth after the past 20 years of apparently ineffectual use" (Selwyn, 2002, pg. 441). Selwyn goes on to claim the hype is motivated by media-driven greed and has taken on a religious fervor "containing elements similar to faith, belief, and heresy" (Ibid). Selwyn believes the fixation we have on computing as 'educational' is discursive and driven by non-educational motives. And based on the present state of education, from Selwyn's 1.0 viewpoint based on his 1980s research, he may be right. But alas, the world outside the box is changing faster than our boundary-laden minds can keep up and this change has to be taken into account in the final analysis.
Now let us turn to the social context outside of education and examine the corporate business world. The recent global financial crisis should be proof enough of the irrelevancy of old paradigms and the fast changing nature of technology-based platforms blurring the vision of old-school expertise with its failed practices. If education serves the purpose of preparing the young to function in society, surely business is a driving force as the primary benefactor of the educated community. And if technology is affecting the educational community, certainly it must be having a similar effect on the corporate community. Trond Petersen's study of the effect of technology on hiring practices, published in the year 2000, compared the influence of merit versus social networks in the hiring process. In the hiring arena, abstraction has increased with technological advances. Where once clear boundaries were governed by meritocracy, today (thanks to the Internet and Web 2.0) social networks are setting the new precedent. Technology use in the hiring process has blurred both gender and age boundaries where once the treatment of such delineations bordered on discriminatory, to say the least. Concerning social networks, Petersen claims, "their importance is unambiguously and extensively documented for several countries" (Petersen, 2000, pg. 768). Minorities and women were more restricted in the non-technological and hierarchical past and therefore discriminated against more easily. The playing field of business is more level today because of technological advances and this is the field for which our youth are being educated and trained. Technology makes available social networks of every kind such that participants can meet people who have similar interests, read the same authors, enjoy the same foods, destinations, hobbies, and the list goes on. Web 2.0 is about social networking and this is having a transformative effect on the corporate framework. It's only reasonable to extrapolate the same effect on education. If meritocracy is being diluted in the workplace, surely the meritocratic focus in the sphere of schooling (i.e.. grading structures) must follow suit. Social networks affect final salary offers (Petersen, 2000). In other words, social networks pay off in one of two ways; they can drive or trap participants.
The challenge that perpetuates the battle is that even though the integration of technology has narrowed the space/time gap, the virtual is "still acquiring its meanings" (Stella, 2004). But never forget that these so-called meanings only bear importance in the eyes of immigrants who seek to understand how the boundaries are being blurred and attempt to prevent it if not reverse it altogether. Like building a wall along the U.S. and Mexican border, such enterprises are not important to everyone. In fact, building barriers is becoming less relevant. Nomads do not dispute over borders and Cyborgs are nomads. But times of transition bring out the immigrant in those of us born pre-technology, and the acculturation struggle continues. According to Stella, it's all or nothing. "Developments in any country affect the ... scenario globally" (Stella, 2000). Yet Stella, an immigrant to technology himself, asks, "Can technology replace human contact without significant loss of quality?" To this I would restate that to Cyborgs, technology is human contact. When this understanding is adopted by the majority, the stigma attached to learning platforms like distance education will be eradicated because the distance student will no longer be viewed as different from the classroom student. Postmodern culture will become fully posthuman.
The immigrant conflict is not limited to the United States. Across the pond, the current debate in the U.K. concerns the demand for evidence that computer aided instruction (CAI) has any educational benefits at all. "CAI does not appear to have had educational benefits that translated into higher test scores" (Angrist, 2002). Ouch! Teachers everywhere can empathize with this quote from a recent study centering on the effectiveness of classroom computers and pupil learning. Test, test, and test some more so we can prove that students are regurgitating what teachers are teaching. And because schools have included technology in the classroom experience (and because the inclusion of technology comes with a high price), taxpayers demand proof that the value is worth the investment. Of course, in Angrist's study, the teaching of computer skills is not questioned. The doubt raised focuses on the use of "computers to teach things" (Ibid). Remember, these arguments come from the immigrant schools of thought, regardless of whether fascist or phobic. Among the technophobe immigrants is the criticism that, like Sesame Street, computers "give you the sensation that merely by watching a screen, you can acquire information without work and discipline" (Ibid). To these technophobes, the resources consumed by schools for technological enhancements is a waste of funds that should have been used to hire trained teachers which "would have prevented a decline in achievement" (Ibid). Fortunately, Angrist is objective enough to conclude the possibility that the disruptiveness education is experiencing may be due to the transition itself and the measurable benefits of computers in teaching may simply take time to develop.
The ultimate dilemma between the fascist and phobic contenders rests in their addiction to assessment and how assessment can be accomplished effectively. Both technofascists and technophobes acknowledge the challenge of "internet-driven change to which Education has not been immune" (Piccoli, 2001). "Internet technologies have allowed small entrants to compete with established dominant incumbents" (Ibid). And to complicate matters, virtual learning environments are broader than the computer aided instructional ones. The added dimension of communication in the virtual learning environment expands the individualized experience to one that can "foster communities of learners" (Ibid). Where traditional learning environments were defined in terms of time, place, and space; the virtual world, according to Piccoli, adds technology, interaction, and control as three further dimensions. The addition of these three new dimensions has made learning more studentcentered. But in terms of assessment, virtual learning presents a far more complex challenge to resolve. And like Angrist, Piccoli understands we are in a stage of transition that can frustrate the immigrant population in ways the natives would neither experience nor understand.