|This paper reviews discourses that have emerged during the past decade
regarding the potential impact of new computer and telecommunications technologies in
schools. We suggest that discourses that have emerged from both the right and the left of
the political spectrum fail to respond to the changing realities of the 21st century.
Conservative discourses in relation to schools and technology glorify the computer as an
efficient transmitter of preprogrammed information and skills that reinforce the
societal power structure. The goal is functional literacy rather than critical literacy.
The assumption is that what is taught will determine what can be thought. Within this
discourse, the computer serves to indoctrinate the next generation, restrict their social
perspectives, and serve the function of "manufacturing consent."
By contrast, the discourse emerging from the left of the political spectrum has tended to depict technology as yet another "corporate plot," to view the Internet or the "information superhighway" as the "disinformation superhighway," and to condemn in blanket terms any infiltration of new technologies into the classroom.
We reject both of these emerging discourses and argue in this paper that certain uses of technology are integral to any coherent challenge to structures of inequity in our schools. Specifically, we draw on the pioneering work of the French pedagogue Celestin Freinet to highlight the contributions that computermediated crosscultural interscholastic exchanges can make to the development of both critical literacy and intercultural understanding. To challenge coercive power structures, however, these "sister class" exchanges must be harnassed to a pedagogy of collaborative critical inquiry.