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Forcing pre-COVID-19 structures of school onto the realities of the global pandemic ignores the systemic structures embedded in public education which made pre-pandemic school places of harm for students marginalized by racism and neoliberalism. Informed by critical theories of educational technology, this study investigated how the design of technologies central to emergency remote education carry powerful perspectives about the nature and dimensions of learning. We used the conceptual framework of a techno-ethical audit which asks scholars and practitioners to analyze technologies in order to uncover assumptions of pedagogy, implications for democracy, and complicities in injustice inherent to the design of the technology. The audit found a system that limited meaningful interaction, envisioned students as technology users with little agency or control, and predisposed students to unnecessary practices of surveillance and monitoring, all while subjecting them to regimes of data collection and sharing for corporate profit. Applied at scale and in marginalized communities, the current system denies justice for millions of students subjected to harmful educational practices. Through this study, we present three recommendations to improve online learning: teach the crisis; implement project-based learning; and investigate experiences with technology.
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