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Chasing Unicorns: how the EdTech Unicorn Pin came to be

Three of us sat together at “yet another edtech conference” we were probably listening to a wild-eyed techno-solutionist deliver an “ode to the new LMS”, or newly converted academic to the cult of VR, or it may have been the “and now a word from our sponsors” session, where another company starts telling academics how they should be teaching, while some in the crowd whooped at another digital toy to play with, rather than listening to how people teach. It was just another edtech conference. 

And at some point in the inevitable back channel one of us said “EdTech will not save us!” 

Now two of us were already “cryptid” nerds, a passion for those creatures that appear in myth and folklore. Creatures that kids want to believe in, fairies and hobgoblins, Father Christmas, and Unicorns. We realised that many of the people around us were looking for the EdTech Unicorn, a piece of technology that would be beautiful and perfect for the educational problem they wanted to fix. A piece of mythical technology. And at some point during that conference, the EdTech Unicorn was created. 

Now at this point in the narrative we need to understand an alternative version of what “Unicorns” in business terms are. These are privately held startups valued at over $1 billion. Ridiculously the term was popularised in 2013 by a venture capitalist, who used the term to represent the statistical rarity of such successful ventures. Why is it ridiculous? Well there are a lot of unicorn companies – there is a list on wikipedia. There are, in financial terms, EdTech Unicorns – companies working in education to build and sell stuff, and they are worth over $1 billion. 

Image of a Unicorn with "Edtech will not save you"

Anyway, after the conference, the three of us went away, designed the EdTech Will Not Save You Unicorn Pin and stickers and ordered 100. We tweeted that they were available (selling them at cost), and then thought we’d sell off the remainder at the next EdTech Conference. We looked at the numbers who still wanted them and the next order was for 200, and then we had to order another 250. So far we have had them tweeted at us from Australia and New Zealand, the US and Canada, all over Europe, and South Africa.

“EdTech Will Not Save You” was created by Lawrie Phipps, Peter Bryant, and Donna Lanclos; You get to apply your own purpose to “the pin”. Whether it is a critique on techno solutionism like Rosie Hare, or  Kerry Pinny pointing out “Teaching and learning is not a problem to be solved”, or even a statement about that fact that an EdTech Company worth over $1 billion might care more about its investors than students and educators.   

If you have the pin and written something inspired by the idea – let us know. @lawrie  @PeterBryantHE  @donnalanclos



  1. May I use the pin image on our new CTL edTech page? I mean, I might be instructed to remove it, but if it could inject a recognition for critical digital pedagogy for a brief moment, I would consider it worthwhile.


  • 💬 Bridgy Response
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  • 💬 There are a few left… lawriephipps.co.uk/chasing-unicor…
  • 💬 #EdTechWillNotSaveYou lawriephipps.co.uk/chasing-unicor…

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