It’s that time of year again! Frosty mornings, holiday traditions, and extravagant holiday super sales. With the plethora of marketing madness, it can be challenging to discern ripoffs from real deals, especially when it comes to tech gadgets for our kids. At Digital Adventures, we have the privilege to utilize many established and emerging products while we build amazing projects with our students. Here are some guidelines on the characteristics that you should look for when purchasing tech-based gifts as well as some suggestions that will help foster tech literacy and development that we believe are important for our STEM loving kids.
Creation over Consumption
Pay close attention to the nature of the tasks that your children are being asked to complete. For example, is your son or daughter passively working through a pre-programmed system or does your child have the power to create and expand the programs through which he or she can develop a deeper understanding of the mechanics required to make the system function? We have found that children become more skilled when participating in creative, experiential learning when compared to rigid, pre-programmed tasks.
Don’t be fooled by the Flash
ZIP ZOOM POW! The Flash may have a sleek and eye catching design, but he backs it up with super speed and ability. I encourage you to look closely into the specs of the product. We have found several companies use “flashy” advertising techniques, but it is important to determine if the product’s abilities match its flash. If the product is just a bunch of flashing lights, your child will quickly lose interest and the product that you thought would help them gain knowledge will end up abandoned in the corner.
It’s Never too Early to Code
Buying an age appropriate gift can be tricky. If you miss the target, you risk your child becoming frustrated or uninterested entirely. Tech products generally aim high with their age recommendations. We know that the range in tech experience and ability between school aged kids is vast. Consider the skills required to navigate the platform that you choose based on your understanding of your child's capabilities. For example, utilizing products which incorporate a Visual Programming Language (e.g., a product that uses drag and drop code blocks rather than relying heavily on typing) may be preferred if your child has just started typing. The reason being that this helps them to focus on mastering the concept versus the syntax which can trip them up even if their logic is fundamentally sound.
Finding products that hit these three marks can be tough. However it is not impossible. Check out the list below for our best recommendations sorted by age group.
For the little coders we would highly suggest the LEGO boost and LEGO Wedo products. Lego products are a great tool to get your young ones creating and problem solving early on!
We’d also recommend board games! Board games, what? Not normally considered a tech product, board games, particularly those which involve problem solving and puzzles, are a great introduction to logic which is the backbone to computer science! Code Masters is a board game we suggest because it specifically includes key computer programming concepts like loops and switches.
Cozmo by Anki is a robot that you can play with, program and control! Cozmo can be programmed using code blocks for beginners. The advanced technologist can utilize Python (text based language) to program by leveraging their easy to use development kit. The versatility and animations with Cozmo are very impressive.
The ultimate DIY lovers gift is the Raspberry Pi 3. A Raspberry Pi is a fully functional computer no larger than a credit card designed for education. The Cana Kit is a great choice to start exploring radical tech projects. The starter kit comes with a pre-installed NOOBS SD card as well as a few other components which relieve much of the headache of setting up a Raspberry Pi.
NFL player and movie star Terry Crews documented his experiences
building a computer with his son on YouTube. Crews and his son fumbled around building their computer from buying the parts online to installing Windows. Not only is building a computer a rewarding educational experience but it can also save you hundreds of dollars. A computer you buy off the shelf or online will cost hundreds more for the same specs! And, think about the bragging rights your kid will have when they tell their friends how they built their own computer.
Newegg.com is one of the best websites for building your own pc. They offer a ton of videos as well as a great pc build kits. For full customization pcpartpicker.com is a useful source as well.
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About the Author: Omowale Casselle is the Co-Founder & CEO of Digital Adventures.