student with drone

When I am visiting classrooms, students ask me questions such as, "How much is that robot?" "Where can I get one of those?" and adults ask me, "What should I buy my kid(s) for a (birthday/holiday) gift?" So I wanted to post with some resources for parents and grandparents as they begin their gift shopping and giving.

First, even though I am a tech person, as a parent and a teacher, I feel the best thing for children is talking with them, spending time playing board games, cards, and outdoor activities, reading books to them, and prioritizing all family gatherings/meals.  Using technology for learning in a limited way is a healthy practice for all people, big and little!  This HealthyChildren article gives some great guidelines.  But there are times when learning with technology can give enormous benefits.

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. This acronym groups certain concepts and activities that involve creatively and collaboratively solving challenges.  Activities such as the egg drop, building a bridge, or building a roller coaster are STEM activities.  STEM activities can be done offline or they can be done digitally such as using robots.  Computer programing or coding is also a STEM activity.  It is writing in a special computer language to tell the computer or other device what to do.  For the past three years, we have been coding with Kindergarten through High School at Gibbon Public Schools.  The littlest coders use markers and simple commands to code.  The middle-grade levels use block coding in Code.Org, Sphero EDU, and Scratch/Scratch Jr., and the high school students are using python language to code the VEX robots in Robotics class. 

Why are we coding? Coding helps us learn to think critically about problem-solving.  It helps us look at data deeper and differently. And it helps us learn to communicate better.  This article spells out five benefits of coding for elementary students.

Before I spend all of your money, know that there are loads of FREE sites online or apps that allow students to get the full benefit of the technology at home without the dollar signs!  Common Sense Media is a great resource for many student-friendly recommendations on websites, apps, and devices.   Cool Coding Apps and Websites for Kids lists by age groups, various apps, and sites that kids will be able to enjoy while learning to program.  

Here are some sites listing great learning gift ideas for students!  

Let's just be honest... 

You can't beat a LEGO set or a cardboard box! 

Let them create!