Here’s a couple of cool tech gift ideas that double as educational gifts for kids, boys, girls and students. I’ll introduce you to the BBC micro:bit and Makey Makey, which are devices used by educators around the world.
I’ve used these with my group of learners at the school where I teach. Kids in grades 3-6 are super sparked when they see that we’re gonna be using them. What I love about these devices is that it gets people thinking about solutions in the real world. We’re not just coding for the sake of coding in front of a screen. We connect to the physical world and problem solve the challenges it throws up at us.
Alright, let’s check out our first device.
Educational Gifts for 11-Year-Olds: BBC micro:bit
First up, let’s talk about the BBC micro:bit. It’s a compact device that easily fits in the palm of your hand. The device comes jam-packed with features which include:
- 25 Individually programmable LEDs.
- 2 programmable buttons.
- 25 pin connectors that allow you to sense more from the environment.
- A light sensor that detects ambient light.
- Detects the temperature of the device in degrees Celsius.
- An accelerometer that detects movement such as shakes and tilts.
- A compass that detects the Earth’s magnetic field.
- A radio that transmits data between multiple micro:bits.
- Bluetooth (BLE) that allows you to connect to other devices
The pros and cons of the micro:bit
As an educator, I’ve loved using the micro:bit in my classes. Firstly, for all the features that the device offers, the price is incredible. It’s probably the cheapest device on offer and it could easily fill a digital technology curriculum for Levels 3-6. You can make games, send and receive messages, measure and respond to elements of your environment. Also, I love the versatility of the LEDs as it immediately displays feedback without the need to code a visual interface first.
Secondly, the micro:bit has you covered whether you’re just a beginner or looking for that extra challenge as a more advanced user. You can code the device using the Microsoft MakeCode editor or the Scratch 3.0 editor. I have constructed from FREE video tutorials that will help you get up and running with both.
One slightly annoying aspect of using the MakeCode editor is that you have to download the .hex file to the device each time you want to use it on the micro:bit. There are two ways around this: first is to just use the simulator in the editor. Secondly, you can use Scratch. If you use Scratch, however, you won’t have access to all the sensors the micro:bit offers.
Let’s check out the other device.
Cool Gift Ideas for Students: Makey Makey
Out of the box, the Makey Makey is super simple to use. Because it is basically a keyboard and mouse as one device, you can just plugin and play without even coding anything. Simple! You can just hold the device in one hand and press the keys/buttons in the other. For more information on how it works, see my video below.
The Makey Makey kit comes included with some alligator cables, which is great since it’s one less thing you have to think about getting. Similarly, another great thing about the Makey Makey is that it has been around for a few years, which means that there is already a bunch of resources out there. Take the Instructables community for instance. People have step-by-step guides that you can follow.
Its price is a little bit more expensive than micro:bit but remember it includes some more gear. I’ve enjoyed making pianos, guitar and interactive art with this device.
Where to buy micro:bit and Makey Makey?
I’ve created a kit below that has each of the devices plus a couple more that can be used with Scratch 3.0 They’ll direct you to Amazon and be sure to check out the used items as you can find yourself a cheaper version saving yourself time to shop around. Alright, go find your best deal!
Lastly, teachers around the world are using the BBC micro:bit and Makey Makey in their classrooms, so you really can’t go wrong with either as educational gifts for kids.
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