Advice for those considering technology gifts for the holidays

By Shaelynn Farnsworth

Technology tops most holiday gift lists, but with so many options available, choosing the perfect gift is daunting. Considerations in price, use, and longevity will help narrow down the search. The following are three questions I ask myself before purchasing technology for others:

1. What do they want to use it for? Educational purposes? Personal use? Both?

2. What is the price range?

3. How often will they use it and what is the life expectancy?

Below is a list of popular technology gifts for 2013, priced to fit any budget. Often there are comparable alternatives to the name brands, so it is important to be informed. Do your research before making a purchase. (Disclaimer: This is not an endorsement of any one product.)

Children: Ages 3-8

Learning Tablets: The most popular is LeapPad. Options/accessories, learning games, parental controls.

VTech Challenger Laptop: Preloaded curriculum, educational, mimics the “look” of a laptop.

VTech Kidizoom Twist Plus Camera: Durable, digital camera.


Tablets: Popular devices include iPad, Kindle, and Google Nexus. Tablets are portable and functional. Used primarily for photos, videos, E-reading and surfing the web.

Laptops: Popular devices include MacBooks, Chromebooks, and PCs. Laptops are portable and available at a variety of price ranges. The keyboard and functionality for creation and gaming make laptops a perfect choice.

Phones: A new phone or an upgrade on an existing one is a popular “want” for many teens. The cellular phone has become a pocket computer for most people. Internet access, apps for photos, videos, music and social media; a new phone this Christmas would be a good option.

Beats: High-end, high-powered headphones that provide listeners with the ultimate music experience. Pricey and popular with today’s youth.


For those techie adults in your life who already have devices, here is a short list of possibilities:

Chromecast: An inexpensive gadget that hooks up to an HDMI television and allows users to stream their device to the screen.

Amazon Prime: This upgrade in membership provides fast delivery on items purchased, unlimited streaming of movies and television programs, and access to thousands of titles.

Bluetooth speaker or keyboard: Accessories that have bluetooth capability pairs with a smart device and allows users to stream music from their phone, iPod, etc. The Bluetooth keyboard is wireless and a nice alternative to the touch-screen keyboards on devices.

Netflix Subscription: Movies and television shows available on demand. From an iPad to the Xbox360, Netflix allows users to stream their selection on many devices.

Gift Cards: iTunes, Microsoft Points, and Gamestop allows those hard-to-buy-for people choices in their purchases.

Happy holidays! Wishing you successful technology gift giving!

Shaelynn Farnsworth is a consultant with Area Education Agency 267 based out of Cedar Falls, Marshalltown and Clear Lake. Follow her on Twitter at @shfarnsworth. Iowa Area Education Agencies (AEAs) were created in 1974 by the Iowa legislature to ensure equal educational opportunities for all children from birth through age 21. As regional service agencies, AEAs provide special education and school improvement services for students, families, teachers, administrators and their communities. Learn more at or