Tech Gifts for People Who Truly Need Them
These days, holiday gift-giving is all about gadgets — smartphones, educational toys and smart devices. Not all children, however, have easy, early access to the digital world. Instead, we face what’s often been called a digital divide.
If you’re looking for a way to share with people who have less this holiday season, it’s worth thinking beyond warm mittens and turkey dinners.
Donate Money for Technology
The simplest way to get technology into the hands of kids who wouldn’t otherwise have it is to make financial donations to well-run organizations, like these:
• One Laptop Per Child strives to put a rugged, connected, low-cost computer into the hands of every child. The laptops weigh less than a lunchbox and come with software that allows children to read, write, record, measure and make music.
• The Rural Technology Fund, founded by a tech executive who had limited access to computers when he was growing up in rural Kentucky, helps out-of-the-way schools get equipment and books to help ignite a “spark” for studying electronics, programming or engineering; and gives scholarships to students from rural communities who hope to pursue careers in technology.
Adopt a Classroom
Public schools provide another way to give kids access to technology. Teachers usually know what devices make a difference in their classrooms, and playing Santa can be very rewarding.
• Your school district. Find out if teachers at your child’s school have technology needs on their wish lists. You may also consider reaching out to a school in a community that is experiencing more challenges.
• DonorsChoose.org allows teachers to explain how they would use specific pieces of equipment and makes it possible for donors to search by location or curriculum. In many cases, a modest donation puts current technology in the hands of teachers who are eager to use it with their students.
Donate Equipment or Time
If family members get tech gifts during the holidays, you may end up with used equipment you can donate. Donating your time also makes a difference.
• The Non-Profit Locator helps donors identify local organizations that can benefit from your used equipment. Enter a zip code to get a list of local agencies and detailed information about equipment needs.
• Child’s Play delivers video games to children’s hospitals and shelters for kids who have experienced domestic violence. A map on the charity’s website shows the organizations within its network. Each group has an Amazon wish list featuring popular games and systems.
• Code.org hopes to make computer science a standard part of the curriculum, just like biology or chemistry. The organization provides lesson plans for grades K-12 and runs an annual Hour of Code campaign. The organization actively recruits volunteers to help with the Hour of Code and equips them with a helpful tool kit.
• Community Corp identifies volunteer opportunities for people with technical expertise. Its search engine allows you to find virtual or in-person projects in a variety of areas.
Set up Passive Donations
Perhaps the easiest way to support charities is registering with a site that makes a microdonation every time you do something simple, like searching or shopping online.
• Goodsearch.com is an ordinary search engine powered by Yahoo that makes a tiny donation to a chosen charity each time you search. For families that do a lot of research, the numbers add up. Sister site GoodShop (goodsearch.com/goodshop) makes it easy to donate a fraction of every online purchase to good causes.
• Giving Assistant is a coupon marketplace that offers discounts from retailers like Best Buy, Kohl’s, and Bed Bath and Beyond. A percentage of what you save goes to a charity you designate.
Whatever you decide to do, involve your kids as much as possible. Encouraging them to imagine life without their beloved devices may very well be the gateway to a lifelong habit of empathy and generosity.
Carolyn Jabs is the author of “Cooperative Wisdom: Bringing People Together When Things Fall Apart,” available at Amazon and cooperativewisdom.org.