Five great gifts for geeks


The education geek. Not a rare species, but distinctive. Hipper than a run-of-the-mill nerd, with a better sense of humor than a "lifetime learner," the education geek is smart, sharp and worldly, and loves learning for its own sake. Sure, an education geek might be a teacher by trade or a "professional student" always enrolled in at least one night class, if not a rigorous double-PhD program. Since education geeks enjoy learning so much, you're likely to be (frequently) shopping for one at graduation time, not to mention all the birthdays, back-to-school days and holidays that, to an education geek, are the perfect opportunity for learning-themed gifts. Below are five of the best gifts for education geeks available now.

The Best Education Gifts

 VTech MobiGo Touch Learning System ($59.99). A great gift for junior education geeks. This battery-operated hand-held device is easy to use, and unlike similar products, such as Leapster, the MobiGo has a full QWERTY keyboard. This enables another dimension in gaming by allowing the player to spell words. Games can be played on "easy" or "hard" mode, so the MobiGo can be shared by siblings between preschool age and second grade.

Education Nation, by Milton Chen ($24.95). Many education dorks will recognize the name Milton Chen. He is one of the masterminds behind Edutopia, a cutting-edge website devoted to improving America's schools. In his new book, Education Nation, he defines six ways to make education "edgier" -- that is, to make learning processes more dynamic and effective.

Centennia Historical Atlas ($79). This computer software program features animated maps of Europe and the Middle East, illustrating the thousands of border changes that have occurred between the 11th century and today. It also features detailed summaries explaining the historical circumstances leading to shifting borders. A short video of Centennia's changing map of Europe recently went viral on YouTube, quickly getting hundreds of thousands of hits -- just some proof of this gift's substantial cool factor.

The Elements: A Visual Exploration ($13.99). So you've gotten that special education geek in your life an iPad, and you want to load it up with some amazing apps? The Elements: A Visual Exploration should do the trick. This is not your parents' periodic table. Sharp images showcase the striking beauty of the elements, whether in their raw state (a chunk of yellow sulfur looks like alien cotton candy) or after they've been transformed into products (a solid cadmium fish sculpture glitters enchantingly on the screen). Accompanying text provides a capsule description of each element, including fun facts and scientific data like atomic radius and density.

A Donation to the Harlem Children's Zone. In 2010, education geeks gathered in cinemas across the country to watch the documentary Waiting for Superman. By telling the story of grade school students hoping to gain admittance to charter schools, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim shed a light on many of the American education system's flaws and celebrated some of its heroes. Among the heroes was Geoffrey Canada, founder of the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ), a project aimed at guiding at-risk kids all the way from birth through college. It's easy to make a donation to HCZ on their website. To make a contribution in the name of an education geek would be one of the best education gifts you could give.