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10 Educational Gift Ideas for the Lifelong Learners in Your Life

With the holidays approaching I’m guessing there are a few readers out there like me looking for gifts with some educational value to them. While there are plenty of options out there for kids, you may find that coming up with educational gifts for the adults in your life is a bit tougher. So, here are some gifts you may want to consider for the adult lifelong learners in your life. Most of them are digital, so you don’t have to worry about fighting traffic or getting them shipped some place on time.

1.  The Classic: A Book
Yes, that’s right. The good ‘ol book is still one of the greatest gifts there is. One of my favorite non-fiction works this year is 21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari. Not exactly feel-good reading, but if the recipient is someone who enjoys challenging thinking, this one is hard to beat. As far as fiction goes, A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles takes the prixe for me this year. Of course, I am also partial to the much briefer 10 Ways to Be a Better Learner. Personally, I prefer an actual physical book when it comes to gift giving, but giving a digital version is easy enough. Indeed, with the basic Kindle now starting at $79.99, you may want to consider giving not only a digital book but the e-reader as well.

2. The Gift of Belonging
Sign a learner in your life up for a meaningful membership. This might mean an annual museum or zoo membership. (I’m lucky to live not too far from the North Carolina Zoo and we also have fantastic museums in our area.) Or, maybe it means a membership in an association or society of some sort. Don’t just think in terms of vocation: also consider avocation. In North Carolina, for example, there is a great poetry society. Or, nationally, there are groups like the National Gardening Association. Let your imagination – and Google – run wild, and you will come up with some great options.

3. Powerful Note-taking
Readers here know I am an advocate of taking and reviewing notes, and I’m a huge fan of Evernote, the note-taking application that syncs your notes across the Web, your desktop, your iPad, and your mobile phone. For US $7.99 a month you can snag a premium subscription that offers some great extra features (and a T-Shirt) for the avid learners in your life.

4. A Chance to Experiment
The array of gadgets, gizmos, and kits that the amateur scientist now has access to is really quite astounding. Check out the wide selection at Edmunds Scientific.

5. Courses, Of Course
Anybody who says the lecture is dead hasn’t experienced the great content available from the The Great Courses. I’d call it brain candy, but it is far too nutritious for that metaphor. A couple of my favorite  courses include Robert Greenberg’s How to Listen to and Understand Great Music and Steve Joorden’s Memory and the Human Lifespan, but there are selections to cover all interests available from both sites. Pick a topic, and grab a gift certificate.

6. APPlied Learning Experiences
My iPhone and my iPad have become two of my key learning devices. While a lot of the available apps for these devices are free, some come with a small price tag – and 99 cents many times over adds up! Help the lifelong learner in your life stay on budget by giving an iTunes gift certificate. This will cover not only apps, but also anything else available from the iTunes store. (Note: you can also get Google Play gift cards at Amazon.com)

7. Training for the Brain
Lifelong learners are always looking for ways to beef up the ‘ol gray matter. Give the learner in your life a boost with Lumosity Brain Games.

8. Breaking the Language Barrier
Ah, a mainstay of New Year’s resolutions: “This year I am going to learn to speak ___________.” Help the learner in your life keep that resolution with some great language learning options like those from Transparent.com or Rosetta Stone.

9. Giving to Learn
There are so many ways in which nonprofits support our learning and the learning of others, but they can’t do their work without adequate funding. You can hardly go wrong in choosing an organization to contribute to, but if you are looking for ideas, one of my favorites is Heifer International. Aside from the great work Heifer does, the organizations sends a monthly magazine which is actually well worth reading.

10. Learn to Save the World $25 at a Time
Kiva is a nonprofit that facilitates micro-lending to entrepreneurs across the world. By lending as little as US $25, you can help a shop owner in Ghana increase her inventory or a small farmer in Costa Rica build a greenhouse. (Examples of projects I have helped fund through my Kiva account.) Naturally, you can’t help but learn something along the way. US $25 gets you a downloadable Kiva gift card to fund a friend or family member’s account.

Got other ideas? Please share them in the comments.


About the Author Jeff Cobb

I am an avid lifelong learner who writes and speaks frequently on the critical role of learning in our fast-changing world.

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