[tweetmeme] The clock is ticking down on Christmas, and I’m guessing there are a few readers out there like me who still have some shopping to do. Here are some gifts – in the form of learning activities – you may want to consider for the lifelong learners in your life. Most of them are digital, so you don’t have to worry about getting them shipped some place on time.
1. Learn to Save the World $25 at a Time
I thought I’d start with one that might not seem obvious. 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 a lot along the way. US $25 gets you a downloadable Kiva gift card to fund a friend or family member’s account.
2. Monkey Around at a Zoo or Museum
I’m lucky to live not too far from the North Carolina Zoo and we also have fantastic museums in our area. Just do a quick Google search and you will almost certainly come up with great museum or zoo annual membership options in the vicinity of someone on your list.
3. Take Note
Readers here know I am an advocate of taking and reviewing notes, and I’m slowly becoming addicted to Evernote, the note-taking application that syncs your notes across the Web, your desktop, your iPad, and your mobile phone. For US $5 a month, or $45 a year, you can snag a premium subscription that offers some great extra features for the avid learners in your life. (Note the gift option on the right side of the page.)
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. Amazing Lectures to Go
Anybody who says the lecture is dead hasn’t experienced the great content available from the Teaching Company or LearnOutLoud. I’d call it brain candy, but it is far too nutritious for that metaphor. Lately, I’ve been particularly enjoying Robert Greenberg’s How to Listen to and Understand Great Music, but there are selections to cover all interests available from both sites. Pick a topic, and grab a gift certificate.
6. Get Schooled In Rock
With its latest release, Rock Band 3 in “Pro” mode has become a serious learning tool. If being the next Jimi Hendrix is your thing, you can now opt for an actual Fender Squire Stratocaster, touted as “a fully functional, full-sized, six-string electric guitar that also functions as a game controller.” Or opt for the wireless drum or keyboard options and start building actual musical skills from basic up to expert level.
7. Train 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. Learn a Language
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 and Visual Spanish (FREE Spanish Lessons!).
9. Give 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. Also, note that Wikipedia – a key resource for pretty much every lifelong learner these days – is currently in the midst of a big fundraising drive.
10. Read …wait for it… a book
Yes, that’s right. The good ‘ol book, in paper form, is still one of the greatest gifts there is. If you aren’t sure what a good book might be, check out the New York Times list of 100 Notable Books of 2010 or its Modern Library selection of Top 100 Novels. Whatever you choose, my recommendation for buying is to find a local independent bookstore, if one still exists in your area. We’re lucky here in my area to have the great Flyleaf Books.
Got other ideas? Please share them in the comments.