Kid Tech That Teaches Without Using Screens

Kid Tech That Teaches Without Using Screens

Joelle Alcaidinho
May 18, 2011

We all know that there are plenty of educational apps out there, but does educational tech for kids have to involve a laptop or tablet? What does tech that teaches look like when we remove the screens? In this roundup we take a look at a few pieces of educational tech for kids, some often overlooked and others, a bit well known.

The idea for this post came out of a conversation with some friends who are primary school teachers. The conversation topic happened to be iPads in the hands of kids and the potential of the device as an educational tool when one teacher pointed out that it was important not to neglect technology that teaches that does not involve shiny new tablets.

Technology that teaches that goes beyond "skill and drill" and lacks explicit "this is a science lesson" tones does so through problem solving, often laying the foundations for programming skills. Devices like marble runs and motorized arms help students to build their critical thinking skills and learn through "play."

We curated the choices below with some help from our teacher friends and think they all have fantastic educational potential that will please both fans of Constructivism and creative parents alike.

Kid tech that does not involve screens:

1) Quercetti Marble Run with Motorized Elevator: Kids love these marble runs for the nifty motorized elevators and adults love them for the quality and design. Quercetti quite possibly makes the most stylish marble runs we've ever seen ($39).

2) Frigits: These magnetic pieces work well on an ordinary fridge and a metal wall is not required. Kids can build their own vertical mazes and tunnels for small balls or marbles by repositioning each piece allowing for much creative fun ($32).

3) OWC Robotic Arm Kit: It's no surprise that robots have educational value. Since there is no soldering required, this kit is simple enough (just pay attention to the screws) for a 6th grader to put together. We loved watching the kids brainstorm on how to maneuver the arm to pick up various objects. The second robot pictured is the Tamiya Construction Crawler which also comes in kit form (easier to put together than the arm) and is rather popular with the youngsters ($37, $41).

4) Hexbugs: When we admitted to a group of children that we had not heard of Hexbugs before they could not conceal their shock. In case you are also not hip to the Hexbug set, Hexbugs are mini vibrating robots that look like microchips that have taken on a life of their own. Kids can built habitats for the Hexbugs and watch them try to find their way through the mazes ($9, $24).

5) Doodle-Track Car: This car works by following a black line. Kids love drawing their own very complicated paths for the car to follow and experimenting with just how sharp they can make each turn. ($9)

More kid tech from the Unplggd archives:

What's your favorite piece of educational kid tech that does not involve a screen?

Thank you, Mandell School for letting us participate in your Technology class!

(Images: Joelle Alcaidinho)

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