It’s that time of year – parents are searching for the perfect holiday gifts! We are here to help you look at the pros and cons of what will be on your kids’ wish lists this season. We can’t blame them for wanting the latest and greatest in consoles, games, and digital entertainment this year…but what should you add to your cart or skip?

(Courtesy Sony)


How to Pick the Best Tech Gifts this Holiday Season.

While there are many things in the world to look forward to in these coming days and months, it’s hard to believe that the holidays are just around the corner. This month, let’s step away from the chaos that is 2020 and take a glance at some of the just-around-the-corner tech innovations sure to make any child (or an any-aged tech enthusiast) jump for joy.

(Courtesy Nintendo)

There have been many advances in AR in the past year from better tracking on our mobile devices to the latest version of the Hololens 2. During Nintendo’s Mario 35th anniversary events, I was delightfully surprised with the announcement of MarioKart Live: Home Circuit.

This clever innovation which relies on the Switch and physical objects allows for Mario and crew to zip around a real space while still providing a familiar experience in that of Mario Kart.  


  • Tech – Linked to your Nintendo Switch (extremely clever!) and networked for up to 2 players over wifi
  • Creativity – Allows for customization of courses and multimodes (grand prix, racing against yourself, etc)
  • Pushing innovation – Provides a glance into what AR can do


  • Cost – Expensive to get started (cost of kart + Switch per player)
  • Bugs – Tech isn’t quite there… (courses aren’t truly and fully customizable (no go for outside or using ramps)
  • Replayability – A pinch gimmicky / could go stale quickly. Doubtful when it comes to updates to content

Bottom line: Definitely really cool, but with a hefty price tag.  Might wait for version 2.0.  

(Courtesy Microsoft)

While we’re on the topic of consoles, oh boy oh boy! The next gen consoles whether from Microsoft (Xbox) or Sony (Playstation) are monsters. If you or someone in your family is a gamer, these are going to be on the wishlist. (Order early – these won’t last on the shelves or in your cart)


  • Technical Advances – Beautiful graphics and power to back it all up. With tons of titles, I look forward to this new era for consoles.  


  • Price tag – Sort of managed by offering various models, but they come with their trade offs.  
  • Price tag – To take full advantage of the beastly machines, hardware like TVs and speaker / headphone systems will have to be upgraded.  
MakeBlock CyberPi Go Kit Holiday Gift Guide

(Courtesy Makeblock)

Somewhere in between platforms, playing and making, sits Makeblock’s soon-to-be released CyberPi. This microcontroller punches above its weight as this pint sized product is jam packed with sensors and input/output capabilities.  


  • Versatility – From supporting pseudocode (like Scratch) to full coding in Python, the CyberPi can grow with your learner. The vast amount of expansions also allows for sprawling possibilities and can easily be networked.  
  • Cost – We don’t know the final cost yet, but can expect the range to be sub $100. The CyberPi can act as a stand alone, but plays better with more.  


  • A black box – with so many options, it might be hard to get into it.  
  • Cost – from other maker platforms, we all know that additional sensors / motors can add up quickly.  

TLDR; This shortlist barely touches on all what’s out there, but highlights the frontrunners and innovators that we can expect to see as ‘must haves’ this coming holiday season or just thereafter. Some are definitely geared more towards entertainment, but are simply technological marvels. In the spirit of Digital Dragon, it’s what you do with the technology that makes it special.  

John Balash was instrumental in Digital Dragon’s launch in 2013 as its first Curriculum Director and is now back in the fold as a consultant on all the latest and greatest in tech education.This is John’s latest contribution to a monthly blog series we’ve launched, Tech News from the Frontier. John is the Director of Educational Engagement at Carnegie Mellon University’s Entertainment Technology Center. John has worked on educationally-focused initiatives with clients ranging from D.A.R.P.A. to Disney. Working from both sides of the desk, you can find John in classrooms and conferences around the world exploring new uses for technologies in learning environments.