Time to figure out who is naughty or nice and it’s not who you might think! We are not judging the kids this year, it’s a matter of filtering out the good and bad gifts on the market. We are here to help you do just that before you shop!

Photo Courtesy LEGO (The Pig House)


What is making the cut this year in the world of toys and gadgets?

With the holiday season in full steam, this month I’ll be sharing my Naughty & Nice list when it comes to tech, toys, and gadgets. While 2020 as a whole is certainly on the naughty list, there has been some innovation in the field.


Google: Canceling support of Daydream and other devices, going back on unlimited photo storage for some Pixel owners and the game “console” Stadia flopping, it’s hard to find a win for Big G in 2020.  

Facebook / Oculus: For as many cool innovations in the Oculus realm including the Oculus Quest 2, it’s hard to see use cases for education other than strictly for development. Requiring users to have a Facebook account to use any Oculus product is downright creepy.  

Magic Leap: The once shiny unicorn ended up being a donkey in disguise. Underwhelming technology (limited field of view for one), wonky spatial awareness, and lack of compelling content all piled high on a massive hype train laid bare how far we have yet to go for augmented reality. 

Summary: Big Tech has given us big problems. Driven by an insatiable hunger for data to drive profits, these corporations have crossed too many lines and their aggressive turn over for support has left educators reeling. Academia is usually slow to adopt new technologies, and it doesn’t help drop support after a few cycles.  

Super Mario Meets LEGO - Stocking stuffers for Christmas 2020

Great Stocking Stuffers – Surprise Super Mario Packs. Photo Courtesy LEGO


Nintendo: The Switch has stood the test of time even with a new generation of consoles and continues to provide good content (Animal Crossing, Smash, Pokemon, etc). New innovations like Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit show promise in new technologies and provide new ways to engage. Recent collaborations have also extended the brand in clever ways.  

LEGO: Always close to my heart, LEGO is hard to stop right now. Between offering premium sets for adults, new Ideas sets, thoroughly researched ed tech solutions, and collaborations with companies like Levi’s, the aforementioned Nintendo, and Adidas, it’s difficult to see a world with LEGO embedded throughout it. LEGO has also even started their own in house game studio.  Added bonus, they plan to go green by 2030.  

MakeBlock: Offering similar experiences as many other ed tech suppliers (like Cozmo, Sphero / littlebits, etc), MakeBlock is marching onto the scene with a comprehensive catalogue for makers and creators. From basic robots to AI, their expansive menu is a top contender.  

Local Ed Tech Studios / After School Environments: We all have to face that school hasn’t been the same in 2020. Amidst all the chaos, local establishments have pivoted dramatically to serve families in hopes to supplement learning. From libraries, to places like Digital Dragon, things are still happening. We look to environments like these to nurture our learners and keep important social interactions going strong.  

Summary: Creativity and platforms that support and encourage it seem to reign supreme. Making moments of joy is especially important in the doozy of a year that has been 2020.  

TLDR;  2021 is right around the corner. We’ve dealt with a lot. From big tech failing us to museums and everyday life being impacted, there are still things to be thankful for. Whether ending up on the naughty or nice side of things, it’s important to realize we can change. Don’t just hope for a better year, make it better. Make it better by creating moments of joy through learning – whether by making new toys, games, technology, or trying something different together with others in your community and even if still distanced for now. 

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.