No, it doesn’t need to be plugged in to be an appropriate learning technology. I saw this, first hand, several months ago when I visited and worked with educators in New Zealand. I’ve already talked about the innovation that I saw in their vendor exhibit hall, but one that impressed me, perhaps, more than any other was FlikStik Fun-Abacus. The invention of educator, Dr. Des Rainey, the tool’s richness is in it’s simplicity.
It consists of a foot long rod, a handle on one end. On the rod can be clipped colored balls, expended out from rigid posts. Once assembled, the user (4, 5, 6 year old) can hold the rod, and spin the balls around in both directions. Then stopping the spin, leaves some of the balls to the right and some to the left — and here is the magic. Thinking about and talking about how the balls lie after a spin can only be done by thinking and talking in math.
I’m not sure how you would get this in the States, but this simple little technology is certainly worth pursuing. The Web site is: