hands passing wrapped gifts reaching out from an iPhone to a woman, vector image

Online holiday shopping: Tech activity

What tech skills do you need to know in order to purchase online gifts?

Looking for real-life motiving ways to teach tech skills? This time of year is perfect for talking about how to shop online – a great ECC activity which just so happens to require good tech skills!

What tech skills does your student currently have? These activities are a great way to subtly evaluate how independent and efficient your student is with his/her tech skills.

Watch a video

Cody’s Take Challenge video talks about online holiday shopping and things that the student should consider before making a purchase. Watch Cody’s energetic Holiday Shopping video:

As your student watches the video, observe your student’s tech skills. How efficient and independent is your student with YouTube?

Internet search

What to buy? That’s always the big question when holiday shopping! Determining specific items might require an internet search. If you need suggestions, try a broad search, such as “best toy for 5 year old boy” or maybe you need to learn more about the person’s new hobby. Example: My daughter just took a class on how to make sourdough bread – which I know nothing about. A quick internet search on “sourdough bread” gave a number of links to recipes (including recipe books) but my best search was “sourdough bread tools”. Who knew that sourdough needs special tools to knead the dough, score the top, linen bags to store the baked bread and the cast-off dough can be used to create more yummy items like bagels?! And, making bagels requires special tools/baking dishes. The internet search took me down a rabbit hole into the world of sourdough bread.

Note on phone or other device

When doing internet searches to find potential gifts, it is important to be able to go back to favorite items, especially when doing initial searches for multiple people. Create a note of potential gift ideas on your phone or other device. (Phones work well for lists of items, especially if you plan on going to a store to shop.) Keep a running list of ideas, a list of where these items might be found, and/or a list of items to keep track of what has been purchased. Various types of applications can be used, depending on what type of list the student will keep. If the list includes a lot of comparison information (cost, size, options, reviews, pros/cons of that particular item), then a word document application might be best. If the list is simply a shopping checklist with the item name, then the Reminders type-app that can be checked off works well. (The Reminders app is a popular app available for iPhone or Android.) For more complicated lists of multiple items for multiple people, especially if you want to keep a running tally of cost, a spreadsheet app is a great choice.

Where online are you going to buy items?

Do your research – do not simply purchase the first item you find! Does your student know that the first items in an internet search may be a paid advertisement? Are you going to search a specific store, such as Best Buy or are you going to look at other options to compare the price and the item itself? Are there other options of where to purchase the item – same brand at other stores or similar items that are a different brand? Are you going to do a search on Amazon? Is there a price difference? A desired option/feature? Is the item in stock? Do you have to pay for shipping? How long does it take to ship? After considering all these options, evaluate how and where your student searches.

Shipping address

When purchasing items online, your student must know the desired shipping address – typically his/her own home. However, since this is a gift, is the student having the gift shipped directly to another person? If so, does the student know the desired shipping address or can the student look up the address online? Will the store send the item to a different address than the address associated with the credit card or method of payment?

How to pay for it?

This is a really fun question that can open up a big discussion! What is the student’s preferred payment type? Younger students will not have a way to pay for items themselves, but it is still an important discussion. If the student does not have a way to purchase an item, the student can learn about the various types of online payment options, including learning about what their parents/family members/peers use. There are so many options now and honestly, the digital options can be great choices for blind or low vision shoppers. Handling cash can have challenges, requiring students to learn how to fold bills (for later identification), to use apps that identify bills (which is time consuming when checking out in person) or relying on someone with vision to identify the bill. However, using payment apps on a smart phone eliminates the need to identify bills. Credit cards and debit cards can be entered into the payment app. Venmo is a popular application that enables users to quickly pay or request payment to other people or businesses. This is a great time to discuss 3% credit card fees, credit scores and what happens if the credit card is not paid off each month. Also discuss banking apps; if your student does not have a bank account or payment method, you can still tie this discussion into budgets and maintaining a written document/spreadsheet with possible items to be purchased, the cost of items and how it fits into the budget. If you take minimum wage (Currently $7.25 in my home state), how many hours of work would it take to purchase the items on your shopping list?

Encourage parents to continue this activity at home. If possible, have the parent establish a bank account for the student – implementing any restrictions/limitations that they desire. Most banks have specific types of bank accounts for younger students. If appropriate, setting up a credit card will help establish credit for the student.


Robbin Clark and the Utah School for the Blind facilitate the Take Charge Daily Challenges. Each week, there are five quick challenges created for students who are blind or low vision. Each weekly playlist is a mix of a variety of different ECC skills for students to try. Anyone can submit a Daily Challenge video. Do you have an idea of a daily challenge? Record your video on a cell phone or use a computer. Please start each video with an introduction (“Hi, this is Robbin”) and the title (“I’m here with today’s take charge daily challenge. My challenge is . . . “). Send your videos to Robbin Clark, [email protected]. You can also sign up to receive an email every Monday with the week’s Take Charge Daily Challenges or go to the Take Charge Daily Challenges on their website. This week’s Daily Challenge topics (December 1-15, 2023) are Holiday shopping, Seasonal wardrobe, Exercise regularly, How to make a snow angel and Teach your parents something. What’s your challenge?

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