Family at the computer
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Just in time to celebrate dad, technology expert Alexandra Samuel shares five ways to use the Web to create the perfect gift for any dad this Father's Day.
Can you keep a secret? Then I'll tell you what my kids are doing for their geek dad this Father's Day.

He's an avid digital photographer who shoots hundreds of pictures every month, filling up the hard drive on our home computer. But he enjoys shooting a lot more than organizing, so it's hard for him to find his favorite images when he wants to show off the kids to his friends or family.

So the kids and I have done the work for him. We've spent the past few weeks reviewing thousands of pictures and selecting the ones the kids like the best. And since the kids are doing the choosing, it's not about composition or which pictures look cutest. It's about collecting the pictures that show everything they love about their dad: the pictures of mornings spent making pancakes together, weekend expeditions to the park and the first airplane trip he took them on.

On Father's Day, we'll load the kid-created album onto his iPhone and iPad, putting the pictures on the devices he always has with them. For my geeky husband, a gift that combines gadgets with kid creativity is a match made in heaven.

My own dad was another story. Until just a couple of years ago, his primary computer had a black-and-white monitor and a dial-up modem—hardly the ideal environment for photo sharing. To give him a collection of photos, I got a digital picture frame and preloaded it with a year's worth of images. He loved seeing a rotating display of his grandchildren, especially since he could see them without turning on his ancient computer.

Whether the dad in your life is a geek or a Luddite, technology can help you celebrate this Father's Day—or any day when you want to let Dad know how much he means to you.

Gift Giving
For geek dad you can’t go wrong with a gadget, especially one that reminds him of his kids. One that might be new to even a hardened gadget freak is the Jabra Halo is a Bluetooth headset for listening to music or taking calls, which I was lucky enough to receive complimentary from Jabro after my original one broke (I guess they know I am a big fan!).  Pair it with a new playlist of the favorite songs that dad has passed along to his kids: in our house that includes U2’s <i>Pride</i> and Simon & Garfunkel’s <i>Feeling Groovy</i>.

A Luddite dad will be thrilled with a gift that says, "I love you enough to unplug." Ask your kids to put down their Game Boys and cell phones long enough to make Dad a personal gift. You can find terrific Father's Day craft projects online. For the younger set, try; teens can check out for nifty DIY projects like bookends made from old vinyl records.

Bonding Time
A geek dad will enjoy spending quality time with the kids—if quality time involves a pair of game controllers. Red Dead Redemption is a hot new PlayStation and Xbox game your teens can play with Dad; younger kids can enjoy playing Little Big Planet.

And there's no kinder way to show a Luddite dad your love than with a little tech support. Young kids can use a program like KidPix or the free Tux Paint to make Dad a personalized desktop picture. Older kids can help Dad finally set up his Facebook or Twitter account or teach him how to respond to their text messages. Just think how happy Dad will be when he gets a text that says "HAVING FUN B HOME L8ER" and can respond with his own text saying "ROTFL C U IN 15 MINS."
Down Time
If the geek dad in your house is anything like the geek dad in my house, there's no better Father's Day treat than a couple of hours of geek-out time at your nearest WiFi café. Use to find a WiFi hot spot in your neighborhood, and give Dad a gift card so he can enjoy his coffee and computer time in peace.

For the Luddite dad, give the gift of time offline. Book him a tee time using Find the nearest yoga class on Visit, and send him to a cooking class so he can perfect his pie crust. Whatever his hobby, you can use the Web to ensure he can enjoy a few relaxing hours to himself.

For Your Own Dad
A recent study found that Internet use reduces the risk of depression in seniors, so if your own dad is among the millions of older Americans who are now logging on, give him a cheer! Pay tribute to your geek dad by creating a Facebook album full of pictures of the two of you together; tag him in all the photos so your proud papa will show up in his friends' news feeds.

Or help your Luddite dad enjoy the photos he's missing online by printing those adorable photos of the grandkids onto something he can keep around the house or office. Go beyond the usual mug or mouse pad by ordering a customized jacket, sneakers or photo sculpture on

All Year Round
The best thing you can do for Dad is to make sure that June 20 isn't the only day he feels extra special. So queue up a few dozen tweets for a geek dad that send him jokes, how-tos or simple "I love yous"; services like will let you schedule a whole series of tweets to go out over the course of the next year.

You can make Luddite dad feel just as special by reminding yourself to tell him how much he means to you. While you're in the Father's Day mood, enter an appointment in your computer's calendar with a title like "Do something special for Dad." Then, set it to repeat once a month or even once a week.

Of course, you don't need a computer to remind Dad that you love him. But turning your computer into a dad-loving machine is a great way to remind yourself and your kids that your time online is most meaningful when it helps you deepen your connections to the people you love.

Do you have some ideas about how to use the Web to celebrate dads? Share your thoughts below!

Alexandra Samuel, PhD, is the director of the Social + Interactive Media Centre at Emily Carr University and the principal of Social Signal, a social media agency that has launched more than 30 online communities. The mother of two young kids, Samuel blogs about how to make technology a meaningful part of your life, work and world. Follow her on Twitter.


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