Today is GCSE exam results day here in the UK, when teenagers across the country will be nervously open envelopes to learn how they did – after spending the past couple of years putting in all that effort. Here’s the thing though: School’s a bit of a boring way to learn. So here’s some hi-tech suggestions on how you can bone up on some of the major school subjects.
“Bonjour la classe” the teacher would say. “Bonjour Madame”, we’d all sigh in unison as another boring French lesson began. Rather than have you learn lists of verbs by rote, Duolingo is brilliant: It turns language learning into a game. You add your friends and compete against each other to see how can learn the fastest – and it really does work and if you stick with it, you can feel the results.
The way it works is pretty clever: Different topics are split into different sections, and the game will ask different types of questions: For example, selecting the right word from a menu, typing in the correct phrase or even speaking into your microphone. Only when you’ve done sufficiently well are you able to progress.
At the moment the site and app supports French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Dutch, Danish, Irish, Hungarian, Turkish, Swedish, Russian, Polish and Romanian – so next time you go on holiday, learn a little of the language before you go!
What’s astonishing about history is that for a topic that by its very nature talks about everything from war to revolutions and breakthroughs, history teachers have an astonishing ability to make it boring. Luckily, YouTube has a solution.
Forget dusty textbooks, there’s a more engaging way to find out where we came from. When he isn’t making teenagers cry John Green, the author of The Fault In Our Stars produces a YouTube series called Crash Course World History, which offers a funny and engaging introduction to our past.
Speaking as a bit of a history nerd, the series is astonishing for how it manages to cram in so many concepts and ideas into a single episode. Its all available for free on YouTube and is so good that yes, you’ll see YouTube suggesting you click away on to videos of cats and people hurting themselves in amusing ways but you won’t click them – you’ll stick with the history lesson.
Design & Technology
Want to improve your design skillz, or channel your creativity? Then what better way to do it than with Minecraft where like the Lego of yesteryear, the the only limits are your imagination. And possibly zombies.
The game is already to the younger generation like crack was to ours – which is great as Minecraft isn’t just another shooter, but a game where players might actually learn something.
So whilst Duolingo is all about traditional languages, Code Academy will sort you out when it comes to programming languages. Following a similar sort of structure, the free website will walk you through from your first “Hello World” app all the way to the more advanced stuff.
Why would you want to learn about science from Mr Williams, when Professor Brian Cox and Dr Helen Czerski are available? Not to mention pretty much every major science communicator and enthusiast in the country. Cosmic Genome is an app that is essentially Encarta for the 21st century – and is packed full of videos of people talking about what they love about science. It isn’t all scientists either – many famous enthusiasts such as musician Billy Bragg and comedian Mitch Benn are in there too. You’ll spend hours immersing yourself in the wonders of science, and come out of it a better person. It’s currently available on iPad as a native app, or as a browser-based experience designed for pretty much every device under the sun, from Android to Playstation to your computer.
It’s obvious that technology and new communication technologies have improved the English language: Who needs words when we have emojis? But old fashioned reading still has a few tricks up its sleeve. Check out Spritz, which the developers say will help you read much faster.
The way it works is pretty clever: Rather than display a big chunk of text, it shows you one word at a time, really quickly.
You can download a bookmarklet, to turn any webpage into text that can be read using Spritz.
Of course, no online learning round-up would be complete without a mention of Wikipedia, which knows everything. So vast and brilliant is it, that the experience is perhaps best summed up by this XKCD cartoon:
What do you think is great for learning online? Let us know in the comments!
By James O'Malley | August 21st, 2014