Duolingo Gets an Update

Duolingo Gets an Update

Duolingo, the popular service for learning new languages, is adding new ways to continue learning a language even more fully.

Users of the service who may previously have completed all of the levels in a language and couldn’t really advance higher will now be able to go even further with their new Crown Levels, reports The Verge. When working their way through a language, the update will allow users to level up after each section. This will allow language learners an opportunity to work on even more advanced skills.

According to The Verge, there are now five difficulty levels. You can either continue on to the Crown Levels after each section, or go through all the sections and come back later to complete the more advanced levels. Because you have this option, you’ll now be able to decide whether you want to learn casually or study intensely. And for users who already felt like they’d gotten everything they could from Duolingo, they will now have a reason to come back and continue their learning.

Duolingo has been a popular service for those learning new languages. Hundreds of millions of people have registered to use the service since it first came out less than a decade ago. English speakers currently can choose from 31 different languages to learn. It’s free, so it’s a useful tool for everyone who can access the service.

Duolingo was also in the news recently when they added an interesting language to its lineup: Klingon. As Space.com reported, Duolingo users can now learn how to speak the fictional language by just practicing 5 minutes every day. You can learn phrases that fit with the lore of the Klingons from Star Trek.

Whether you’re learning Klingon or Spanish, Duolingo’s new Crown Levels will make it possible for you to progress even further in your language learning. The new update is available in all of the service’s formats, so take a look at the new content available in your app or on the website.

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

9 Alexa Skills You Should Enable

If you have an Echo, Echo Dot, Kindle, Echo Show, or any other Alexa-capable device, you probably already know that there are a lot of different ways you can take advantage of Alexa’s capabilities. With products like the Echo Dot making Alexa more and more easily available, and with the recent rumors about the upcoming Fire TV devices, it’s a good time to look into some of the fun, interesting, and downright useful skills that can be enabled on your Alexa devices. Alexa can answer some basic questions and say (or sing) a lot of funny things, but these skills will make you even more happy to have Alexa as your friend.

Bird Song

Bird Song lets you ask to hear certain birds, ask for a random bird, and ask to play a game to identify bird songs. Bird Song currently has 4.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.


Curiosity offers interesting pieces of information on many different subjects. Asking Alexa to “open Curiosity” prompts the skill to offer two random categories you can choose from. After you answer, Curiosity will tell you something interesting about that subject. Curiosity currently has 4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Ingredient Sub

Ingredient Sub helps people in the kitchen by providing helpful tips for ingredient replacements. If you get halfway through a recipe and suddenly realize you’re out of eggs, you can ask Ingredient Sub, “What can I substitute for eggs?” Ingredient Sub will list options you can choose from. Ingredient Sub currently has 3.7 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.


Jeopardy! is just what one might expect, and it’s a lot of fun. Every weekday, the Jeopardy! skill provides an extra clue from each of the day’s different categories. The skill is complete with the sounds you know from watching the show. The skill lets you know how you did that day, and it also tells you how you’ve fared over the week. Jeopardy! currently has 3.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Meditation Timer

Meditation Timer offers three different soothing sounds that are helpful for meditation. After you open the skill, you can tell Meditation Timer how long you would like to meditate. A gong will sound, and one of the three sounds will begin to play. If you want to switch to a different sound, you can say, “Play next.” The three available sounds are forest, rain, and surf. Meditation Timer currently has 4.1 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.


NASA Mars gives you a chance to find out what’s going on with Mars and listen to rover updates. You can ask general questions about Mars, and you can ask what the rover is currently up to. NASA Mars currently has 4.4 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Radio Mystery Theater

Radio Mystery Theater is one of many skills created by Appbly.com. This particular skill lets you listen to CBS Radio Mystery Theater dramas from back in the day. There are many episodes to choose from, so you’ll have plenty of entertainment. (You might also check out other similar skills like Radio Dimension X and Radio Suspense.) Radio Mystery Theater currently has 4.2 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Weather Sky

Weather Sky is a great way to get more out of your weather reports. Weather Sky can give you a very detailed report for your current location or any other location in the US. You can also ask for past and future weather information, and a fun little addition is the ability to “change the weather” by asking for weather like rain or wind (unfortunately, it does not yet have the capability to actually change the weather, just play some sounds, but I can only assume the technology will get there someday). Weather Sky currently has 3.8 out of 5 stars in the Alexa app.

Yes Sire

Yes Sire is an intriguing and fun adventure game you can play just by enabling the skill. You play as a medieval lord who is given a series of questions that determine your success throughout the game. You have to think carefully about your choices when presented with different scenarios. If you are careful in your strategy, you will do well, but if you aren’t paying close enough attention, you won’t last long in the game. Yes Sire currently has 4.9 out of 5 stars in the Alexa App.

…and much more

There are also plenty of specific skills run by different companies that let you do things like check your credit card balance (skills like Amex and Capital One, among others), call a ride (Lyft and Uber), and order food (like Domino’s or Starbucks Reorder). You can also often find your own local news station available to add to your news briefing. Whatever your interests, there’s a growing number of skills available.

New version of Google Earth allows virtual field trips

New version of Google Earth allows virtual field trips

Do you remember sitting in history class? Or should I say, sleeping in history class? Maybe the teacher spoke in a monotone voice. Maybe he or she was way more interested in dates and maps than you were. Maybe they never quite got around to explaining the most important piece of the puzzle: why you should care.

The same thing could be said of travel. Most people would love to travel and see other parts of the world. But the same factor applies: I need to know what I’m looking at, what its significance is, and where it fits into my knowledge about the world, past and present, or I’m not going to care.

The future of learning and travel just got a whole lot brighter, because Google has figured out how to harness the power of their vast catalogue of educational materials and their Google Earth images to put together all the pieces for students to not only be able to see places and people (in the present and in a historical context), but to understand what the significance is, where this is taking place, and how it fits into their knowledge about the world. With all of that at your fingertips, how could you not care?

Google announced on their blog new features and resources geared toward helping educators and students. While some of these new features require a special Google for Education account, many can be accessed from home, putting better education within reach for anyone with an internet connection.

What kind of educational tools are we talking about?

Google Earth is in 3d, and has knowledge cards attached to major landmarks that explain cultural or historical significance: “condensed factual information that is frequently sought by a user in association with a given query.” But the real educational magic is in Google Earth Voyager.

Google Earth Voyager contains curated stories that provide guidance by pulling together geographic location and historical and cultural facts to foster geospatial learning. Google’s partnership with National Geographic, HHMI Biointeractive, PBS, Mission Blue, NASA, and BBC Earth gives students access to the best resources to explore the world, including videos, lessons, and interactive tools.

You can follow the trail of Lewis and Clark, the Vikings, or explorers along the Silk Road. You can see what scientists are up to while investigating climate change, the Ebola outbreak, or the coral reefs. See some of the most beautiful landscapes from BBC’s Planet Earth II. Explore World UNESCO sites. See the ruins of ancient civilizations, or explore modern ones by taking a grand tour of Italy. Follow the haunts of such authors as Charles Dickens and Hemingway.

And keep in mind that every step of the way, context is provided so that you know what you’re looking at and what is interesting or significant about it.

Age of the interactive classroom

All of these new features are just a small piece of what Google is making available to schools who purchase their Chromebooks, suite of educational programs, and resources for educators. Profiles of schools who have been using Chromebooks and the interactive tools provided by Google do report better engagement with some promising improvements in test scores and graduation rates to back up that claim.

Would I like to be a kid in school again? No. Am I a little bit bitter about all the new ways for children to learn what I had to struggle to memorize from a textbook? Maybe. But I’m willing to let it slide because there is nothing with the power to improve lives like education. And I’m no history, nature, or geography buff, but I don’t plan to let school-age children have all the fun.