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.

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight

Tech Spotlight is back this week with even more fun and interesting tech! As usual, I’m sharing three tech products you can find on Amazon right now. This week, take a look at tech for entertainment, convenience, and learning!

Victrola Vintage 3-Speed Bluetooth Suitcase Turntable with Speakers

This turntable from Innovative Technology makes it easier to listen to a variety of different music sources on the go or at home. Not only is it a turntable, it also lets you play music from your device using Bluetooth.

In addition to using Bluetooth, you can also plug other devices in, like speakers or headphones. Of course, it has its own speakers, so it’s not really necessary to plug in different ones. And since it comes in a suitcase with a handle, it’s easy to take anywhere.

Another interesting aspect of this turntable is its design. There are many different colors and patterns to choose from. If you like visually-pleasing tech, you’ll like this product. There are classic-looking colors, but there’s also a tie dye pattern and even a galaxy pattern.

Check out Innovative Technology’s turntable and Bluetooth music player if you’re looking for a fun, useful, and interesting way to play your music!

GNARBOX – Portable Backup & Editing System for Any Camera, 128GB

GNARBOX is a device for anyone who is serious about photography and carries a camera with them wherever they go. This device is one way to make sure you don’t lose any of your photos while you’re traveling, and it even lets you tweak and share your photos on the go.

Using GNARBOX, you can plug your camera’s card in and back up all your photos while you’re out. You can then use GNARBOX’s wi-fi to connect with your phone, allowing you to work on and share your photos. The app even lets you edit videos, not just photos.

The device is designed to be very portable and avoid wearing down. Its battery life is 4 to 6 hours, and it’s resistant to shock, dust, and water, which is helpful if you’re traveling out in the elements.

If you have a camera and want to be able to save, access, edit, and share your photos on the go, take a look at GNARBOX!

Learning Resources Code & Go Robot Mouse Activity Set

This Activity Set from Learning Resources is another offering in the fun-but-educational tech toys category. This set helps kids practice coding by giving them something fun to do and getting them involved. Many aspects of coding may appear less than fun at first, but this toy teaches while making it entertaining.

The Code & Go Robot Mouse has kids build mazes using brightly colored maze pieces. Then kids think it through and code the mouse to make it go around the roadblocks, moving through the maze to get to the toy cheese at the end. The mouse itself is also bright and fun-looking, and it also makes sounds, has lights, and moves at two different speeds.

The product description notes that this toy works on several important areas of learning. Kids can learn about critical thinking, as well as problem-solving. And of course, it introduces kids to basic concepts of coding. It does all this while keeping kids’ attention by being visually appealing and “hands-on.”

Head over to Amazon and read more about Learning Resources’ toys and how they might fit with the kids in your life!

Exercise Your Mind with Apps

Exercise Your Mind with Apps

In case you didn’t know, smartphones and tablets aren’t just for playing Clash of Clans and watching viral cat videos at any given moment. Mobile devices can also be used to expand your knowledge and keep you in good mental shape!

There are many apps available that can help people exercise their minds and learn more about mentally-challenging subjects. There are, of course, games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles readily available. Other apps, though, use games and other techniques to do things like keep your mind fit and improve your memory. Though these apps have not all been studied to see what the results of using them are, they are at least entertaining and typically feel good to play.

If you’re like me, you might decide to keep at least one app on your phone or tablet that is slightly more educational than your typical bubble shooter game. Here is just a sampling of apps you might want to use to keep your brain on its toes (so to speak):

Brain Yoga Brain Training Game

Brain Yoga is an app available through Google Play and in the App Store. The app uses games to improve many aspects of the mind, including improving memory and vocabulary. There are currently eleven different kinds of puzzle games, and there are different ranges on difficulty for each one. The description in Google Play specifically mentions there isn’t any “timer pressure” and there aren’t any “high scores,” meaning there’s no stress. The games are bright, colorful, and clean. Brain Yoga is a good option for a multi-purpose mind exercise app.

Elevate – Brain Training Games

Elevate is another multi-use mind training app that is available on Google Play and in the App Store. The app has over 40 games, and it helps with things like productivity and math. It also strengthens memory and other cognitive processes. It personalizes your challenges for you as you use it, and it makes a point to challenge its users. Check out Elevate for a personalized and expansive set of mind-exercising games.

Lumosity – Brain Training

Lumosity is available on Google Play and in the App Store. It has over 50 games intended to improve your brain in many different ways. It’s touted on their website as being “created by scientists and game designers.” The games do things like improve memory and the ability to pay attention. It also keeps track of your progress and shows you how your training is going. Lumosity is a hugely popular mind exercise app. Take a look at their website to see what Lumosity has to offer.

Mind Games

Mind Games is a multi-purpose brain exercise app that is on Google Play and in the App Store. It has almost three dozen games intended to exercise the mind in areas like attention and vocabulary. Many of the listed games also focus on improving memory. The app will show you a graph of the progress you’ve made, so you can keep track of how you’re doing. The app description does note that some of the games can be played up to three times and then must be upgraded to play more, but since there are quite a few games, this may not become an issue. Mind Games is a decently popular option for exercising your mind.

Peak

Peak can be found on Google Play and in the App Store. It focuses on a range of different skills, like coordination, emotional control, and like most others, memory. There are more than 40 available games, and the App Store description notes the games were “developed by neuroscientists and game experts.” The app is free, but you can also get access to Pro features for a cost. You can also go up against your friends who have the app, giving this app a bit of a competitive air. Peak is a fairly well-known and expansive choice for a multi-use mind training app.

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

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!

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

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.

College isn’t just for trust fund kids: free online courses offered by leading universities

College isn’t just for trust fund kids: free online courses offered by leading universities

I used to think higher education was only for geniuses or people with lots of money. I was working two jobs and barely getting by, and if someone hadn’t helped me figure out how to make use of the educational resources at my disposal, I would still be living paycheck to paycheck rather than building a career.

The truth is, it is easier than ever to get educated, and cheaper too. There are loads of resources at your fingertips if you know how to find them. But for many people, that is the sticking point: you have to know what you have access to in order to get an education, but if you aren’t in the educational system, chances are high that you don’t know what you have access to.

Of course, not all knowledge comes with a degree, and not all degrees come with all that much knowledge. There are plenty of degreed and degree-less options and plenty of jobs that value demonstration of skill above a degree. Depending on your goals and interests, a combination of the two is likely the best bet for most people.

Almost all degree courses cost money, but not all degrees guarantee a well-paying job, or even any job, while there are plenty of self-taught people working for leading companies all over the world.

You can take classes online, now more than ever. Most colleges in the U.S. recognize the value and convenience of the virtual classroom to teachers and students, although few offer full degrees online. Some classes lend themselves to a digital platform (like computer sciences) while others are more difficult, though not impossible. I took Spanish 101 online using video chatting software (like Skype) to communicate with my teacher and classmates, and it was difficult, though not impossible.

YouTube is the only thing that got me through a college algebra class with a bad teacher. Math is not my strongest suite (which is why I am an English major!), but I found a wealth of tutors on YouTube teaching everything I needed to know. I found one who explained things in a way that made sense to me and then watched whichever of his videos corresponded with what I was learning. I also found YouTube tutors for Spanish and learning Adobe Photoshop. The best part is that if they are moving too fast for you to follow along, you can pause or rewind the video.

  • Crash Course is a channel owned and operated by John and Hank Green (the Vlogbrothers) and a team of experts, aimed at providing an easy-to-follow and entertaining overview of topics like world history, biology, physics, literature, and more.
  • Sci Show is another channel by the same people focused on topics in science.

Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs) are courses offered online (mostly for free) through some of the best universities, like Stanford, Harvard, MIT, John Hopkins, and University of Michigan. Some offer a certification at the end of their courses—which, while it isn’t a degree, is at least something tangible to show your hard work. But a few do also offer actual college credit, which can be transferred to the school of your choice.

You can learn about data science, robotics, programming, business, social sciences, take foreign language classes, and more.

  • Coursera also offers four Masters Programs entirely online for a fee and intends to add 15 to 20 new degree programs by 2019.
  • edX is very similar to Coursera, so if you can’t find what you are looking for on one site, check the other.
  • Udacity is partnered with Google, Amazon, IBM and other leading tech companies to offer—surprise—training in the cutting edge technology of tomorrow. If you want to program websites, work on self-driving cars, develop artificial intelligence, or work with virtual reality, this may be the site for you. Some courses are free, some cost money. But all promise to set you up with real-world skills you can use to get into a career.
  • Kadenze is focused on the arts, giving students a footing in the software they need to create music, art, and design projects. It also allows students to access many of their resources for free, but a $10/month membership fee unlocks all the features of an actual online learning experience, as well as all the classes and a certificate of completion. That’s the cost of a Netflix membership!

 

Robot writers are taking my job

Robot writers are taking my job

Robots are in the news a lot these days, and if it seems a little hard to believe, I was right there with you until they started writing for the Associated Press.

That’s right. They are taking over my job.

The Associated Press is using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) program to write their more data-heavy articles (such as corporate earnings reports), and have been doing so for a couple of years. The program is called Wordsmith (generated by Automated Insights), and “uses natural language generation to turn data into a written, plain-language narrative,” just like I have been doing for all my college career.

saying generated by InspiroBot: Nobody is ordering you to act mediocre

Well excuse me. I would like to see a degree.
(Inspirational sayings generated by InspiroBot: https://inspirobot.me/)

At the risk of sounding a little racist (speciesist? Tech-ist?), I say go home, Computron, and quit taking all our jobs!

Apparently, the breakthrough in AI that allows computers to acquire the skill I have spent years developing is called “deep learning.” The computer uses algorithms to learn things that were not specifically programmed into its system. The Google team that developed the technology tested it by feeding the AI YouTube videos. Predictably, the AI learned a lot about cats.

Iggy sleeping on my keyboard

I already know about cats. Wordsmith will never know how soft they are! But I guess it will also never have this problem, as it does not use keys

Facebook has also been using AI (or bots) to sniff out fake news articles, locate terrorist activity on its site, and identify suicidal individuals, all tasks that humans have had a lot of trouble managing on such a large-scale platform.

So far AI is being used for big chunks of data-saturated grunt work. But they can’t really replicate human emotion. Right? I still have that going for me. Right?

Affectiva is helping AI learn to recognize feelings 

Maybe robots can’t love (that’s right, Wordsmith, I said it. How does that feel? You don’t know, do you?), but they are developing the ability to empathize. Affectiva is a program from MIT that can recognize human emotion from reading your face. While this sounds a little creepy, the idea is that it could improve recommendation software for sites like Netflix and Google, and even predict content that will go viral. The digital world is a cold and impersonal one, and emotional recognition software aims to bridge the gap between information and feeling.

Personally, I already get creeped out when Google uses my first name or asks me about something I don’t remember telling it. I can’t imagine if it started asking me why I am sad/angry/excited.

In conclusion, I am preferable to a robot because:

 

Robots Me
Turns data into sentences Turns data into sentences
Knows about cats Knows about cats
Can’t even love Loves cats and my husband
Doesn’t even know how soft cats feel Pets kitties every day
Can empathize Is sort of empathetic
Will spy on you Won’t spy on you

 

Internet 101: Overview of security basics

Internet 101: Overview of security basics

Recently, Wombat Security Technologies surveyed 2,000 adults in the U.S. and U.K. to see how secure their online habits were, and measure the average level of knowledge about online risks. The results were disappointing (though perhaps not to companies who specialize in online security training, like Wombat Security). Wombat vice president of marketing Amy Baker states, “We often find that those of us who work in cyber security overestimate the knowledge the general public has on cyber security risks and basic secure behaviors.”

Two-thirds of those surveyed didn’t know what ransomware is, and nearly one-third didn’t know what phishing is. Half of the U.S. group had been victims of identity theft. Considering the abundance of online threats that have sprung up seemingly overnight, including the unprecedented WannaCry attacks and the Petya virus in May, maybe a refresher of online security terms and best practices is in order.

First things first. There is no need to panic. Most of the attacks are targeted at large corporations. Most, but not all. There are still plenty of scams and threats for those who are vulnerable. Online criminals are just like real-world criminals: opportunists. If you leave your valuables in plain sight in an unlocked car, they probably won’t be there when you come back. If you hide them and lock the doors, chances are good that thieves won’t bother you.

Keeping your online accounts and files secure is never a sure thing, but there is plenty you can do to lower your risks. If you at least make yourself a difficult target, thieves will most likely move on to easier pickings.

Basic security terms

Malware

Malware is an umbrella term to describe any software or program designed to damage computers or files. Viruses, trojans, spyware, and ransomware are all malware.

Ransomware refers to software attacks that take your files ransom: your files are encrypted, and you get a message with instructions to send payment to an untraceable account to regain access. Most attacks have been to companies and government servers, and individuals are at a low risk of attack. Unencrypting the files rather than paying the ransom hasn’t been successful and even paying does not guarantee you will get access to your files back. The best protection is prevention. Backing up your important files in a separate location (an external hard drive or a password protected cloud account) is already something everyone should be doing, but that many do not. Windows has issued a patch to secure the breach that was being exploited, so if you have a computer running Windows and have installed all available updates, you are not vulnerable to WannaCry.

Viruses are malware that spread rapidly by attaching themselves to other files.

Trojans are malware that looks like normal software. A Trojan lets other malware in.

Spyware doesn’t interfere—it records what you do, including passwords, account numbers, and other sensitive information.

Adware isn’t inherently malicious, though targeted ads, spam, and popups can make you feel attacked. And adware has to get through your security, leaving holes for other malware.

Phishing

Phishing refers to any scam where the scammer contacts you to try to get information or money. It could be on the phone, through email, through social media, or a website. It may be obvious (asking for information or to wire transfer money), or more subtle (clicking a link or installing/downloading a file, which then collects the information or transfers the funds).

To see examples of phishing, visit Microsoft support.

Facebook hackers

Sometimes your friends are not your friends: Facebook accounts regularly get hacked, and then the hacker can trade on the trust between friends to spread scams. Often the owner of the compromised account doesn’t even know what is happening. If a friend is posting links that seem out of the ordinary or making offers that promise free money or goods, it may be worthwhile to contact your friend offline to see if they are really behind the posts.

Mobile devices

The term “mobile device” doesn’t just refer to your smartphone. The growing “Internet of Things” includes smart watches and Fitbits, tablets, home networks and security, smart TVs, cameras—even refrigerators; anything that is connected to the internet or a network and isn’t an actual laptop or desktop computer is a mobile device. The problem with mobile devices (especially older ones) is that security updates are often neglected, or non-existent. Software companies are stepping up their security game with these smaller devices as attacks increase, but as with any new technology, it takes time to work out the kinks. Meanwhile, it is better to save your information sensitive transactions for your more secure devices.

Firewalls

According to Microsoft, “a firewall is a software program or piece of hardware that helps screen out hackers, viruses, and worms that try to reach your computer over the Internet.”

What can you do?

Use passwords. This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it: use passwords.

Choose a secure password—use numbers, symbols, and capital letters, and for the love of Pete, don’t use your name, birthday, or “password.”

Use different passwords—if a hacker does get into one of your accounts, that’s bad. If they have all of your accounts, that’s worse. Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t share your password. Just because you trust someone doesn’t mean they are trustworthy. But it also doesn’t mean that they will be as careful with your accounts as you would be.

Only conduct business on secure Wi-Fi connections.

Public connections (hotels, coffee shops, airports) aren’t secure just because the business is one you trust. Places with a password that you need to get from the clerk (or that is printed on a receipt) are a little better than those with an open network (no password needed), but it’s better to wait till you are in a secure connection to send sensitive emails or do your online shopping.

Regularly update your software.

I’m as guilty as the next person of putting off that “update required” notification, but procrastination can get you in trouble: security teams who are keeping up with weaknesses in their software need you to install their patches, or you don’t benefit from their services., and it is usually something the software developer has developed and update to fix, meaning that those not updating regularly are at risk. The patches to stop the WannaCry attacks were available in March. “This isn’t rocket science; it’s an oil change,” comments David Venable, a former intelligence officer with the US National Security Agency.

If something seems too good to be true, be suspicious and do your homework

Don’t call me, I’ll call you: Don’t share personal info with anyone who contacts you; tell them you will contact them with the deets. This includes spam emails: if you didn’t solicit an email, or don’t know the person who sent it, don’t open attachments. This is how many viruses spread. Even if you do know the person who sent it, exercise caution. Email accounts can get hacked.

Never, ever wire transfer money to someone you don’t know in person, and can’t talk to on the phone. The same goes for giving out your credit card number. When shopping online, companies like eBay and Amazon offer protections and refunds if your goods never show up, and PayPal does too—not to mention that the payment can be can be tracked if something fishy happens, and individuals don’t have access to your account information.

Only download files from trusted sites. Your anti-virus software can only do so much.

Make sure you have firewalls and antivirus software installed and updated

AVG currently has some of the best free antivirus software. Or you can pay a little for more advanced security. You can even get security for your smartphone.

Cat has picture taken by phone security

I can haz credit card number?

Cat tries to unlock phone: https://imgur.com/ZfFg47qIf you have a computer that runs Windows Vista or newer OS, you have a firewall installed and running by default. For other operating systems, you should check with the provider to see if you are protected.

Backup

An external hard drive or secure, password-protected cloud storage should be a regular part of your internet security plan. If your computer files do get corrupted, either maliciously or not, having separate copy means you won’t lose everything. But the key word is “separate”: leaving your external hard-drive connected to your computer network defeats the purpose.

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.

Alcamy offers open self-learning to learn or teach anything

Alcamy offers open self-learning to learn or teach anything

There’s a lot of great education services on the web, and many of them offer free classes on a ton of different subjects, but have you checked out Alcamy yet? It’s a bit like the Wikipedia of learning courses. Alcamy has set out to offer an open source method of learning and teaching that relies on a combination of experts and an active learning tool called Darwin. In short, they hope to let anyone learn anything, for free! We love any service that offers opportunities for people to harness the power of their Internet connection for great purposes like learning new skills or just learning for the joy of it!

From their Introduction:

Topics

Experts and self-learners organize the resources of the web into cronological programs that you can learn from.

Resources

Resources are individual articles, projects, videos or presentations that are the actual learning material being curated.

Quizzes

Each resource is attached to a quiz. Actively test your understanding right then and there. Track your progress over time.

Community

Each topic has a community of self-learners and experts. Ask them for help, discuss material. The learning resources under each topic self-adjust and improve as more people take them.

We’re taking an open, Wikipedia-like approach to curating content & information for self-learning. Call it a Wikipedia + Coursera + Reddit mashup. Our mission is to make learning and teaching using the resources already available on the web open, free and exciting!

 Visit Alcamy.org to learn more about their exciting new platform!