Learning is the art of becoming more interesting.
The more things you know, the more conversations you can contribute to meaningfully. And the modern web offers a wealth of surprisingly easy ways to learn about almost anything.
Whether you want to improve your memory, learn to play the piano or understand more about complex topics like history, physics, and intellectual property, today’s Cool Websites and Apps has you covered.
What will you teach yourself?
FlashTabs (Chrome): Memorize Something with Every New Tab
We’ve talked about how you can memorize anything with active recall memory, but most software for the job has a major weak point: you need to remember to actually use it. FlashTabs makes things easier by showing you a flash card every time you open a new tab.
Click “Show”, and you’ll be shown the answer:
Rate how well you recalled this particular question. If you didn’t recall it well, you’ll end up seeing that question more often.
There are some downsides: unlike Anki, the dedicated flash card solution we’ve talked about before, you can’t import or sync your flash cards. But the best flash cards are ones you actually use, so FlashTab’s ability to show up every time you mindlessly open a new tab might be a killer feature for you.
Flowkey: Follow Along and Learn Piano
In the 80’s and 90’s there were all sorts of keyboards on the market with built in tutorials, lighting up the keys you need in order to play a song. Flowkey turns your laptop into something similar, showing you both the keys you should strike and the notes that you’re playing.
The on-screen display uses the microphone to hear what you’re playing, so it won’t keep playing if you stop.
There are some awkward things about this: not every piano has a good spot to put an entire laptop, for example, and your laptop might not have a great mic for the job.
Still, if you have been thinking of teaching yourself piano, this could be a great way to get started. Or, if you want more options, check out some other sites for learning piano online
TimeLine (iOS, Web): News, with Historic Context
Sometimes it seems like the news is assuming you already know the background on every story you read. Timeline is an app and news organization that tries to give you more background, for some stories providing thousands of years of history.
We’ve gone through lots of tech for learning about history, but this new service is unique for providing context for current stories. It’s also easy to browse, too, thanks to its simple design. Install the app, or check out the web version.
Minute Physics Course: Get a Quick Understanding of Complex Ideas
We’ve told you that Henry Reich’s Minute Physics project is one of those STEM video channels that you can’t miss. Simple animation and concise editing allows Reich to explain complex ideas in just a couple of minutes.
The Minute Physics Course combines all of these great videos into something resembling a class.
Longtime fans of Minute Physics won’t find anything new here, but if you haven’t heard of the channel before, this site organizes a variety of concise physics lessons in a way that gives you an overview. It’s a quick way to learn a whole lot, so check it out.
Beginning with courses on world history and biology back in 2012, Crash Course has been providing all sorts of high-quality educational videos since then. The latest course, which should be of interest to anyone with an Internet connection in 2015, is all about Intellectual Property.
Longtime Crash Course director Stan Muller steps in front of the camera for this series, which begins with a look at the plus side of Intellectual Properties. On an Internet where everyone only ever complains about the ownership of ideas, it’s really refreshing to see someone outline why the current systems exist. I’m sure he’ll be getting to the downsides in the weeks to come.
What Will You Teach Yourself?
The Internet gives you staggering access to information – if you want to learn something, you can. How will you take advantage of that?
Let me know of any additional websites for learning in the comments below, along with any skills you’d like to learn. There’s a good chance I can point you to resources for it.