No matter what you thought in elementary school, learning doesn’t have to grind to a halt once you have your diploma in hand.
In fact, there are numerous reasons why the continuing education sector is experiencing rapid growth: Baby boomers are eyeing new career paths, the world’s economy depends on a highly educated workforce, and people see continuing education as a way to keep pace with peers as industries and technologies constantly grow and advance.
Continuing education could give you access to new opportunities, better-paying jobs, and an advantage over your peers. But it’s also important to remember that learning doesn’t always have to take place in a classroom.
In fact, if you download some of the apps below, they’ll turn your environment into a setting that’s full of ways to learn.
Open Buildings (iOS, Free)
Search from a directory of over 40,000 buildings to learn about the structures around you. Get directions to cool buildings in your area. OpenBuildings is an open directory of architectural designs for architects, interior designers, contractors, engineers and other professionals.
The layman can use the searchable resource to appreciate good design and get an insight how our cities are changing. Anyone interested in architecture or design can get to know more about the people behind those designs.
Download: Open Buildings for iOS (Free)
MyNature Animal Tracks (iOS, $1.99)
This self-contained app works without a Wi-Fi connection and features wildlife photographs and illustrations of animal tracks found across North America to help you determine which creatures inhabit the area. The app is a digital field guide with gorgeous photos and a nature journal to help record your sightings. It has a built-in ruler, so you can measure the tracks you spot, plus sound files of common animal vocalizations.
For hikers, this wildlife education app can be a good way to combine adventure with learning more about the environment around the trails. You can
Download: MyNature Animal Tracks for iOS ($1.99)
Shazam (iOS, Android & Windows, Free)
This app listens to music in your environment and tries to identify the artist and song. It also features purchase links, so you can easily buy beloved tracks once you learn the band or singer responsible for creating them. You can even use the app without an Internet connection.
Shazam’s machine learning algorithm can identify obscure songs, but as the developers say — “Shazam is more than just identification. It is the beginning of a journey where the user can discover more on the music and TV they love.”
Photomath (iOS & Android, Free)
Get help solving math problems via your smartphone’s camera. It doesn’t only provide the answers — it also takes you through each step necessary to reach solutions. Alternatively, you can input the problem on the built-in keyboard, effectively using the app as a replacement for a calculator.
Non-English speakers can also take its help as the app is also localized with sixteen languages.
AroundMe (iOS, Android & Windows, Free)
Learning can begin with knowing about what’s around us. Local discovery can be a step forward in meeting new people in fresher surroundings. AroundMe helps you become acquainted with your current location. Use the local guides to find nooks and crannies you didn’t know existed. Search for the closest ATM or find inspiration for new places to eat.
Available in seven languages, this app is among the most used local search applications worldwide.
Star Walk 2 (iOS & Android, $2.99 or less)
Star Walk 2 is an award-winning app that more than 10 million people use to become acquainted with the sky. Simply point your device toward the heavens and the app detects more than 200,000 plants, stars, constellations and satellites.
For anyone interested in astronomy, this could be an invaluable tool to begin their stargazing journey.
Google Translate (iOS & Android, Free)
Point your phone at text and translate foreign words to English, or words in English to another language! The app even works without an Internet connection. There’s also a text-based translation feature, so you can type words to uncover their meanings.
With 103 languages at your command, living and learning from a cosmopolitan world gets easier.
Visual Dictionary [Broken URL Removed] (iOS & Android, Free)
Take a picture of an unknown item in your surroundings and the app will search through millions of online pictures to find out what it is and how it’s used. Geared toward people who are learning English as a second language, this app also tells you how to pronounce the words.
Download: Visual Dictionary [No Longer Available]
Eventful (iOS & Android, Free)
Find things to do around the world based on your location or the venues near you. A map feature shows events happening near you, but you can also scan the music you listen to and receive alerts when favorite performers are heading your way.
Download: Eventful for iOS (Free)
Cities Talking (iOS & Android, Price may vary)
This app delivers n-demand audio tours that begin automatically as you approach landmarks. Pause, rewind and fast-forward the commentary as needed. You can also read text of the commentary on your screen in case you’re in public without a pair of earbuds.
The app also works without incurring roaming charges on your phone. There’s a tour notes feature that lets you record memorable tidbits, too.
Download: Cities Talking [No Longer Available]
MyRadar (iOS, Android & Windows Phone, Free)
Receive animated weather radar data for the United States, so you can see when storms are in the vicinity. You can also take pictures of local weather and share them with others, or turn on push notifications to receive alerts about potentially dangerous weather.
Why should you try to learn more about the weather? It could be for the “selfish” reason of keeping yourself safe during hazardous weather. It could also be for understanding how our ecological footprint is changing the weather around us as the years pass.
Keep Learning, Without The Cost of More Schooling
There are various advantages related to continuing education, according to analysts. It could obviously help you become more competitive in the job market, but there’s more to it than that. Lifelong learning could increase your sense of worth and provide you with opportunities to learn about things that have always fascinated you.
Classroom learning may spring to mind when you think about education, but the apps above prove that you can explore your environment and about the little things you miss. All you have to do is combine your inquisitiveness with the powerful capabilities of a smartphone.
How will you learn from your surroundings today? Tell us in the comments section below, or suggest another app like these.