Back to School: 15 Apps to Up Your Smarts
Adult education doesn’t have to be limited to formal schooling. While many of us rely on our smartphones for aimlessly scrolling through Instagram, plenty of apps add more substantial value. Here are 15 apps that allow you to use your phone to up your smarts.
1. DUOLINGO; FREE
Did you know that the United States became the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country in 2015? Mastering another language (or more than one) may sound like a difficult task, but an app like Duolingo breaks it into digestible daily lessons and tracks your learning streak. Spanish isn’t the only option, either (although it is the most popular with nearly 72 million learners). Including its beta offerings—Greek, Hungarian, Ukrainian and Hebrew—, Duolingo offers English speakers courses in 20 languages.
2. DIYZ; FREE
Being able to accomplish projects around the house—whether hanging a shelf or repairing a ceiling fan—can save a surprising amount of money. But sometimes, it’s hard to know where to start. That’s where DIYZ comes in. You can search this app by project, and it will offer step-by-step instructions, how-to-videos, tools and materials lists, and the option (for a fee) to actually video chat with project advisors.
2. DAILY ART; FREE
Drawing a blank when it comes to art history? Every day, bone up on one famous work and its story with this app from Moiseum.
4. LRN; FREE
Find it: iOS
5. STAR WALK; $2.99
This next app will leave you starry-eyed. Stargazing is even more fun when you know what you’re staring at. Star Walk is essentially an interactive star chart. By pointing your phone at the sky, you’ll be shown what stars, planets, satellites, and constellations are above you.
6. LEARNVEST; FREE
Learning about finances can feel overwhelming, but it can sure pay. LearnVest links to your bank accounts, credit cards, loans and so on, while providing information meant to serve as a path towards financial goals of your choosing, like budgeting better, earning more, dealing with loans, investing better, or buying a house. LearnVest also offers access (for extra money, of course—a $299 fee plus ongoing $19 per month subscription) to its expert planners, which can be an even better way to boost your financial knowledge.
Find it: iOS
7. HOW TO COOK EVERYTHING; $9.99
Learning to cook comes with a plenty of benefits—some related to health, some related to pleasure. And in the cooking world, New York Times columnist Mark Bittman’s book How to Cook Everything is gospel. Now, though, you can access all the same information on your smartphone with the How to Cook Everything app. While $9.99 may seem like a lot next to all the free apps on this list, it’s less than half the price of the actual book, is far more convenient, and is packed with 2000 recipes and 400 how-to illustrations.
Find it: iOS
8. UDEMY; PRICES VARY
Udemy’s extensive (but not free) course library can also be accessed by app. For those not familiar, Udemy is the largest online course library in the world, with over 13 million students and 40,000 courses. One key perk of the app? Offline access. Just download the lectures or articles ahead of time, and you can continue your “online” class without wi-fi.
9. HEADSPACE; FREE (TO START)
Meditation takes focus and repetition. Headspace offers a shortcut; users first learn to meditate with 10-minute-per-day meditation lessons. The app is free, as are these intro sessions. After that, Headspace runs on subscriptions. The monthly rate is $12.95, while a yearly commitment shaves about $5 per month off that.
10. WOLFRAM APP, FREE
This app is essentially Google search on steroids; instead of giving you links, it gives you the answers. The artificial intelligence platform calls itself a “computational knowledge engine” and uses over 10 trillion data points plus countless algorithms to do everything from plot a complex math equation to answer your question about global education disparity. With its premium feature (which costs $1), you can also input images directly into the system for analysis.
11. TED, FREE
This app includes the full TED library, plus curated playlists sorted by topics. And as one reviewer noted, the app is extremely searchable, so “if you hear something you like in the radio hour podcast, you can find the entire talk here in the app.”
12. CRAFTSY, PRICES VARY
Whether you’re looking to knit a quilt or perhaps just find a new avenue for exercising your creative muscles, Craftsy has you covered. This app offers courses, guides, instructions, videos and discussions for cooking, card-making, sewing, art, and so much more. While there are a few free classes and patterns available, the bulk of the library is paid, with classes ranging from $9.99 to just over $100.
13. LUMINOSITY; FREE
Luminosity is meant to be a gym for your mind, offering fun, short games that promise to hone your attention, focus, intuition and more. As with many apps on this list, the “basic membership” is free but limited. For the full library, it’ll cost you $15 a month.
14. CLAPPING MUSIC APP
Are you that person always clapping off-beat at concerts? Believe it or not, there’s an app for that. Steve Reich’s Clapping Music is a free game that’s meant to improve rhythm. Several critics have compared it to Rock Band. Of course, the perk is that you can take this game with you wherever you go.
Find it: iOS
15. SCRIBD, $8.99 per month
Scribd is a good way to keep fresh reading (and listening) materials in your hands regularly. The app is packed with reading lists, magazine articles, audio books, comics, news and more. For $8.99 a month, you get three books and one audiobook, plus access to countless government reports, academic dissertations, scientific studies, and other materials.