Duolingo founder Luis von Ahn — he’s a tech entrepreneur and Carnegie Mellon professor.
If you scan the computer screens at your campus library, what do you see?
Some students may have a Word document and you might see a journal article or two and a student here or there diligently cranking out that research paper. However, it’s more likely that the screen is cluttered with an array of social media sites, blogs and the latest Internet meme. All of these distractions are fun and offer a great way to unwind, but they certainly won’t help you ace that Spanish midterm.
Wouldn’t it be better if the web could be productive instead of a way to procrastinate?
Well, there are several online services aiming to do just that. Websites such as Duolingo, Free Rice, Lizard Point and TED Talks offer unique ways to master everything from foreign languages to composition.
Which of these sites best suits your academic (and entertainment!) needs?
Want to breeze through French I, or charm that Brazilian exchange student? Nothing beats Duolingo.com for becoming proficient in a second language. Learn French, Portuguese, Spanish, German or Italian in a game-like format.
Earn points by correctly answering questions across varying levels of difficulty (basic through advanced) and in alternating formats (from translating written and spoken sentences, to actually speaking phrases into a microphone). This site also syncs with your Facebook profile, so you can challenge your friends from Spanish class to see who can get the most points!
The creator of this app also has an incredible goal in mind – translating the entire web.
Feed your brain and children in need by visiting FreeRice.com. It gives you a word and four possible definitions — every time you select the correct definition, ten grains of rice are donated to the World Food Program.
The words are very basic at the beginning but become progressively more challenging. This site is a great tool if your professor likes to give weekly vocabulary quizzes, but it can also help with that research paper. Free Rice is an entertaining way to learn fresh, interesting words that will make your writing more engaging.
After a few minutes of playing (and helping to end hunger!), you will feel good and possibly inspired to begin revising your paper.
Need to take Geography of Europe (or North America or Asia) as part of your liberal studies? Look no further than Lizard Point. It offers online quizzes on the geography of every region of the globe.
Simply select the area you’re studying and Lizard Points has you match the name of a country, state or city to its spot on a corresponding map. It’s easier (and much more fun!) than printing out dozens of practice maps — and you can challenge a history major to see who can get the best score.
Want to pick a paper topic that will actually hold your (and your professor’s) interest? No matter the subject, find the biggest ideas and innovations in a variety of fields on TED Talks.
This organization asks some of today’s most intriguing, influential figures (think Bill Gates, Michelle Obama, and Star Trek’s J.J. Abrams) to give brief lectures on the topic of their choice. For English, try author Elizabeth Gilbert’s talk on the nature of creativity and her process for writing Eat, Pray, Love and researcher Nina Tandon’s talk on how she’s growing artificial tissue for transplants could be great for a pre med course.
Find a speaker that piques your interest and you are sure to be hooked!
Next time you are tempted to log on to Facebook, try clicking on one of these free, easy-to-use websites instead. They are as entertaining as Farmville, but much more likely to boost your GPA.
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