Best Study Apps, Tools, Tips and Techniques

When it’s time to buckle down and study, technology can either be a help or a hindrance but investing in the right tools will go a long way towards ensuring that you stay motivated, don’t get distracted and your productivity is boosted. The following 20 apps and gadgets will help you with everything from writing and researching to managing your time more efficiently.

How to be Effective when Studying – Best Study Apps, Tools, Tips & Techniques by Open Colleges

LifehackerU: A list of great courses for summer

Your education doesn’t have to stop once you leave school—freedom from the classroom just means you have more control over what you learn and when you learn it. We’ve put together a curriculum of some of the best free online classes available on the web this fall for our latest term of Lifehacker U, our regularly-updating guide to improving your life with free, online college-level classes. Let’s get started.

Computer Science and Technology
  • Harvard University – CS50X: Introduction to Computer Science – Professor David J. Malan – It’s fall, which means it’s time to revisit one of our favorite courses; Harvard’s excellent Introduction to Computer Science course. When freshmen arrive at Harvard looking to study CompSci, this is the course they land in first, and you can take it online. In this class you’ll learn the basics of computer science, learn to code from the ground up, and study languages like C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML. You’ll solve real problems in biology, cryptography, finance, forensics, and gaming. It’s demanding, but it’s an amazing course. Supplimental material is available at
  • University of Toronto – Learn to Program: The Fundamentals – Professors Jennifer Campbell and Paul Gries – If CS50 is a little too much for you, or you’re just too busy for an intensive course like that, you can still learn to code. This course from the University of Toronto is a little less intensive, but still teaches you the groundwork and required skills to understand development and programming. The course is designed for people who have never even seen a computer program, so you don’t need to know any languages or be familiar with coding tools in order to make the most of it. In fact, you don’t need any background in technology for it—aside from a desire to learn how your favorite apps or desktop programs are built.
  • Indian Institute of Technology Delhi – Web Intelligence and Big Data – Professor Gautam Shroff – If you’ve heard the phrase "big data" and you’ve never really been sure what it means, or how it ties into the reams upon reams of so-called "anonymous" information that businsses collect on your browsing habits, visits, trends, and behaviors, this course is for you. You’ll need a background in some database administration to make the most of it, since you’ll actually build some smart, web-enabled applications in the process, and if you’re interested in a career in business intelligence, this course is definitely for you.
  • Udacity – Mobile Web Development – Professors Chris Wilson and Peter Lubbers – developing for the mobile web isn’t easy, and it’s not just because of smaller screens. You have to consider touch as a primary interface for your site or application, variable screen sizes, users using your service in desktop mode on a mobile device, and more. This course will teach you how to build mobile web experiences that enrich your users and visitors, and even use open APIs available for mobile devices, like geolocation, accelerometer access, and more. You’ll also learn how to evaluate mobile performance, so you can make sure your apps and tools work even when network access is spotty.
  • Udacity/San Jose State University – Introduction to Programming (Java) – Professor Cay Horstmann – If you’re more interested in developing for mobile devices like Android, or if you just want to hone in on one of the most popular (but often most reviled) programming languages in heavy use today, this course will teach you Java, inside and out. In the course you’ll get familiar with classes, methods and argument passing, loops, and more. By the end, you’ll be familiar with the language and have used it in practical, useful applications.
  • Stanford University – Cryptography I – Professor Dan Boneh – Dan Boneh’s amazing crypto course is back for another term, and if you didn’t take it before, it’s time to take it now, especially with cryptography, security, and data collection by government and private organizations in the news. In the course you’ll learn how cryptography is everywhere, and how it secures communications, how powerful adversaries and decrypt and obtain encoded information, and study real world applications of cryptography.

Finance and Economics
  • Macquarie University – Financial Literacy – Professors Peter Mordaunt and Paul Clitheroe – If all of the buzzwords used in financial news confuse you, this is the course for you. Everyone needs to start somewhere with their finances, the first step is to understand the language, learn the difference between lifestyle goals and money goals, and learn about the tools and options available to you in the marketplace, from checking and savings accounts to investments and mutual funds. In this course you’ll learn the basics, build a plan for your own money, common money mistakes people fall into when they start budgeting, and learn how to follow it and stick to it for the long haul.
  • Technical And Further Education (TAFE) NSW – Syndey Instititute – Financial Planning – Professors Kerrie Adra and Diana Bugarcic – Once you’re familiar with the basics of financial literacy (or if you already are and you’re looking to step up a level), this course in financial planning will help you make heads and tails of your savings and investments from the perspective of a financial advisor. If you’re interested in becoming a financial advisor, this course will walk you through how to handle a client’s finances confidentially and in their best interest, and give you an idea of what financial planners actually do. It’s an ideal course for people who see themselves as future financial planners for others, or who just want to don the mantle of planner and manage their own finances.
  • Barnard College – Economics of Money and Banking, Part One – Professor Perry G Mehrling – Have you ever wondered how the economics of the world are so intertwined, and why banks in the US respond to sensitively to banks in the UK, or in Japan? Why, for example, the banking system seems to be this massive, incomprehensible institution that’s always on, day or night, and how things in one part of the world affect others? This course will help you understand, and also expose you to older banking traditions that may have a role in modern day financial institutions. You’ll learn the roles of central banking authorities, the root of the 2006-2007 financial collapse, and more.
  • The Open University – 60 Second Adventures in Economics (iTunes U) – Professor David MItchell – In quick, digestible bites designed to be listened to on your mobile device, this podcast series will teach you some basic principles of economics, like The Invisible Hand, the Paradox of Thrift, and more. You’ll learn how governments and other institutions decide to save or spend, whether to raise or lower interest rates, fix exchange rates, and more. You’ll also get some insight into economic history, like why Adam Smith valued free markets, or how Keynes reduced unemployment, how people’s behavior with money can be irrational, and more.
  • Stanford University – Entrprenurship Through the Lens of Venture Capital (iTunes U) – Interested in starting your own business? Maybe you have a brilliant idea that just needs to be real and you need some startup cash. Well, it may seem like venture capital is there for the taking and angel investors just rain money down on people with ideas, but the truth is a bit more complicated. This course can explains how startup companies can be successful funding, managing, and scaling their businesses using money from would-be investors aligned with their vision.

Science and Medicine
  • Udacity – Tales from the Genome – Professors Matthew Cook and Joanna Mountain – in a partnership with 23 and Me, this course will give you a basic introduction to genetics and DNA, with specific attention to the social, personal, and medical implications of your genome. You won’t need any experience with genetics, just an interest in what exactly our DNA does and doesn’t do, what traits it’s responsible for, and how genetics work on a larger scale. You’ll study legal issues around who can "own" a genome or someone else’s DNA, mutations and variations in genetics, and more.
  • Georgia Institute of Technology – Introduction to Physics I with Laboratory – Professor Michael F. Schatz – Physics is the study of how the universe around us works and interacts with itself and other objects within it, and while that all may sound complicated, this introductory course will get you familiar with physical topics, basic Newtonian mechanics, and more, all from the comfort of your computer. There is a lab involved though, so if you’re interested in getting out and seeing some of the principles you’ve studied in the real world, the course will guide you to that as well. Plus, this course uses computer graphics, motion capture, and modeling to help you really understand physical concepts, so you get to study bodies in motion to understand exactly how and why they move the way they do.
  • McHenry County College – Exploring Chemistry – Professor Li Li Zyzak, Ph.D. – Chemistry is one of the three pillars of science, and while it may seem daunting or imposing, this course can give you an introduction to the topic that’s easy to grasp and follow without dulling the topic down. This course will expose you to the fundamentals of chemistry, from solutions to precipitates and mixtures to elements on the periodic table and how they interact. No background in science or chemistry is required for the course, and it’s designed for people with an interest in the topic looking to take future courses, or just someone who wants to satisfy their curiosity.
  • MIT – Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life – Professors Eric S. Lander and Graham Walker – Speaking of a background in biology, if you’re not familiar with the topic at all or barely paid attention in high school, this course will spark your wonder for the living world that we’re all part of. Professor Lander worked on the Human Genome Project, and shares his experiences with new students looking to understand how genetics and DNA are the building blocks of life, the basics of DNA, RNA, and other proteins like amino acids that make up the expression of genetic material, gene therapy, and more.
  • MIT – Flight Vehicle Aerodynamics – Professors Mark Drela and Alejandra Uranga – Ever want to know how a modern aircraft, which can weigh several dozens of tons, stays afloat in the air seemingly effortlessly, while your paper airplane can’t get off the ground or comes crashing down as soon as you let go of it? This course explains the concepts of aerodynamics, and not just in modern aviation. By the end of the course, you’ll understand the forces operating on aircraft as they fly, how vortices work, what turbulence really is, and how to deconstruct the forces acting on any body moving through the air.
  • Columbia University – Virology I: How Viruses Work – Professor Vincent Racaniello, Ph.D. – Viruses aren’t like bacteria and the "germs" you’re used to hearing about. They behave in different ways, replicate differently, and while bacteria can be easily treated with something like antibiotics, when you have a viral infection like a cold or the flu, sometimes it’s all about keeping yourself bundled up and on light duty until it runs its course and your body’s immune system fights it off. Want to know how they work? This cours will get into it in great detail. You’ll learn how viruses propagate, how they work within a host’s body and cells, and more. You’ll need some background in biology to get the most from this one, but if you choose to audit, you can take what you can get and be amazed at the rest.
  • Georgetown University – Introduction to Bioethics – Professors Tom Beauchamp, John Keown, Rebecca Kukla, Margaret Little, Madison Powers, Karen Stohr, and Robert M. Veatch – If you’ve ever wondered or debated whether or not we should clone human beings, grow organs in labs, harvest organs from condemned prisoners, augment the human genome, or augment the human body, you’ve thought about topics in bioethics. All of these points are discussed in this robust course in science, ethics, philosophy, and where all three meet. You’ll hear a number of different perspectives and positions on the topic of science and medicine and whether human knowledge has outpaces our ethical responsibilities to one another. You’ll discuss and read about fundamental moral issues that come up in medicine, science, technology, and biology, and offer your own educated opinions on the matter.
  • University of British Columbia – Climate Literacy: Navigating Climate Change Conversations – Dr. Sarah Burch and Dr. Sara Harris – In this course, you’ll learn the difference between "climate" and "weather," and exactly how wrong people are when they experience a cold winter and then scoff at the topic of global climate change because it’s snowing in their neighborhood. You’ll learn the intricate connections between local, regional, and global climate, and discuss the social and political implications of the topic. Perhaps most directly, you’ll learn how to discuss topics like climate change in a manner that puts the emphasis on science, evidence, and objective proof when such conversations can quickly become heated and subjective.
  • Harvard University – Science & Cooking: From Haute Cuisine to Soft Matter Science – Professors Michael Brenner, David Weitz, and Pia Sörensen – We included this course last term, but it was so popular we had to mention it again now in the fall when more people might be interested in it. Cooking is chemistry, and chemistry is science, and you can learn a lot from the combination of top chefs and Harvard scientists that collaborated to put together this course. You’ll learn basic principles in physics and engineering as well as culinary arts, and cover topics like soft matter materials, such as emulsions, illustrated by aioli; elasticity, exemplified by the done-ness of a steak; and diffusion, revealed by the phenomenon of spherification, and more.

  • Canvas Network – Statistics in Education for Mere Mortals – Professor Lloyd Rieber – Statistics get a bad rap. Sure, numbers can be interpreted in many ways, but they don’t lie on their own, and this course will help you get your arms around what could otherwise be a tricky and complicated topic. You’ll learn the basics of statistical models, how to interpret and analyze statistical data, and basic principles and skills on the topic. You’ll build Excel spreadsheets and learn how to navigate them and process the data included, and study video-based tutorials that will help you crunch numbers with the best of them. The course overall is designed to be unintimidating and helpful, and is designed for people who want a better understanding of statistics and how they’re applied (with a focus on education), and for students who want to brush up their skills before taking more rigorous courses.
  • University of California Irvine – Pre-Calculus – Professors Sarah Eichhorn and Rachel Cohen Lehman – If you’re headed off to college for the first time this fall or you just want to brush up on some of the advanced mathematics that you may have forgotten over the years, this course will give you a healthy and easy-to-follow refresher. You’ll study basic mathematical concepts like trigonometry, algebra, linear equations, quadratic equations, polynomials, and more. It’s an excellent brush up course before you dive into college calculus, or if for the life of you you forget how to do a derivative and just wish you could remember.
  • Khan Academy – Algebra (iTunes U) – If algebra is where you need your refresher, this podcast series will help you get up to speed quickly. Each course is between five and ten minutes long and covers topics like linear equations, graphing, imaginary and irrational numbers, quadratic equations, proofs, and more. The courses are designed for you to follow them yourself, so you can tackle each topic as you see fit, or just brush up on the topics you know you need a little help with.

Social Sciences, Classics, and Humanities
  • The Hebrew University of Jerusalem – A Brief History of Humankind – Dr. Yuval Noah Harari – As the name implies, this course starts in the stone age with an overview of the various human species of the time and then progresses all the way through history to the technological revolutions of the 21st century. Make no mistake though, this is only partially a historical course. Along the way you’ll discuss topics like how humanity came to be the dominant species on the planet, why empires were so common in historical civilizations, how gender played a role in historical societies, whether or not progress meant happiness in the cultures of the past (and the present), and where we’ll likely go from here.
  • Harvard University – Unlocking the Immunity to Change: A New Approach to Personal Improvement – Professors Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey – If you’re reading Lifehacker, you’ve probably struggled with a goal or personal desire for change that just never seems to really manifest, even though you’ve tried. This course will help you understand why human beings are so resistant to change, why making significant changes in our lives is so incredibly difficult, and how to apply the lessons you’ll learn to your own personal goals. You’ll learn about new research that will help you unlock your own potential for change and overcome some of the psychological roadblocks that keep us stuck in our old routines and ruts, all through serious psychological study, exercises, video lessons, and more.
  • Curtis Institute of Music – Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas – Professor Jonathan Biss – This series of lectures will help you explore and listen to Beethoven’s piano sonatas in a new light, and take away an understanding of the time and place in which they were composed. Each lecture focuses on a different aspect of Beethoven’s music, and over the course you’ll study 32 of his greatest sonatas. You’ll understand why many musicians see Beethoven as the pinnacle of musical construction, but at the same time why he’s so casually regarded by most people who don’t even consider themselves fans of music.
  • Wellesley – Was Alexander Great? The Life, Leadership, and Legacies of History’s Greatest Warrior – Professor Guy MacLean Rogers – Alexander The Great is one of the most larger-than-life figures in human history, but what was his real story? His empire stretched across most of Europe and much of Asia, and many people considered him a god, and that was all before he turned 33 years old. What made him such a force in the ancient world, and what can we learn from him today? This course explores all of those topics, including some controversial ones involving the history of warfare, human sexuality, and historical relations between the east and west as a result of his life.
  • Saylor University – PHIL304: Existentialism – You’ve probably heard the phrase thrown around a lot, but what exactly is existentialism, and what does it mean to have an "existential crisis?" This course examines one of the most often referenced but poorly understood topics in philosophy from every angle. By the end of the course, you’ll understand its origins, logical reasoning, and how the philosophy has evolved over time.
  • Macquarrie University – Becoming Human: Anthropology (BeHuman) – Professor Greg Downey – This course in anthropology will take you on a whirlwind journey from pre-history through the modern day, and describe how some of the basic characteristics we associate with our humanity came to be. There’s discussion of Darwin and human evolution, but there’s also a great focus on the impact that our growing brains had on our societal development, and the role that sexual selection played even up to modern times (and the role that all of those factors still play in our societies).
  • The University of Melbourne – Animal Behaviour – Professors Raoul Mulder and Mark Elgar – If you’ve ever wondered why animals do what they do, where the line is between instinctual behavior and force of will, and why animal behavior is predictable at some times and completely wild at others, this course will illuminate the topic for you. You’ll come to understand how animals compete over resources, how evolutionary biology influences the actions of individuals and groups, mate selection, migration and movement patterns, and more. You’ll study the basics, like biology and evolution, but you’ll also get into social constructs and passed down traits, like familial behavior, parental care, social conflicts, and other interesting topics.

  • Flat World Knowledge – US Criminal Law – Professor Lisa Storm, Esq. – In this course you’ll study the basics and the cornerstone laws that found the US criminal justice system. You’ll study everything from the Constitution as a document that sets the boundaries of US criminal law, the elements of most criminal cases and criminal defenses, and a detailed exploration of topics involving criminal cases, how they unfolded, and why they ended the way they did. You’ll investigate topics involving violent crimes, gang activity, drug crime, theft and burglary, espionage, terrorism, and everything in between. If you’re thinking about a career in law, this course can help give you a peek into what you might be in for, and if you’re just interested in getting a deeper understanding of criminal justice in the United States, this course is great for that too.
  • Yale – Constitutional Law – Professor Akhil Reed Amar – The Constittution of the United States is the boundary framework of US law. Laws passed by any legislature in the United States have to stand up to examination to be sure they don’t violate the founding principles upon which the country was based. However, constitutional law is another topic that’s often referenced by laypeople but poorly understood by those same people. This course can help you understand the basics of constitutional law, how and why the document was drafted in the first place, how it’s evolved and been amended over the years, how interpretations of the Constitution have changed over the years, and how applicable the document and its tenets are today.
  • Griffith University – Understanding the Origins of Crime – Professor Dr. Aaron Sell – When we ask "why" someone committed a crime, we usually look to their direct motive—whether they were angry, needed money, wanted revenge, made a mistake, whatever the reasons may be. In this course, you’ll take a broader look at the origins of crime and criminal behavior—one that starts with the concepts of human evolution and natural selection. Dr. Sell examines why crime is a social construct and how it’s been sociologically and biologically coded into who we are as a species.
  • TED – Cyber-Influence and Power (iTunes U) – The internet presents new challenges and opportunities for people, organizations, and states to exercise their will, enforce their foriegn policies, inspire revolutions or horrifying crimes, and act against other competing organizations. This series of TED talks discusses the topic from the perspective of everyone involved, from the activist looking to keep information free, the protester who wants their voice heard by power-brokers, state agencies and organizations that can use communication technology to flout international laws and legal sanctions, and more. You may not agree with all of the lecturers’ perspectives and opinions, but you’ll be sure to come up with your own by the time you’re finished.
  • The Open University – Childhood and The Law (iTunes U) – While many people focus exclusively on how the law impacts adults and the crimes they commit, legal issues around children are much murkier and often controversial. This course examines topics like adoption, the legal boundaries for adoptive parents or children who want to seek their birth parents, social work and child welfare issues, children and violence, and more. The course studies the topic from the perspective of international law, and examines how laws and legal penalties shift from culture to culture and nation to nation.

Cross-Disciplinary Courses and Seminars
  • Harvard University – Central Challenges in American National Security, Strategy and the Press: An Introduction – Professors Graham T. Allison and David Sanger – The topic of national security is a hot one these days here in the United States, from NSA surveillance to CIA operations overseas to the follies of the TSA and other happenings at the Department of Homeland Security. If you’re curious why the topic is easier to talk about than do anything about (much less fix), this course will give you an introduction to the common topics and concerns in the field, along with foreign policy concerns like the civil war in Syria to elections (and nuclear ambitions) in Iran. In the process of taking the course, you take the role of a National Security Adviser or staffer tasked with giving the President the information he or she needs to make the most effective decisions in the interest of national security. The course even directly tackles the issues of NSA surveillance, organizations like WikiLeaks, leaks of secret documents and strategies, and more.
  • The University of Tokyo – Conditions of War and Peace – Professor Kiichi Fujiwara – Why do we wage war in the name of peace and security? What have we learned about the history of war and what does that tell us about the future of armed combat? This course will ask some seemingly simple questions and get into their very complicated answers, like "When is war necessary?" and "What does peace look like?" The class will challenge your perceptions of what exactly a peaceable nation looks like, under what conditions an armed country or populace should fight—either to defend themselves or in response to direct or implied aggression.
  • Calarts – Live!: A History of Art for Artists, Animators and Gamers Professor Jeannene Przyblyski, Ph.D. – This course approaches the history of art and design from the perspective of artists, covering topics like video games, movies, computer animation, cartoons, and how all of the artists who make those works get it all done. You’ll approach both the history of and the application of art from the context of contemporary art and artists, and consider the "conversation" that makers have with their mediums. The course seeks to help you understand how an artist manages to tell a story with something like a sculpture or a computer animation, and what a modern game designer can learn from classical painting.
  • Center for Creative Leadership – Leadership for Real – This course series focuses on ways you can develop your leadership skills. If it sounds trite, think again—you’ll get video lectures, interactive discussions with other classmates, and a laser focus on real-world applications of the skills you’ll learn. Whether you’re already a manager looking to be a better boss to your staff or you’re someone just interested in developing those "leadership skills" that so many employers want, this course can help you build them.
  • Penn State – Creativity, Innovation, and Change – Dr. Jack V. Matson, Dr. Darrell Velegol and Dr. Kathryn W. Jablokow – In this course, you’ll learn to develop your own powers of creative thinking and apply them to even the most rigorous, routine responsibilities and duties you have in your day-to-day life. The goal of the course is to give you a way to develop your creative potential to make positive changes in your life, in your community, and in your work.
  • Taylor’s University – Success – Achieve Success with Emotional Intelligence – Professors Mushtak Al-Atabi and Jennifer DeBoer – We’ve often taught that success comes from working hard, getting good grades, making money, or doing a good job at work, but there’s more to the story. This course helps you first define success in terms that are actually meaningful, then rewire your brain to understand what happiness and success really mean to you and how to attain them (or rather, that you may already have them). You’ll learn what "emotional intelligence" really means, and how it plays a significant role in your interpersonal relationships, both at work or in your personal life, and how that understanding can help improve those relationships in all aspects of your life.
  • Udacity – The Design of Everyday Things – Professors Don Norman, Kristian Simsarian, and Chelsey Glasson – Design is everywhere. It’s all around us, from the apps on your smartphone to the building you live in and the clothes you wear. This course aims to help you understand the role that design plays in our everyday lives, how designers do their work, and how even you do design when you organize a room or set up a home or apartment. By the end of the class, you’ll be able to offer real critiques, you’ll have a better understanding of what exactly "design" entails and how it works, you’ll understand your own personal eye for design, and you’ll be able to appreciate design in a way you may not have before.
  • University of Colorado Boulder – Comic Books and Graphic Novels – Professor William Kuskin – Comic books and graphic novels are fun and entertaining to read, sure, but there’s more to them than the pretty pictures. They’re some of the most engaging, informative, and innovative art forms we have, and this course will help you appreciate them in a brand new light. You’ll examine (but move beyond) the traditional comics and names you may be familiar with and study comic books as an art form with their own canon, literary traditions, and long (and sometimes turbulent) history in the United States. You’ll see how the medium grew from simple entertainment to entertainment aimed at children, then adults, then all audiences, and how society has reacted to the evolution of stories, imagery, and narrative through the years.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Introduction to Sustainability – Professor Jonathan Tomkin – "Sustainability" is a buzzword used in environmental and ethical debates, but what does it really mean, and what would it take for us to live a truly sustainable lifestyle? This course examines those topics, and how human societies can adapt to embrace global changes, growing populations, and dwindling resources. You’ll study (or re-examine, for those of us familiar with ethics or sociology) the Tragedy of the Commons, but you’ll also dive into the mathematics and science involved in population growth and change, migration, energy use and its environmental effects, and contemporary issues in energy and fossil fuels, transportation, agriculture, and water usage. Finally, the course takes the long view and examines the ethics of sustainability and how cultures will have to change if any balance is to be achieved.
  • University of Pittsburgh – Disaster Preparedness – Professor Michael Beach – There isn’t a place on Earth that’s completely protected from some form of natural disaster. When one strikes, do you know what to do? Whether you live somewhere prone to hurricanes, flooding, earthquakes, or fires, this guide to disaster prevention will help you survive when everything else around you—including the support network and structure you’re familiar with—is gone. You’ll learn how to build your own disaster survival plan, when and when you shouldn’t consider building a shelter, and perhaps most importantly, how to keep your head and maintain the right kind of attitude that will help you survive when all other resources and planning has been overwhelmed by the scope of the issue you’re facing.

Extra Credit: How To Find Your Own Online Classes

The curriculum at Lifehacker U is rich and deep, but it may not reflect all of your areas of interests or expertise. If you’re looking for more or more varied course material, here are some resources to help you find great, university-level online classes that you can take from the comfort of your desk, at any time of day.P

  • Academic Earth curates an amazing list of video seminars and classes from some of the world’s smartest minds, innovators, and leaders on a variety of topics including science, mathematics, politics, public policy, art, history, and more.
  • TED talks are well known for being thought provoking, interesting, intelligent, and in many cases, inspiring and informative. We’ve featured TED talks at Lifehacker before, and if you’re looking for seminars on the web worth watching, TED is worth perusing.
  • edX is a collection of free courses from leading Universities like the University of California, Berkeley, MIT, and Harvard. There aren’t many, but the ones offered are free, open to the public, and they rotate often.
  • Coursera has a broad selection of courses in-session or beginning shortly that you can take for academic credit (if you’re enrolled) or just a certificate of completion that shows you’ve learned a new skill. Topics range from science and technology to social science and humanities, and they’re all free.
  • Udacity offers a slimmer selection of courses, but the ones offered are not only often for-credit, but they’re instructor led and geared towards specific goals, with skilled and talented instructors walking you through everything from building a startup to programming a robotic car.
  • The Saylor Foundation offers a wide array of courses and entire course programs on topics from economics to political science and professional development. Interested in a crash course in mechanical engineering? The Saylor Foundation can help you with that.
  • Class Central aggregates some of the best courses available from open universities and programs around the web in an easy to sort and search format. Just search for what you want to learn, and if a course is available and starting soon, you’ll find it.
  • has a list of universities offering free and for-credit online classes to students and the public at large.
  • CreateLIVE features a number of interactive courses in business, photography, and self-improvement, many of which are free and available to listen in on at any time of day.
  • Open Culture’s list of free online courses is broken down by subject matter and includes classes available on YouTube, iTunes U, and direct from the University or School’s website.
  • The Open Courseware Consortium is a collection of colleges and universities that have all agreed to use a similar platform to offer seminars and full classes—complete with notes, memos, examinations, and other documentation free on the web. They also maintain a great list of member schools around the world, so you can visit universities anywhere in the world and take the online classes they make available.
  • The Khan Academy offers free YouTube-based video classes in math, science, technology, the humanities, and test preparation and study skills. If you’re looking to augment your education or just take a couple video classes in your spare time, it’s a great place to start and has a lot of interesting topics to offer.
  • The University of Reddit is a crowd-built set of classes and seminars by Reddit users who have expertise to share. Topics range from computer science and programming to paleontology, narrative poetry, and Latin. Individuals interested in teaching classes regularly post to the University of Reddit subthread to gauge interest in future couses and announce when new modules are available.
  • The Lifehacker Night School is our own set of tutorials and classes that help you out with deep and intricate subjects like becoming a better photographer, building your own computer, or getting to know your network, among others.

The beautiful thing about taking classes online is that you can pick and choose the classes you want to attend, skip lectures and come back to them later(in some cases – some classes require your regular attendance and participation!), and do examinations and quizzes on your own time. You can load up with as many classes as you choose, or take a light course load and come back to some of the classes you meant to take at another time that’s more convenient for you.

With Lifehacker U, you’re free to take as many or as few of these classes as you like, and we’ll update this course guide every term with a fresh list of courses on new and interesting topics, some of which are only available during that academic term.

50 Inspiring TED Talks For Teachers: An Updated List For 2014

Authors Note: This is a curated piece, I may not agree that it is inspiring for teachers to be video taped and critiqued at any point of the year among other videos. 


50 Inspiring TED Talks For Teachers: Updated For 2014


The communication explosion reaches its peak when you explore the endless avenues running through TED Talks. Moreover, the title educator embodies many forms within these talks.

So it’s precisely for this reason that any educator benefits from so many of these talks. Each speaker reveals his or her passion of a view or a subject with the enthusiasm of a first-year teacher.

Using TED Talks to convey an important message or spark creativity might be more effective in teaching students than an individual agenda or preconceived notion of what should be said. Furthermore, TED Talks challenges educators everywhere to think differently and encourage the same in their students.

These are the best TED Talks for any educator because they make us laugh, warm our hearts, break down barriers, and always inspire us to dig a little deeper and push a little harder, challenging your educator perspective.

50 Inspiring TED Talks For Teachers: Updated For 2014

1. 100,000 Tutors

One student described this Stanford University class on Artificial Intelligence as “sitting in a bar with a really smart friend who’s explaining something you haven’t grasped but are about to.” In the video, Peter Norvig pinpoints what it takes to create online learning at its best, how it should work and how it should feel.

2. School Cloud

Sugata Mitra won the 2013 TED Prize for his idea: Build a school in the cloud. After quite literally putting a computer in a wall in impoverished areas of India, he proved that children, people, are capable of learning without an agenda or even a teacher. Given the proper tools people will group together and teach themselves. They only need encouragement and positive reinforcement as a teaching mechanism.

3. Autistic Brothers

Another must-see for educators, Faith Jegede: What I’ve learned from my autistic brothers enlightens anyone who sees education as a one-way street. Faith Jegede shares her insights into the beauty behind the Autistic mind and urges us to change our view of “normal.”

4. Teacher Feedback

In this Ted Talk, Bill Gates: Teachers need real feedback, Gates talks about the need for teachers to receive valuable feedback so that they can improve and strengthen their skills and become better teachers. He brings the teaching field to technology and cameras, using video to share and promote better and more effective teaching.

5. Bring On the Learning Revolution!

In this poignant, funny follow-up to his fabled 2006 talk, Sir Ken Robinson makes the case for a radical shift from standardized schools to personalized learning — creating conditions where kids’ natural talents can flourish.

6. Teaching Design for Change

Designer Emily Pilloton moved to rural Bertie County, in North Carolina, to engage in a bold experiment of design-led community transformation. In this video, she talks about teaching a design-build class called Studio H that engages high schoolers’ minds and bodies while bringing smart design and new opportunities to the poorest county in the state.

7. What We’re Learning From Online Education

Daphne Koller is enticing top universities to put their most intriguing courses online for free — not just as a service, but as a way to research how people learn. With Coursera (cofounded by Andrew Ng), each keystroke, quiz, peer-to-peer discussion and self-graded assignment builds an unprecedented pool of data on how knowledge is processed. Watch the video here.

8. What Teachers Make

Ever heard the phrase “Those who can’t do, teach”? At the Bowery Poetry Club, slam poet Taylor Mali begs to differ, and delivers a powerful, 3-minute response on behalf of educators everywhere.

9. How to Learn? From Mistakes

Diana Laufenberg, an 11th grade history teacher in Philadelphia, shares 3 surprising things she has learned about teaching — including a key insight about learning from mistakes.

10. Changing Education Paradigms

In this talk from RSA Animate, Sir Ken Robinson lays out the link between 3 troubling trends: rising drop-out rates, schools’ dwindling stake in the arts, and ADHD. An important, timely talk for parents and teachers.

11. Don’t Eat the Marshmallow!

In this short talk from TED U, Joachim de Posada shares a landmark experiment on delayed gratification — and how it can predict future success. With a priceless video of kids trying their hardest not to eat the marshmallow.

12. The Puzzle of Motivation

Career analyst Dan Pink examines the puzzle of motivation, starting with a fact that social scientists know but most managers don’t: Traditional rewards aren’t always as effective as we think. Listen for illuminating stories — and maybe, a way forward.

13. Teaching Kids Real Math With Computers

From rockets to stock markets, many of humanity’s most thrilling creations are powered by math. So why do kids lose interest in it? Conrad Wolfram says the part of math we teach — calculation by hand — isn’t just tedious, it’s mostly irrelevant to real mathematics and the real world. In this talk, he presents his radical idea: teaching kids math through computer programming.

14. Teach Arts and Sciences Together

Mae Jemison is an astronaut, a doctor, an art collector, a dancer. Telling stories from her own education and from her time in space, she calls on educators to teach both the arts and sciences, both intuition and logic, as one — to create bold thinkers.

15. Education Innovation in the Slums

Charles Leadbeater went looking for radical new forms of education — and found them in the slums of Rio and Kibera, where some of the world’s poorest kids are finding transformative new ways to learn. And this informal, disruptive new kind of school, he says, is what all schools need to become.

16. Teach Statistics Before Calculus!

Someone always asks the math teacher, “Am I going to use calculus in real life?” And for most of us, says Arthur Benjamin, the answer is no. He offers a bold proposal on how to make math education relevant in the digital age.

17. Mosquitoes, Malaria, and Education

Bill Gates hopes to solve some of the world’s biggest problems using a new kind of philanthropy. In a passionate and, yes, funny 18 minutes, he asks us to consider two big questions and how we might answer them.

18. Let’s Use Video to Reinvent Education

Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do “homework” in the classroom with the teacher available to help.

19. How to Educate Leaders? Liberal Arts

After leaving his Microsoft job in Washington, Awuah returned to his home in Ghana and has helped to open a liberal arts college there. This polished speaker shares his experience in Africa and uses this experience to plead his case for the importance of incorporating a liberal arts education in order to create true leaders.

20. The Birth of the Open Source Learning Revolution

A professor at Rice University in Houston, Texas and the founder of Connexions, an open-source education system, Richard Baraniuk talks about the benefits of open source for educators. Specifically, Baraniuk speaks about the drawbacks of texts books and how using online open-source information provides more current and relevant material. Students pursuing an online bachelor’s degree in Education may have a particular interest in this resource.

21. Sputnik Mania

Filmmaker David Hoffman shares a part of his documentary, Sputnik Mania. Through this movie, Hoffman explains how it contributed to the space and arms race that, in turn, lead to an inspirational movement of math and science education across the US.

22. Finding the Next Einstein in Africa

While accepting his TED prize, physicist Neil Turok shares his wish to provide opportunity for the future of Africa through opening and nurturing the creativity available in the young people there. Turok uses his math and science background to understand why and how Africa has been left behind–and how we can change it.

23. What I’m Worried About, What I’m Excited About

Bill Joy muses on what’s next. Looking to the future, this co-founder of Sun Microsystems discusses how society and individuals have reacted to situations in the past. He then explores the path we can take to ensure positive growth in the areas of health, education, and technology.

24. A Parable for Kenya

This member of parliament in Kenya discusses education, both his own and the importance of education to children in Africa. He has a vision for making this education possible and shares it passionately.

25. Toy Tiles That Talk to Each Other

MIT grad student David Merrill demos Siftables — cookie-sized, computerized tiles you can stack and shuffle in your hands. These future-toys can do math, play music, and talk to their friends, too. Is this the next thing in hands-on learning?

26. The El Sistema Music Revolution

Jose Abreu on kids transformed by music. The founder of a Venezuelan youth orchestra, El Sistema, Abreu speaks about his wish to spread music throughout Venezuela and the world as a tool of social change and empowerment. Abreu speaks in Spanish (with English subtitles) with such passion about his vision for the future of the world.

27. El Sistema’s Top Youth Orchestra

Gustavo Dudamel leads El Sistema’s top youth orchestra. Watch this video of Dudamel and his students as they perform Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10, 2nd movement and Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2. The power of this performance is a testament to why El Sistema works.

28. Once Upon a School

Surrounded in a culture of educators, Eggers grew up realizing the importance of education. He talks about his tutoring center, 826 Valencia, and how it has helped and inspired others to become involved in education. The power of this tutoring center is inspirational to those concerned with education.

29. Tales of Creativity and Play

Tim Brown explores the relationship between creative thinking and play, and how this relationship can be nurtured. Using activities presented in the talk, he illustrates his points that are useful for all who work with children as well as those who want to nurture creativity in adults.

30. Digging up Dinosaurs

Strange landscapes, scorching heat and (sometimes) mad crocodiles await scientists seeking clues to evolution’s genius. Paleontologist Paul Sereno talks about his surprising encounters with prehistory — and a new way to help students join the adventure.

31. What We Think We Know

Jonathan Drori, expert on culture and educational media, offers four questions to the listeners as a starting point to explore how we get ideas in our heads and how difficult it is to shake ideas once they are there. Drori also reviews some “bad practices” that serve to reinforce wrong ideas and some better ways of helping students learn correctly.

32. A Powerful Idea About Ideas

Alan Kay shares a powerful idea about ideas. Kay talks about techniques for educating children by using computers to illustrate experiences. By looking at simplicity and complexity, traditional teaching modes that rely on complex adult ideas, and approachable methods of teaching students in ways that are more simple and intuitive.

33. Play is More Than Just Fun

Stuart Brown says play is more than fun. Brown describes why play is important and how it contributes to happy and healthy adults–not just children. Using examples from the natural world, Brown shows how play is an integral part of life and how it can change behaviors.

34. One Laptop Per Child

The founder of the MIT Media Lab in Massachusetts discusses his program, called “One Laptop Per Child.” This project hopes to build $100 pedal-powered laptops and distribute them to children in developing countries around the world in an effort to promote education. Coming from the perspective of children being the most important natural resource of any country, Negroponte’s project hopes to provide students with opportunities for their future and the future of their countries.

35. A Free Digital Library

Brewster Kahle is building a truly huge digital library — every book ever published, every movie ever released, all the strata of web history … It’s all free to the public — unless someone else gets to it first. Watch his video here.

36. Institutions vs. Collaboration

In this prescient 2005 talk, Clay Shirky shows how closed groups and companies will give way to looser networks where small contributors have big roles and fluid cooperation replaces rigid planning. His concepts can be applied to education as well.

37. A Call to Reinvent Liberal Arts Education

Liz Coleman is the president of education and learning reform at Bennington. She is the advocate for educational reforms. In this speech she says that the interaction between the two organizations in areas of education should be reflected as an opposing factor in modernism and it reduces the study fields into the non moving specialized place. She has emphasized on the point that why diversity is required for solving the big problems.

38. How Games Make Kids Smarter

Gabe Zichermann explains how games make kids smart. His speech readily opposes the idea that games and video playing gadgets are a total waste of time for kids. He says that games are the most innovative, creative, and intellectual tools that are working to bring improvement in almost every aspect of performance in cognitive areas.

39. Turning Trash into Toys for Learning

At the INK Conference, Arvind Gupta shares simple yet stunning plans for turning trash into seriously entertaining, well-designed toys that kids can build themselves — while learning basic principles of science and design.

40. A Girl Who Demanded School

Kakenya Ntaiya made a deal with her father: She would undergo the traditional Maasai rite of passage of female circumcision if he would let her go to high school. Ntaiya tells the fearless story of continuing on to college, and of working with her village elders to build a school for girls in her community. It’s the educational journey of one that altered the destiny of 125 young women.

41. Teaching One Child at a Time

Educating the poor is more than just a numbers game, says Shukla Bose. She tells the story of her groundbreaking Parikrma Humanity Foundation, which brings hope to India’s slums by looking past the daunting statistics and focusing on treating each child as an individual.

42. How to Escape Education’s Death Valley

Sir Ken Robinson offers three principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational “death valley” we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility.

43. How Schools Kill Creativity

Sir Ken Robinson makes an entertaining and profoundly moving case for creating an education system that nurtures (rather than undermines) creativity. Watch the classic video here.

44. Life Lessons Through Tinkering

Gever Tulley uses engaging photos and footage to clarify the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a roller coaster!

45. Math Class Needs a Makeover

Today’s math curriculum is teaching students to expect — and excel at — paint-by-numbers classwork, robbing kids of a skill more important than solving problems: formulating them. In his talk, Dan Meyer shows classroom-tested math exercises that prompt students to stop and think.

46. Kids, Take Charge

Kiran Bir Sethi shows how her groundbreaking Riverside School in India teaches kids life’s most valuable lesson: “I can.” Watch her students take local issues into their own hands, lead other young people, even educate their parents.

47. Gaming to Re-Engage Boys in Learning

Although it may be inappropriate to brashly generalize, education statistics point to one thing for males ages 3-13: their culture isn’t exactly school appropriate. Their general sense of violence, emotional disconnect, and hyperactivity tends to make them more inclined to drop out. The items males generally embrace do not make them great learners. However, there is hope. Alison Carr-Chellman illustrateshow gaming, one of the most notorious aspects of male culture, could help reel them back in.

48. Let’s Raise Kids to Be Entrepreneurs

Why is it that we only hire tutors to train kids at what they’re bad at? Why is it that the idea of being an entrepreneur is so vilified? Cameron Herold explains that we need to stop essentially punishing the children with these proclivities in business. Instead, we need to foster their development. Although specific in its focus, the core message can be translated ubiquitously. Let’s teach our kids what they’re good at, not teach them to be adequate in something they previously weren’t.

49. 3 Rules to Spark Learning

It took a life-threatening condition to jolt chemistry teacher Ramsey Musallam out of ten years of “pseudo-teaching” to understand the true role of the educator: to cultivate curiosity. In a fun and personal talk, Musallam gives 3 rules to spark imagination and learning, and get students excited about how the world works.

50. The Call to Learn

The incredibly eccentric Clifford Stoll reviews what it means to be drawn to learning as well as tangents about the Moog synthesizer and no-volume bottles. He claims that the only ones who can truly predict the future are kindergarten teachers; they’re the only ones with exposure to the next generation.

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