Websites that make you smarter

The internet is great for catching up with what your friends are doing on Facebook, Instagram, or Snapchat. It’s fantastic for keeping up to date with the latest adorable things that cats are doing. It’s convenient for managing your finances. But more than that, the internet is a great source of information.

It’s true, the internet really can make you smarter and today, we’re going to look at some fun sites that will help you learn, will teach you everything you need to know about specific subjects, will teach you a lot about a lot of things, or will teach you useful skills.

Learn to be smarter

Lumosity

This is a fun tool that uses memory games to help train your cognitive responses. While many of the sites we’ll talk about teach you particular things, Lumosity teaches you cognitive skills – it helps you learn better. Unfortunately, it costs money, but as a subscriber I can tell you that the games are a lot of fun, and really do seem to help speed up the old noggin. Plus you can play it on your smartphone or tablet. Cost: varied, never free.

Learn specific things

Coursera

This fantastic site lets you take courses from a large number of top American universities, including Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers University, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and many more. It’s basically as great as it sounds. You may have to get hold of some learning materials for some of the courses, and you won’t earn any actual credit for the courses that you complete, but it’s still a great way to learn something new. And for those of you who prefer, you can do MIT courses for free at MIT Open Courseware. Cost: Free!

Khan Academy

This is a great site for people of all ages, but especially for people still suffering through primary and high school. A non-profit organisation, Khan Academy offers extensive and thorough courses on things like arithmetic, algebra, microeconomics and Python programming. Cost: free!

Investopedia

Say what you like about Investopedia, it’s still, for my money, the top online reference for all things finance and investment. Years ago, when I started writing about finance and felt overwhelmed, Investopedia’s tutorials were a lifesaver, and today, I often pop on to double check something, or look up a formula I need to help me analyse an income statement. It’s a great resource for beginners and experts alike. Cost: free!

Learn things in general

TEDtalks

I know, I’m also tired of people posting inspirational TED talks on Facebook. But the truth is, you can learn a whole lot from these free, short talks. For the uninitiated, TED is an NGO with its roots in a big conference that combined Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED, geddit?). Essentially, the organization aims to get good ideas circulating, and one of the ways it does through is through its online TED talks. The talks, many of them by global experts and leaders, deal with a huge range of topics, and at their best, can be inspiring and thought-provoking. Poke around, and look over the most popular talks for inspiration (or check out this cool summary). And please, don’t share all your favourites on Facebook. It’s clogged up enough with TED stuff as it is. Cost: free!

Wikipedia

It’s an obvious one. But really, have you ever spent a few hours on one of Wikipedia’s huge, sprawling entries – say, the history of Christmas (or Ireland, if you’re not into religious history) – clicking link after link? You can learn a huge amount about a random collection of fascinating things in a few hours on Wikipedia. It’s a great way to spend an idle afternoon (am I just a nerd?), and rest assured, the reliability and accuracy of Wikipedia consistently ranks on par with top journals and encyclopaedias. Cost: free! (Although their pitiful requests for donations often guilt me into coughing up).

Learn skills

Livestrong

Learn how to diet and exercise properly with this fantastic and mostly free site. You can sign up for a free calorie tracker, read hundreds of articles on what you should be eating, learn from fellow dieters and health enthusiasts in the forums, and get access to hundreds of fantastic workouts, including full-length videos. Cost: mostly free!

Codeacademy

This is the internet, after all, so why not learn to code? Learn JavaScript, Python, HTML/CSS and more on this free site. The interactive teaching window is easy to use, and the lessons are accessible even to absolute beginners. Cost: free!

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