Reminder – No Regular Shows Next Week
Remember… no regular episodes of Geek Beat next week! You’ll have some stuff come through your feed, so don’t worry. But we’re saving up the good stuff for an EPIC Grand Opening Party! Don’t forget to watch LIVE at geekbeat.tv/live! 3 PM Texas Time (4 PM Eastern / 8 PM GMT) on Friday, August 1st. If you’d like to support our efforts to make the Geek House the geekiest place in the world, you can tag your name on the Geek House Wall of Fame at geekbeat.tv/fundraiser.
Welcome to the University of Geek Beat!
Take off your hat because your brain is about to get a whole lot bigger. The faculty of the University of Geek Beat has been prowling the interwebs for fifteen free sites guaranteed to grow your brain, make you smarter (and a whole lot more obnoxious at parties).
Ted.com! Their Technology, Education & Design conferences date all the way back to 1984. The Ted.com site came along in 2006 and today has more than 1,700 mind-blowing “Ted Talk” videos which have racked up well over a billion views. You can go deeper into a subject by checking out TED-Ed. At TED-Ed, students, teachers, and life-long learners can discuss, create, and find lessons created around Ted Talks as well as YouTube videos and material created specifically by and for the TED-Ed community.
Khan Academy began posting videos the same time Ted did (in 2006). That was the year hedge-fund manager Salman Khan began making video tutorials to help his cousin and other relatives with their school studies. Turns out a whole lot more than Khan’s cousin Nadia were interested in his lessons. Within three years, Khan’s videos were getting millions of views – enough to allow him to quit his job and found the non-profit Khan Academy. Today his YouTube channel has more than 400 million views and 2 million subscribers – which of course outpaces views of channels by “brick and mortar” schools like MIT.
The success of Khan Academy and other free “flipped classroom” websites led more than 30 universities to create our next big brain website… two years ago. Today Coursera hosts videos from more than 100 U.S. universities. They offer free access to 641 “MOOCS” (Massive Open Online Courses) to more than 7 million students worldwide. Five of the MOOCS have been approved for college credit through proctored exams at only $60 to $90 per course. Not per credit hour, BTW… PER COURSE. The disruption of the university business model has begun.
Arts & Letters Daily and Zooniverse
If you want to drink from the firehose of university level knowledge without sitting in on an entire course, the Dean of The University of Geek Beat’s School of Big Thoughts (Dr. Cali Lewis) has two sites to recommend. And now I’m talking about myself in third person, which can’t be good.
If you’re interested in the Liberal Arts (Philosophy, History, Literature, Music — basically anything non-sciencey), there’s Arts & Letters Daily @ ALDaily.com. For Science Geeks (or “Boffins” if you’re in the UK) check out Zooniverse.org. This site bills itself as the largest collection of “Citizen Science Projects” on the internets. You can take a look at projects in progress, or dive right in and participate through the Zooniverse Community. There are projects for everyone – from helping researchers categorize audio files of “bat calls” (as in actual bats, not calls to Batman) to flagging live data from the SETI Allen Telescope Array that could be from extraterrestrials. If enough citizen scientists flag the same data, the telescope array is automatically redirected for a closer look!
How about the ultimate in crowdsourced education, UReddit.com. UReddit offers free live and archived courses you can teach, take or browse. The University of Reddit was created in 2012 by two professors at the University of South Florida, has its own subreddit on the main site and while it’s not yet an “official” part of Reddit, the professors say they’re “working on it.”
University of Geek Beat students looking to learn to code (for free!) will find what they’re looking for at Code Academy. In just two years Code Academy has seen more than 24 million students complete more than 100 million exercises in six different programming languages including PHP, Python, & Ruby, plus markup languages like CSS & HTML. Code Academy is gamefied – you get points and badges to keep motivated. And there’s an active community with forums and sandboxes to keep students engaged.
From the Netherlands comes Gibbon – crowdsourced collections of articles and videos the site calls “Playlists for Learning.” At Gibbon.co the mantra is “Be Good & Get Better.” The site has been available to the public for not quite a year, but it’s off to a promising start with early playlists leaning toward online tech, science and space.
If you want to learn to make something, head to Instructables.com. What began in 2005 as an MIT student site for collaboration on projects has turned into a massive collection of more than 100,000 DIY Projects. MacGuyver would love this!
How Stuff Works
If you’re more into WTF than DIY stop by HowStuffWorks.com. They have sections that include “Stuff Mom Never Told You” to “Stuff to Blow Your Mind” to “Stuff They Don’t Want You To Know”. How Stuff Works is STUFFED with Stuff!
Lifehacker has been dishing out common sense since 2005 with “Tips and Downloads for Getting Stuff Done.” There’s literally something for everyone here. Lots and lots of “Listickles” like “Top Ten Ways to Become a Better Driver.” Hmm… One of these days I’m gonna do a “Top Ten List of Top Ten Lists”….
If you’ve got a question, Quora.com has answers, and lots of them (often from recognizable experts like Steve Case, Michael Dell and Ashton Kusher). The Quora Q & A site has been live since 2010. You can search for questions that have been answered (or submit your own answers), and post new questions. The most upvoted and followed posts automatically move to the top.
OK, let’s calm things down a bit with a visit to ZenHabits.com. It’s a self-help site that’s been live since 2007. It aims to help readers incorporate a little Zen into their daily lives. You could go the vodka route… but if you’re looking for a simpler way of living in general, you’ll find a whole lot about minimalism at ZenHabits.com.
Information Is Beautiful
If you’re a visual thinker there’s no better place for both eye candy AND mind candy than InformationIsBeautiful.net. Their mission is “distilling the world’s data, information, and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and -above all- useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.” This London-based site literally turns data into art and is absolutely worth a visit.
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