Learning comes in many forms, not all of which occur in a classroom. Each time you move outside of your comfort zone, you have the opportunity to learn something new about yourself and the world.
Each year we list our top tools for learning to try in the new year. The goal of this list is not only to make your life easier, but to challenge you to explore different ways of learning. Take an adventure, try a new book, or meet new folks with whom you can share your knowledge. Our list tries to provide suggestions for all types of learning.
All right, so what do you want to do?
- Lumosity — An app designed by neuroscientists to help make your brain better, faster, STRONGER! Compete for personal records on various games created to test your focus, flexibility, memory and speed.
- OpenSesame — Compare, preview, and evaluate more than 20,000 elearning courses. We've got everything you need to build your professional skills.
- 99u — Similar to TED talks, 99u is a series of inspirational talks focusing on design, creativity and personal development.
- Circa — Follow the stories you care about as they develop. Circa empowers readers to interact with the stories that matter most to them in this mobile-friendly app.
- Feedly — Collect all your favorite blogs, newsites and more in a central location. Feedly tracks what you've read, enables you to star articles to save for later, and easily share your favorites across your social media networks.
- Fit Brains Trainer — Train your brain in the same way you train your body! Fit Brains Trainer features more than 350 games and puzzles to challenge your mind, as well as tracking to measure your progress.
- LifeTick — What drives you? More than a goal setting app, Lifetick helps you discover your core values, resulting in more effecitve S.M.A.R.T goals, and increased likelihood for success.
- Gibbon — A community of folks who crave continous education, sharing information in the form of playlists for learning.
- Crash Course — With a grant from Google, YouTube personalities John and Hank Green have created a series of videos teaching high school and college-level courses for free. Topics include literature, pyschology, chemistry, US History and more.
- Creative Mornings — TED Talks a bit too stuffy for you? Creative Morning events feature breakfast and a talk, with raw videos being uploaded to the site. The talks focus on the challenges of the creative professional.
...discover a new book or podcast?
- What Should I Read Next — Get personalized boom recommendations without needing to create an account or login. Simply type in a favorite author or book title and instantly browse those the possibilities.
- Serial — A revolution in podcasting, Serial follows one true story over the course of a whole season. The inaugural season covers the murder of a young girl in 1999, and analyzes the case of the man put behind bars for the crime.
- GoodReads — Netflix-style recommendations, but for books! Track your books, discover new titles, see what your friends are reading and set goals to keep yourself challenged throughout the year!
- Kobo — Have you ever read a passage in a book and instantly wanted to share your insights? Not just an e-reader, Kobo includes social features that display reader comments and activity at the bottom of each page. The program also gamifies reading by tracking your reading speed and awarding achievements depending on how and when you read.
- The Moth — Great stories inspire and move us to action. The Moth is a podcast dedicated to the art of storytelling, with a range of formats and topics.
- Stuff You Should Know — I guarantee each and every episode of this podcast will have you saying, "Oh, THAT's how that's done!" Complex topics like how Bitcoin works are broken down into easily understandble and digestible episodes.
- Bookish — Continue the reading journey after you finished the last page. Bookish provides additional information to reader, include essasy, author interviews, even emotional GIFs submitted by fellow fans.
- Overcast — Podcast quality can range, but fortunately Overcast overcomes many of the medium's obstacles with tools to adjust the speed and auto-adjust volume. Now your favorite basement podcast can sound like it was recorded in a professional studio.
- BookBub — In addition to serving as an e-reader, BookBub provides alerts for discounted or free ebooks to keep your personal library stocked.
- Pocket Casts — Manage your podcast subscriptions with this easy-to-use mobile app. Podcasts are displayed as tiles; simply tap to bring up episodes and ownload options. Pocket Casts also included a smart playlist feature to help categorize your content.
- Basecamp — A robust project management tool that somehow manages to keep things simple, Basecamp is a fantastic tool for managing projects and team members. The desktop app includes a calendar, to-do lists that can be assigned to users with due dates, internal messaging and file upload capabilities.
- Google Drive — Google Drive has made some fantastic changes since we included it on our 2013 list, including more options for how to view your documents, as well as the ability to move files into your Drive within Gmail. This product combines the power of Google search with a digital file cabinet.
- Marqueed — Images are finally getting the markup options typical to text documents. Marqueed is a free tool that allows you to upload an image for feedback, similar to a document in Word or Google Drive. Plus, drag images from the web into Marqueed to create image boards and generate ideas.
- Viber — Phone not an option? Try Viber, which allows you to make free calls to other users, without having to deal with registrations or invitations. The site also provides low rates for international calls to non-Viber users.
- Mural.ly — Move your sticky note brainstorming sessions to the cloud with Mural.ly's visual platform. It's a great way to speed up your creative process, while still allowing everyone their input and ideas.
- Screenhero — Screensharing just got pushed to another level. Screenhero give all participants their own cursor on your screen, so they can edit live during the discussion. Stop reassigning the screen share power and invite everyone to the party.
- Socrative — Using this app, teachers or presenters can evaluate their audience's current level of understanding in real time. Ask questions and get instant results to better direct your lesson.
- Convo — We've seen a backlash towards email in the past year, with number of emails being sent per day reaching more than 100 billion. Eliminate the clutter by moving these conversations into an internal, customized news feed with Convo.
- Sqwiggle — Working remotely can be tough when you feel out of touch with your team. While other apps allow you to chat or call each other, Sqwiggle provides constant video interaction without the noise distractions. The tool also includes rooms to share images and discuss topics.
- Zoho Docs — Zoho Docs brings together more than 25 business-focused apps into one product. Get real-world office functionality including document storage, marketing and sales management tools, as well as access to HR and finance apps.
- Syndio Social — Large companies often struggle with recognizing and promoting top talent from within. Syndio Social's proprietary Clairvoyance dashboard technology maps employee relationships to quantify communication and help organizations identify talent, increase collaboration and streamline change.
- UserVoice — Twitter, Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn...customers expect companies to be available and responsive on multiple networks, but it can be tough for customer service teams to keep track of it all. Uservoice gathers customer feedback from multiple channels so you can get a high level view of what your customers are saying.
- Lyft — Best friend not around to drive you to the airport? Request a "lyft" and be treated to a friendly and pleasant carsharing experience!
- Plated — Cooking is fun—it's the tracking down recipes and hoofing it to the grocery store that isn't. Plated brings the joy back to cooking by allowing you to select recipes for the week and delivering all the ingredients and instructions to your doorstep.
- Fancy Hands — Free up your time to focus on the bigger tasks with this virtual assistant service.
- Instacart — Run out of sugar? No need to go to the neighbors, just hop on Instacard and have groceries delievered from your favorite store within the hour. Look for this service to expand quickly in 2015, as it just raised more than $100 million in funding.
- Just Park — JustPark encourages those with unused parking spaces to make them available for rental to other drivers.
- BrandYourself — Take control of your digital footprint and ensure your best foot is put forward everytime someone searches for you on Google.
- PaperKarma — Who has time to track down all the companies sending junk mail in order to request removal? Let PaperKarma handle it—simply scan your junk mail and this app will track down the culprit and remove you from the list.
- Waze — Wouldn't it be great to get traffic information from folks who are actually on the road? Waze is the largest community-based traffic navigation app, compiling real-time information to provide you with the best information to guide your route.
...be more adventurous ?
- YPlan — For those with a more spontaneous spirit, this app is for you. See a list of curated suggestions for events happening in town that day, then purchase tickets instantly. Currently available in San Francisco, London and New York with plans to expand.
- The Adventurists — Are you more of an "off-the-beaten" path type of vactioner? Look no futher than The Adventurists site, which challenges the belief that Earth has become dull. Discover events such as the Mongol Rally—a 10,000 mile trek in a tiny car purchased for less than $30.
- Historypin — Their are millions of stories waiting to be shared, or discovered. Collectively, these stories make up the human experience. Historypin allows you to browse thousands of images and stories by date, or location. You can even use your current location to find the nearest content when out and about. Additionally, you an access photos that can be overlaid with the modern view to create a truly unique experience.
- Foodspotting — Who better to advise you on what to eat than local foodies? Foodspotting allows users to share their favorite dishes, either through the app or by tagging an image with the hashtag #foodspotting.
- Yelp! Events — Is that annual New Year's Eve party at the local pub worth attending? The popular business rating app Yelp! also includes a section dedicated to information on local events.
- Where My Nomads At? — Nomads and travelers unite! Use the web community to find and connect with your fellow wanderers around the world.
- HipMunk — HipMunk compares top travel sites to get you the best deal on your adventure. The site and web apps bring in information from traditional providers, but also services like charter planes and sharing economy sites such as AirBnb and Homeaway.
- GetAround — In the true spirit of the sharing economy, GetAround allows car owners to turn a profit by renting out their vehicles when they are not being used. Help out a neighbor in need while generating a little extra spending money.
- Lingua.ly — Beat the language barrier when traveling by immersing yourself in the local language with Lingua.ly. The app locates articles in your interest area and helps you pick up the language within the context of the articles.
- WorkFrom — Whether you lack an office or are looking to shake things up, WorkForm provides suggestions on local work spots such as coffee shops, bars and shared spaces. Sort by wifi access, environment, menu options and more.
- TripWolf — Travel guides can be bulky when traveling, and you're never quite sure if a location or activity really fits your personality. TripWolf solves these problems by combing travel planning tools, community boards and popular tour books onto one site. Plan your ideal trip and download your customized PDF itinerary!
- Carrot — For those that need tough love to stay on task, this app's for you. Carrot gets cranky when work isn't getting done, and isn't afraid to let you know! Charge through your to-do list to keep from seeing Carrot's bad side! Currently only available for iOS.
- World Time Buddy — We may be more connected than ever, but we still are operating on different timezones. If you've ever tried to arrange a meeting with participants from around the world, you know coordinating the proper timezone can be tricky. World Time Buddy displays the time zones of your choosing stacked on top of each other, so you can see what time it is in any location compared to your home base.
- Dark Sky — Weather can change on a moments notice, but that doesn't mean you can't get some advanced notice! Dark Sky predicts the weather at your exact location, down to the minute. Currently only available for iOS.
- Trello — Similar to a pin board, this online task management board helps you arrange and prioritize your tasks, projects, documents, and notes in a virtual environment. Plus, we've got a blog post with some simple tips to get you started!
- Mailbox — After a waiting list that grew to more than 800,000, Mailbox is now available to the masses—at least those on iOS. Mailbox makes the email experience fast and simple, with easy swipe movements to archive or trash in a chat-like view.
- Sunrise — This beautifully-designed calendar aggregation app brings together your Google, Facebook, LinkedIn and Foursquare events. It even shares the weather, so you'll be prepared for whatever comes your way.
- MobileDay — The big red easy button has come to conference calls, except it's green. When it's time for your meeting, a big green button appears on your screen and all it takes is one click to enter your meeting.
- Buffer — Manage multiple social media accounts, schedule posts and track your campaign's perfomance all in one place.
- SlideRocket — This comprehensive presentation tool imports your current presentations, provides the resoures to build them, and makes sure they look good no matter the browser or operating system of the viewer. SlideRocket also provides analytic tools to see how your presentation is performing.
- Remember the Milk — Wouldn't it be great if you received an alert reminding you to stop and grab milk as you pass a grocery store? Remember the Milk provides just that—location services and SMS alerts connected to your to-do list.
- Canva — Shake up your boring graphics with this fantastic design tool. Canva provides pre-built designs for web or print including presentations, flyers, infographics and more.
- Artsy — Art lovers now have a discovery app all their own. Artsy showcases high-quality images of works for browsing, purchasing and learning.
- Storify — Each of us has a storyteller within us, and Storify makes it easier to share yours. Take your favorite social media postings and build story all your own.
- Songza — Every wanted to find the perfect song to fit your mood? Unlike other music libraries, Songza lets you browse musical titles by your mood, activity or genre.
- Momentum — Get a boost of energy and motivation each time you open up a new browser tab. Momentum is a gorgeous looking tab background that allows you to set a daily goal.
- Unstuck — It can be tough to get out of a rut, particularly when you're not sure what's causing it. Unstuck helps you get to the bottom of what's blocking your creativity or productivity with a series of targeted questions.
- 750Words — Just like athletes, writers must stretch their creative muscles on a daily basis. This site's minimal interface allows users to write stream of conciousness, without the fear of public exposure.
- Lift — Let's face it. We all could you use a little reaching our life goals, and Lift is here to help. Build a custom plan and stick to it with help from the Lift community.
- Keezy — Rain outside your window making an interesting beat? Like the sound of your heels clicking on the tile floor? Record these sounds and create your own music with this free site. Unleash the musician within!
- Tellagami — Animated characters are adorable and are perfect for brightening a friend's day. Create a character, customize its outfit, record your voice and share!
- Charity Miles — Exercise has never felt so good, particularly when it means contributing to a good cause. With Charity Miles, a corporate sponsor will make a donation on your behalf for every mile you run, bike or walk.
- Feedie — Love taking pictures of your meals? Feedie puts your fetish to good use by making a donation equal to one meal to The Lunchbox fund. Simply visit a participating restaurant, snap a shot of your food and share to your networks! Currently only available on iOS.
- Kiva — Support low-income and underserved entrepreneurs around the world with this microlending platform.
- DonorsChoose — This site takes school supply drives to the next level. Teachers post their supply requests, along with a description of what the materials will be used for. Donors can choose what projects to fund.
- Check In For Good — Who know simply showing up could make a difference? With this app, users select a cause and check in at a business supporting that cause. The business will then make a donation on your behalf.
- Kickstarter — With Kickstarter, the world's largest crowdfunding platform, the average person has the opportunity to contribute to everything from indie movie budgets to new product inventions.
- One Today — Tired of donating the same charities, but not sure what other options are out there? One Today features one new charity a day, and encourages users to donate one dollar each day.
- See Click Fix — Neighborhood Watch just moved into the 21st century! Send pictures of healthy or safety issues in your community to your local government using your phones camera and GPS.
- VolunteerMatch — Browse from thousands of nonprofits and find the best organization with which to share your time.
- Crowdrise — Similar to Kickstarter, Crowdrise is a crowdfunding platform, but one focused entirely on raising money for charities and causes.
...be more social?
- Topi — Maximize your time at networking events or conference with this mobile app. Topi helps you identify the most relevant connections by assignign a PeopleRank score to attendees, as well as suggests group conversation topics to break the ice.
- Nearify — Discover events happening in your locality based on your interests. App pulls in information from many of the popular event sites, including EventBrite, MeetUp, Eventful and more.
- Humin — Have you ever recognized a face, but can't for the life of you remember where you met them? Humin helps you remember the context of the moment by allowing you to search not by contacts, but with human phrases like "met let week" or "lives in Boston." Currently available for iOS only.
- Wayfare — Always wanted a pen pal to call your own? Wayfare connects you with someone from another country with whom you will exchange photos and conversation over the course of 7 days.
- WhosHere — Find folks nearby and connect by sending free text and image messages—all without giving away any personal information.
- Ello — For those that feel Facebook has become a bit overcomplicated, Ello is an simplified alternative, offering an ad-free interface.
- Snapchat — The beauty of a moment is in it's fleeting nature. Snapchat capitalizes on moments by allowing users to share photos and videos with silly captions that disappear after being viewed.
- Vine — This short form video sharing service encourages users to submit and search six-second looping videos.
- Highlight — Need a little push to meet new people? Highlight connects with your Facebook and notifies you when connections or folks with mutual likes walk by.
- Instagram — View beautiful photos shared by friends and family, as well as customize your photos with pre-loaded filters.
- LoseIt — Create a personalized weight management plan that fits your life. Enter your goal and LoseIt determines the appropriate daily calorie alottment. Scan food barcodes to easily track intake and import fitness activities to track your progress!
- EveryMove — EveryMove believes pursing a healthy life deserves its perks. Track your fitness activities with this app and you'll earn points towards rewards from retailers and services. Plus, it easily syncs with Strava and other activity tracking apps.
- Commit — It takes 21 days to form a habit, and Commit will hold you accountable for each and every one of those days. Program a commit and then see the total numbers of days you've adhered to your goal. Skip a day? You go back to zero.
- The Walk — Listening to music while walking is so 5 years ago. Now you can take part in your own action/adventure story while walking, discovering more clues the further you go. Choose an episode and adapt the story to your desired fitness level.
- Pact — Need to make a little invesment to motivate you to work out? Pact helps you achieve your health goals by using cash stakes. If you don't meet your goal, be prepared to pay!
- Strava — Strava tracks your physical activity to compete with yourself and friends. Compatible with multiple GPS devices.
- The Positivity Blog — Tips, workshops and resources for how to remain positive and increase productivity.
- Calm — With so many demands on your day, it can be difficult to focus and maintain your energy. Calm offers 50 guided meditations to help you get back on track and feeling confident.
- Fooducate — You are what you eat, and Fooducate makes it easier to know what you're putting into your body. Scan an item's barcode to get detailed nutriotional information, as well a suggestions for alternative products.