My dependency to my smartphone is probably growing at the same rate as the number of new apps becoming available every day. Apart from the usual communication tasks, I use it to find the best way to reach a destination, to make notes, for online banking, to book a yoga class, as a boarding pass, to read books and even to give away food and stuff that I no longer need.
Nevertheless, I am still far away from wanting to use a path specially designated to people who walk glued to their screen, as this one provided in a shopping mall in China. In terms of social media, the only apps I have on my phone are youtube and what’s app, the latter being the main platform I use to communicate with my family and friends; and I already find it overwhelming.
In my last post ‘Technology in the dark’ I described my experience travelling by bus in Goa, India. There I mentioned that the majority of people on the buses were looking at their smartphones as in probably most places in the world. I was not peeping but in one of the journeys I could not stop noticing that the woman on my side was watching a soap opera while the man in front was watching the football. I then started pondering, with so many options available to keeps us entertained while travelling as passengers, which ones could also help develop our skills and knowledge as well as provide entertainment, an approach also known as edutainment. Below are my three favourite choices:
- Learn new skills
Apps like Youtube are full of tutorials teaching us how to do almost everything. One can learn how to plant beans, grow spirulina, build a DIY irrigation system, fix a leaking water tap, keep chicken, cook, crochet and so on. However, for a more academic learning experience I have used Future Learn. Future Learn is a digital educational platform which offers hundreds of online courses prepared and delivered by renowned educational institution and universities. There are courses available in all areas, from ICT to project management to counselling. Usually the courses are offered for free with the option to pay a fee for an upgrade, for those seeking a certificate as evidence of a programme completion. Currently they are even offering the course ‘COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus‘
- Learn a new language
There are several apps and websites from where one can learn a new language and some of them are free. One app that I have used before is Duolingo. With Duolingo one can gradually learn with writing, listening and speaking practice. For English speaker there are 35 languages to choose from, but courses are offered in several other languages too. The way the activities are put together resembles a game. In fact, there are ranks so that one can compete with oneself and others, according to one’s level, and this can be highly addictive. Of course one cannot expect to become fluent in a language only using an app, but it is a good start. BCC also has a useful app focusing on teaching the English language at different levels.
- Learn new ideas
Finally, for those who do not have a regular free time slot which is needed to undertake one of the options above, but occasionally has an idle time to fill up, an alternative is to listen to TED talks. Their app and website have thousands of talks from people from all walks of like sharing new ideas about a myriad of subjects. Indeed, TED slogan is “ideas worth spreading”. For instance, one can learn about a female engineer who discovered how to make alternative charcoal from farming waste. These products can bring health, environmental and even economic benefits for the community when compared with wood charcoal. In another example, one can understand what causes corruption and three way to tackle its culture from the roots. Most talks are in average 20 minutes long, although some are over an hour. In any case, most of them also offer a shorter (less than 5min) extract covering their main points. TED talks happen all over the world so there are videos available in different languages and even the ones in English usually have transcriptions in different languages.
What about you? Have you ever tried one of the options above? Can you suggest any other platform which has taught or inspired you?