I’ve made the first donation!

From the start, the mission of Lernabit has been to improve education by identifying the various obstacles people face when getting an education and finding unique solutions to those problems. Whenever possible, I try to find ways that the various problems can solve each other. For example, college students and lifelong learners need better study tools, and elementary school students and teachers need supplies. The solution was to build a study app for self learners and use some of the money to support charities focused on education. The study app has been around for a while now, and I’m excited to say that the second part is now in action: I’ve made the first charitable donation on behalf of Lernabit!

The project

It was just a simple $10 donation to a 4th grade classroom in Cleveland, Ohio through DonorsChoose.org. This project stood out to me for a few reasons. First, the school is in a low income area. I strongly believe that education is one of the most powerful forces that drive social and economic mobility, so I love the opportunity to support low income students.

The money will be used to buy kits and supplies so the students can get hands-on experience with electronic circuits and fossils. That’s another reason I liked this project. Having a degree in biology, I know how important it is to get hands-on experience early on. I remember as a kid going out into the woods to look for animal tracks, identifying trees, and playing with telescopes and microscopes. That hands-on experience exposed me to the amazing world of science in a way that a book never could.

Finally, I also like this project because it had a matching donation from the First Million Fund, which celebrates the first million projects funded through DonorsChoose. Thanks to their matching donation, my $10 donation means the projects gets an additional $10 from the First Million Fund.

This is just a start

A $10 donation might not sound like much, but it is still important. Obviously I want the amount of my donations to increase over time, but this first donation is important because it shows a commitment to my mission for Lernabit. For the first time it bridges the gap between the for-profit side of Lernabit and the greater social objective to make education accessible and open for everyone.

Moving forward, I’m excited to continue building new features in Lernabit and making more donations to charitable causes.

P.S. – You can help!

As of this writing, the project I donated to still needs $99. If you want to help, head over to the project page on DonorsChoose and send them a few dollars.

Find Outstanding Educational Content With Lernabit

Find Outstanding Educational Content With Lernabit

The aim of Lernabit is to be the best app for self-learners. No matter what you want to learn, Lernabit can help you. Up until now though, Lernabit has been a note taking app that helps you more efficiently memorize what you learn. The only problem with that is that you still needed sources of content to study. In other words, Lernabit could help you remember what you learn, but it didn’t give you much content to learn from. The most recent update to the site is the first step to changing that.

Across the site, you will now see links to articles from a hand-picked selection of websites that offer high quality educational content. Using RSS feeds from those sites, Lernabit automatically fetches the most recent articles from those sites and creates a note with a description of the article and a link. And, just as you can view a person’s profile page and see what notes they have created, you can also look at a specific feed to see more from that particular site.

Even cooler, by turning the links into regular notes, they behave just like any other note on Lernabit. They appear in search results, you can add them to your review list, they show up in the feed, and they are included in the list of suggested notes. Simply put, this update means that there is a lot more content available for browsing on Lernabit.

What feeds are included?

By now, you are probably wondering what feeds are included. Here is the complete list categorized by general topic as of this post, and more will be added over time.


General education


Foreign language



Tech/Programming/Computer Science


Suggest A Feed

The list of feeds shown above is just a starter list. If you know of another feed that should be added, you can suggest new ones here. I’d especially like to see some more suggestions in these categories:

  • Art and design
  • Computer science, programming, etc.
  • Science and math

If you know of great sites focused on education, send them in! They might be included in the public feed on Lernabit.

Lernabit Relaunched 1 Year Ago Today
The new Lernabit homepage after relaunching

Lernabit Relaunched 1 Year Ago Today

Today is the 1 year anniversary of the relaunch of Lernabit.

Initially, Lernabit was just a place to get free 10 minute long audio lectures about a range of different topics. Those short 5-10 minute long audio lectures were called “Bits”, and the goal was to help people learn new things in short periods of free time. And because they were in audio format, you could listen while working out, doing housework, etc. But the first version of the site had a lot of different design flaws that prevented it from gaining much traction. So in June 2016 I took Lernabit offline to rebuild it from the ground up. On September 22, 2016, the brand new site was relaunched. Here is what it looked like:

The new Lernabit homepage

The new Lernabit homepage after the relaunch. It didn’t even have a logo yet!

One of the most important changes that came with the relaunch was the ability for anyone to create their own Bits. Before that, I was the only one creating them. But I learned that most of the educational value came from the process of creating them, and listening was just a way of keeping the knowledge fresh. So the new version of the site allowed anyone to create audio lectures of their own and share them with other people.

Since the relaunch 1 year ago, Lernabit has continued to evolve. The Bits are now called “Notes”, and they aren’t just audio format anymore; you can also create Notes in image or text format. Another change that has taken place since the relaunch is with the addition of privacy features on your notes. Back when they were called “Bits”, they could only be public. After changing them to “Notes”, I added the ability to creating private Notes as well.

In that time period, the Android app and the website have gone through many design changes, the most notable change being the switch from a green to a blue color scheme. There have also been a lot of improvements in speed and mobile device usage.


So what has Lernabit actually accomplished in this last year?

We’ve provided free educational content to people in 76 different countries. It is interesting to see a map of where people are visiting Lernabit:

Map of visitors to Lernabit

Map of visitors to Lernabit

As expected, most of the visitors are from the United States. But this map really becomes interesting when you compare it to this map of global internet availability:

Map of global Internet availability

Map of global internet availability. Source: https://www.internetsociety.org/map/global-internet-report/

The same portions of Africa, the Middle East, and South America are lighter. Now, this shouldn’t be too much of a surprise; people without internet access won’t have much luck accessing a website. The realĀ  reason these maps are interesting is because they validate an important philosophy behind Lernabit.

Since day 1 of Lernabit, the goal has been to make education more accessible around the world. But any attempt to make education more accessible must consider the fact that there are many different barriers to education, and each one needs its own solution. That’s why I never did believe that a website alone would magically bring education to people around the world. When the site relaunched a year ago, I decided to pledge 5% of all profits to charities focused on education around the world. Now this is where you come in.

Now that a little bit of money is starting to come in from Lernabit, I look forward to making good on my pledge to support charities. I want everyone reading this to leave a comment telling me about your favorite education-related charities. They can be big or small, in the US or abroad, but they must be focused on education. Tell me what you like about them. After doing some research myself, I’ll pick one to be the recipient of the first donation from Lernabit. Let’s try to bring education to the people living in the lighter spots on those maps.

Android App Update: Version 2.4.17

by Aaron Wright 0 Comments

The latest version of the Lernabit Android app has been released. Version 2.4.17 has some important bug fixes.

One critical bug was a crash caused when the screen orientation changed while recording audio. That has been fixed. This release also has fixes for note syncing. There are some design improvements scattered throughout the app to improve navigation around the app.

Click here to get the latest version of the Android app.

Android App Update: Version 2.4.16

by Aaron Wright 0 Comments

A new update for the Lernabit Android app should be appearing soon in your list of updates.

Version 2.4.16 includes a major change to the home screen by moving the search box up to the top of the screen. Where the search box used to be, you will now see a list of suggested notes that you might like. These suggestions are based on the notes in your review list, which is a good indication of the types of content you want to learn more about. If you don’t have any notes on your review list yet, it just pulls up a random selection of notes with a high score (more on that in a second). As you add more notes to your review list, it can give better suggestions.

The suggestions are also partially based on a scoring system that has been built to help find the best notes on Lernabit. The score for a note is based on a variety of data points like word count, the number of people who have that note on their review list, and others. However, the score does not consider the publication date of the note. There is already a feed to see the most recent notes in chronological order. The scoring algorithm is designed to help find the best notes overall and to dig up notes you might find interesting regardless of when they were created. It is only used sporadically right now and will be applied to more features in the future as the algorithm is tweaked and improved.

Also new in version 2.4.16 is a major performance improvement in infinite scrolling, plus some other minor bug fixes, design changes, and performance improvements.

Get the latest version of the app now

Take Notes From Anywhere With Offline Notes

by Aaron Wright 0 Comments

Just a quick update. The latest version of the Android app has just been released (version 2.4.15).

There are a lot of optimizations and bug fixes, but the coolest feature is the new ability to take notes while offline. When you create a new note, the app will try to create it as normal. If no internet connection is available, it gets saved for later. Then, the next time you start the app, it will check for an internet connection again and upload the notes that were created offline. This also works with attachments.

With the ability to take notes offline, the app becomes a lot more useful in situations where an internet connect is not available, such in remote areas where you might find interesting plants or wildlife. It is also useful for places like museums which often have poor wifi (at least in my experience).

Click here to get the free Android app

You Can Now Add Images To Your Notes

You Can Now Add Images To Your Notes

Are you a visual learner? A lot of us are. And even for those who are not primarily visual learners, sometimes an image or diagram can make a concept so much easier to understand. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that Lernabit now supports the use of image attachments in notes.

Lernabit has already supported audio and text format notes for a long time, and images are just one of many other formats that will become available over time. And, as with audio format notes, even if you attach an image to your note, you can still add up to 10,000 characters of text. By adding an image with ample text, you can create a rich visual explanation of a concept while writing a thorough description to point out specific parts of the image that are worth noticing.

Field Test

I got a great chance to put the new image feature to a field test during a recent family trip to the Cincinnati Zoo. During my trip, I found all kinds of cool ways to use the Android app to make my visit to the zoo far more educational than it would have been otherwise. Here are just a few examples:

Interesting animals

It speaks to the amazing diversity of life when someone like me, with a degree in biology, can still find a surprising number of animals I’ve never heard of before. One example is Coquerel’s Sifaka, which is a type of lemur that can jump 20 feet. When I found such an animal, I would take a picture of it, title the note with the name of the animal, and add some hashtags so it would be easier to find.

Cool animal facts

Another way I used the app was to take pictures of the fact cards on display at the exhibits, especially the ones with cool facts about the animals. For example, I learned that sea lions hunt using echolocation similar to how bats find their prey. I took a picture of the plaque and turned it into a note.

Speaking of bats, I was talking to a zoo employee about the fruit bats. She told me that the skin on a bat’s wing is the fastest-healing membrane in nature. I thought that was really cool, and wrote it down in Lernabit with some hashtags so it is found by other people reading about bats who might find that interesting. See the note here

Differences between animals

One of the most useful applications of image notes was in helping me understand the differences between things. For example, there was a sign explaining the different spot patterns of different kinds of giraffes. If someone explained it to me, I don’t know if I would fully grasp it. But seeing them side by side made the difference very clear, so I took a picture of the sign and made that a note.

Another case where this was useful was at a display showing the differences between crocodiles and alligators. They had a skull from each one side by side, and the difference is actually quite obvious when you see them together. See the note

Other uses

Outside of my visit to the zoo, I’ve also found some other ways the new image feature can be useful.


In microbiology, there are 2 main types of bacteria, known as Gram positive and Gram negative, and they are primarily distinguished by the structure of the cell wall. Trying to describe this with text would be a hopeless effort. But a diagram showing them side by side makes it easy to see the details of how they are different. I found such a diagram online, so I uploaded the image to Lernabit, added some hashtags, and included a link to the original source so I can go back if I need more information. See that note here.

Art deco

About a month ago I made a visit to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a wedding. While I was there I had the chance to swing by and visit the Art Deco museum downtown. I never really understood what art deco was. But seeing it in person helped me understand not only what it looks like, but how it was influenced by other trends of the time period, such as the fascination with Egyptian relics and the push for more women’s rights.

At the time, Lernabit didn’t support images. But I still took a lot of pictures and have now uploaded them to Lernabit. You can pretty much tour the museum right from Lernabit, or get more information while you are there in person. And with the hashtags, you can browse around and see how the art deco style relates to other related topics, like the Egyptian history that influenced it.

These examples only scratch the surface of what you can accomplish by adding images to Lernabit. It is an exciting feature that greatly expands the power of Lernabit to feed the curious mind. Create a free account here

Take Better Notes And Learn Faster With Lernabit Notes

Over the course of Lernabit, people have written to me and said that they like the concept of learning new things by teaching others. But as I spoke to more people, I noticed a few common objections that would keep coming up again. For example, some people said they liked the idea of learning through audio, but said they didn’t want to make their lectures publicly available to everyone else. Others told me that they like the concept of learning by teaching others, but weren’t thrilled about creating audio lectures to do it. Today, I’m excited to announce a new feature on Lernabit called Notes, which clears up those problems and just about all of the other common complaints.

Notes are like Bits 2.0

So what are Notes exactly? Previously, Lernabit was comprised entirely of audio lectures called “Bits”. You would use the app to create an audio lecture for others. By doing so, you would improve your own understanding of the subject while creating free educational content for others.

I like to think of Notes as basically being Bits 2.0, because Notes can do all of that and a lot more. Notes allow you to create notes about new things you learn, and Lernabit will remind you when it is time to review it. Your notes can be in audio or text format, with more formats coming soon. In addition, Notes can be public or private. So if you want to create public audio lectures for others to learn from, you can still do that with Notes. The difference is that Bits required you to do that, while Notes just makes that an option.

This simple chart shows Bits and Notes side by side:

Bits Notes
Audio Format
Create notes in audio format
Yes Yes
Text Format

Create notes in text format

No Yes

Create public notes for others to read

Yes Yes

Create private notes for you only

No Yes
Review scheduling

Automatically create a schedule to review your notes

No Yes

Bits are going away

Because Notes can do everything Bits could do and so much more, Bits have gone away completely and all existing content has been converted to Notes. That eliminates redundant features and avoids any confusion between the two features. In addition, “Notes” is a more intuitive name for new visitors than “Bits”. It is a lot more obvious what the feature does.

Other cool features

Along with the added ability to write notes in text-only format, Notes have some other cool capabilities.

Remember with one click

The real magic happens when the One Click Remember feature comes into the picture. As you browse public notes from other people, there is a button that allows you to remember it with one click. Just click that button, and that note will be added to your review schedule. When you find a cool Note, you can remember it forever with one click.

Hashtag support

Notes support the use of hashtags to categorize your notes and easily explore related topics.

Powerful search

The search feature has full support for the new privacy settings. When you enter a search, it will check if you are logged in and automatically include your own private notes in the search results along with public content from others. One search will show you whatever is most relevant, whether it was created by you or someone else.

Rapid note taking

There are a lot of benefits to taking notes in small chunks. For example, research has found that when you shuffle your content before reviewing it, you are more likely to remember it. Notes makes that easier to do by being optimized for quickly taking many small notes in rapid succession, as you might do while watching a lecture.

These optimizations include preserving information that is likely to stay the same. For instance, Notes taken in rapid succession at a lecture will likely all be given the same privacy setting, so that form option will stay the same so you don’t have to keep manually selecting that option. Just write your note, throw in some hashtags, and submit it. The form will clear itself and get ready for the next note.

Flexible options

While the Note form is optimized for many small notes, not everybody likes to study that way. If you prefer a longer, in-depth explanation, you can do that too. Notes can be quite long– up to 10,000 characters in length. As a comparison, this blog post up to this point is about 4,000 characters. Even at that character limit, you can also attach an audio file to it for even more information.

Lernabit Notes are a step up from Bits, providing a range of powerful new tools to learn, study, and share your knowledge.

Click here to start taking some notes

Better Browsing, New Topics, And Other Improvements

It has been a while since I last posted here on the blog, so I thought I would write about some of the stuff I’ve been working on lately. While there haven’t been any monumental changes since my last post, there have been a lot of incremental improvements across the site. So let me point out some of the recent changes to Lernabit.

More Ways To Browse

A problem for a long time was the lack of discoverability on Lernabit. The site has had a very good search function for a long time, but that is only useful if you know what you are looking for. When you just want to discover new topics, that isn’t as useful, so I built some nice new ways to browse Bits. In addition to seeing the most recent Bits, you can now browse using any of these other methods:

  • Tags page – There was already a page to browse by tags, but it was far too confusing and complicated. I’ve streamlined the process into a more traditional “tag cloud” format that lets you just click on a tag to see Bits and related tags.
  • Most popular – These are the Bits that have had the most listeners.
  • Random – Self-explanatory. Just a random selection of Bits.

Redesigned Bit Page

The page to listen to an individual Bit has had some design enhancements. Based on some experiments to see how people use Lernabit, I’ve added some features and removed others to focus more on the stuff people want.

  • Cleaner design – One improvement was to make a cleaner interface. The page overall is a lot more organized and has far less clutter than the previous design.
  • Author bios – There is a new box that shows author bio information to help create a more personal feeling to the lecture.
  • Better recommendations – The “Listen Next” box in the sidebar has been improved. Previously this was pretty much a random list of content. This has been rewritten into a more intelligent recommendation system that finds Bits related to the one you are currently listening to. If it can’t find any related content, it will still fall back and show some random ones.

Speed Improvements

Along with removing unnecessary clutter from the Bit page, I’ve made some other optimizations to the code. Together, these changes have decreased page load times by about 40%.

New Topics

In addition to site changes, I’ve also been exploring other topics to teach. Most of the lectures on Lernabit focus on science, because the lack of science education and outright rejection of science is– in my opinion– a significant threat to our well-being over the coming years. But it is also true that different topics are best taught in different ways. For example, science education is best when it challenges your critical thinking, history is often best taught as a story, while foreign language requires frequent recall and repetition. So my goal is to explore the limits of Lernabit as a teaching platform by using it to teach a wider range of subjects. That, in turn, can uncover new ways to make it even better.

Thanks for using Lernabit, and have a great 2017!