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.

Diagrams

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
Public

Create public notes for others to read

Yes Yes
Private

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!

 

The Lernabit Android App Is Now Available As Pre-Release

It has been a long time since I’ve posted here. Sorry about that, but I’ve mostly been busy writing code on the site and the Android app. Recently you might have noticed some substantial speed improvements on the site, as well as bug fixes and interface improvements. I’m also currently working on a tagging system and some other ways to make it easier to browse and discover lectures.

But what I really want to talk about today is the Android app. After months of work, I’m happy to announce that the Android app for Lernabit is now in open alpha phase!

App Features

Android app Bit page

The audio player

Most recent Bits page

Browse the most recent Bits.

The home screen of the Android app

The home screen

 

The Android app does all of the things you can do on the website. As with most mobile apps, it responds more quickly than the website and has a shorter startup time. But I didn’t just want the app to be a mobile version of the website, because the website is already designed to work on any screen size. Mobile apps have a lot of potential to leverage some of the exciting hardware on phones to do things a web browser can’t.

Specifically, the real benefit of a mobile app for Lernabit is that the phone has a built in microphone, which makes it much easier for anyone to create their own lectures. As such, this feature is the major focus of the app right now. I built it using what I’ve learned from experience creating a lot of lectures myself. You can use the app to record your own lectures and upload them to Lernabit. But I didn’t stop there.

The app is designed to work side-by-side with the website as one unified publishing tool. When creating lectures, I personally find it helpful to have notes available while recording the audio. You can actually do that with the app. You can open the website on your computer and write your notes directly into the publisher, then use the app on your phone to record the lecture while reading the notes on your computer. When you are done, just submit both of them and they will be paired up automatically. Pretty cool!

What Is Alpha Phase?

For anyone who might not know, Alpha Phase– or Alpha testing– is a phase of software development when the software is built, but is still far from perfect.

As far as the Lernabit app is concerned, it is done, and it can be downloaded and used, but there might still be some bugs. But as long as you have it installed, you will continue to get bug fixes delivered through the Google Play store as those updates become available.

How To Get It

To get the app, search for Lernabit in the Google Play store, or just click the link below:

Click here to get the app

 

Introducing The New Lernabit!

by Aaron Wright 0 Comments
The new Lernabit homepage

The new Lernabit homepage

In my previous post, I set out my plan to take Lernabit offline so I could rebuild the site with numerous improvements in mind. Today, after months of development, I’m excited to announce that the new Lernabit is live! Read on to find out what is new, and what is in store going forward.

What’s new?

Create your own Bits

The most significant change to Lernabit is that anyone can now create Bits of their own. In version 1 of the site, only I could create Bits. But after making many of them, I began to realize just how valuable the process of actually creating Bits was to my own education.

The best way to reinforce your own knowledge of a subject is to teach it to others. That part is not a new idea. But what I found out was that teaching via audio is particularly effective at strengthening your knowledge.

When teaching through a format like video, you can often let yourself get away with not knowing every last detail. If you don’t quite grasp something, you can just show a diagram or an image that might help the students understand, but it doesn’t help you understand. Audio doesn’t allow this. When all you have are words, it forces you to understand every little detail so that you can explain it without images.

Realizing this, I decided that the new Lernabit would be a place not only where people could learn, but it would be a platform where they can also teach others what they know, thereby improving their own understanding of the topic.

With this goal in mind, I focused a lot on creating a powerful publishing tool that would make it as easy as possible to create educational audio content. The new tool allows you to write notes on what you want to teach, save drafts to come back and work on later, and easily upload the audio file for your Bit. Once you publish it, it’s immediately live on the site so others can listen to it.

Support charities

The second major change to the site is a pledge to donate at least 5% of all profits from the site to charities focused on education around the world. The goal of Lernabit has always been to make education more accessible. But while creating educational audio content is a major step toward making that happen, it still isn’t enough.

According to data released by Facebook, there are still 4 billion people around the world without Internet access. In addition, a wide range of economic, political, and social problems prevent people from obtaining the education needed to improve their economic situation and create positive change for their communities. As a for-profit venture, I believe Lernabit can be a powerful tool to help change this.

One of the cool parts about Lernabit is that the educational content is all created by you. Since it doesn’t cost me anything to create that content, I can afford to give the money to some of the excellent non-profit organizations that are building schools, improving infrastructure, and improving lives through education.

I believe it is important for us to realize that lack of education is not a single problem; it is a set of many problems that each need a different solution. When for-profit businesses team up with nonprofit organizations and we each attack different problems, we can create real change. So I’m proud to pledge a portion of all profits from Lernabit to help find the solutions we need.

What’s next?

Android app

A top priority is to create a native Android app. In my last post, I said I was unsure whether or not this would be available right away. I’ve decided to wait before releasing that. A working version is already built, but it is still very unstable and not quite ready for prime time. However, if you are interested in being a beta tester for the app, let me know in the comments or message me on Twitter or Facebook.

Other features

Some other ideas and features coming up are:

  • A rather sophisticated system of voting on Bits. But instead of just showing the most popular Bits, this would ideally show those that are of the highest quality in terms of factual accuracy. The details are still being worked out.
  • Commenting on Bits to allow discussion and feedback.

Keep your login info

One last note: If you had an account on the old site, your old login username and password should still work. Or you can just use the “Forgot Password” tool if you don’t remember your login data.

I’m excited about this new site. The new features and my pledge to support nonprofits will be powerful tools to improve education around the world.

Click here to signup for Lernabit

The Past, Present, And Future Of Lernabit

Ever since I published the first post on this blog back in October, Lernabit has been a lot of fun. People have told me how much they like the idea and many have provided awesome feedback and suggestions.

What most people don’t know is how I have been building it up to this point. The first version of Lernabit was built on a netbook. An Asus Eee PC to be exact. Any web developer would agree that such a low quality computer makes modern web development very slow, and even painful. But I simply did not have a better computer or the money to get one. What I did have (and still do) is a passion and dedication to make education better, so I pushed forward using the tools available. Some things have now changed.

About a month ago, I won a HeroX prize for presenting my ideas for ways to improve financial education. It was a relatively small prize, but it was a big moment. The goal of the contest was to uncover the problems with financial education, but the ideas I presented can also apply to education in general. Winning this contest was validation of some of the fundamental ideas behind Lernabit. In addition, there was some prize money involved, which I used to buy a fantastic new computer.

All of this means that I now have the tools and funding to build the Lernabit I have wanted to create all along. As a result, I have decided that I will be relaunching Lernabit. So allow me to explain what will be happening and what will change.

Why is the relaunch necessary?

One question I have been asked is why I would relaunch the site instead of modifying what I already have. This was a tough call to make, and the rationale is mostly due to technical considerations.

Even before winning my prize, there were some design flaws in Lernabit that were beginning to surface. I’ll probably write a second blog post explaining the more technical details for anyone who is interested, but to put it simply, some of technology used in version 1 of the site does not work very well with where I want Lernabit to go. The feedback from people using the site has given me new ideas and insight into what Lernabit can become, and I began to realize that the technology that was being used wouldn’t have been the best tool for the job.

After considering all of those facts, I decided it would be just as easy to rebuild the site completely rather than attempt to modify what I had. I also decided that the best thing to do from a business perspective would be to essentially take the site offline so I could focus on building the new site without worrying about maintaining the existing one.

What changes will there be?

As mentioned earlier, most of the changes will be technical improvements. But as long as I am rebuilding the site anyway, I will also use this as an opportunity to fix most of the problems people have mentioned, and a few I have noticed myself.

One improvement will be a much better login experience. The new site will remember your login status between visits rather than requiring you to login every time. Then you will only be prompted for a password when doing things like changing personal information.

You will also notice a cleaner and more modern design. Less text and more generous use of icons will make it easier to browse the page and find what you want. The new design will also make it easier to do things like interacting with the site without interrupting audio playback.

Another big change will involve the topics that are covered. Up to this point, Lernabit has been focused on science education. The new site will cover a wider range of topics.

Finally, the relaunch will include a native Android app. If my mission is to make education more accessible throughout your day, a better mobile experience is an absolute necessity. I haven’t decided if the mobile app will be available immediately when the site relaunches or if it will be ready shortly afterward, but such an app is in progress. As for iOS, there is not a native iOS app planned right now, although I would like to eventually have one built. In the meantime, the new site will work better on mobile devices. While not as good as a native app, the site will still work like a charm on whatever mobile device you want to use.

Lernabit is not shutting down

I want to emphasize that Lernabit is not shutting down. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Not only is the site not shutting down, it will be coming back stronger and better than before. Going offline is just a way to make that happen faster by letting me focus on building the new site.

Also, before I wrap up this post, I want to thank everyone who has been using Lernabit. I appreciate every single person who has tried it out, and I love hearing the feedback people have been providing. I do listen to it, and it is very helpful. So thank you. With such an awesome group of people using the site, I know that the next generation of Lernabit will be a powerful force to improve education around the world.

Aaron Wright,
Lernabit.com

Power Up Your Mind With A Free Critical Thinking Course

If you have been using Lernabit for some time or if you browse through the Bits currently available, you will notice that a lot of them focus on logic, logical fallacies, and critical thinking skills. Recently, someone asked me why I decided to start with those topics when I created the first Bits, and I want to answer that question publicly because it can shed some light on the vision I have for Lernabit.

What is critical thinking?

First, let me take a moment to clarify what I mean by “critical thinking,” because many people have their own definition of what critical thinking is and how to do it.

Critical thinking, as I define it, is a process of actively scrutinizing information to determine if it makes logical sense. As a fan of podcasts like Rationally Speaking, The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, and others like them, I favor a definition of critical thinking that involves an open-minded, evidence-based view of the world.

Rather than simply accepting information as fact, critical thinking involves taking a skeptical approach to new claims and deciding if the given claims make sense or if they are total nonsense. Ideally, the decision of whether or not to trust a given claim is reached only after looking at evidence.

By that definition, critical thinking necessarily involves a skeptical view of the world, so critical thinking is a mindset as much as it is a skill set. Luckily, the skills can be learned and the mindset can be developed with practice. That is precisely what I have set out to accomplish with Lernabit.

Critical thinking is baked in

Because I see critical thinking as a vital component of education, I started Lernabit as a way to change education by making it more critical. Rather than simply teaching people facts about the world, I want Lernabit to bring a new level of critical analysis to educational content.

To be clear, factual knowledge is still important, but facts are mostly useful when combined with critical thinking to arrive at a truthful view of the world. As a good example, consider the Bit that I created about the components of a cell. That particular Bit was mostly a list-type lecture with very little of what I might call “critical thinking”. But it is still important because it provides a baseline level of knowledge that is necessary for other Bits to come. It is simply a foundation on which I can build more complex lectures that teach at a higher level. This is where many other educational sites fall short. They provide the building blocks in the form of factual information, but they never assemble those blocks into something greater.

There is no shortage of places online to look up facts or do research on a topic, the obvious example being Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a tremendous resource and has its place, but it is only focused on the facts without much in the way of analysis or context. By combining factual knowledge with critical analysis, Lernabit provides a deeper level of understanding than you can get from sites like Wikipedia.

Jump start your critical thinking skills

To date, I have created about 20 Bits about logic, critical thinking, and logical fallacies. Given the great importance of those skills, I’ve packaged them into a free course that is now available to all new and existing members of Lernabit. This free course comes with all 20 Bits covering critical thinking, including the transcripts. They are yours to listen and learn from.

Click here to get your free critical thinking course

The addition of critical analysis to educational content is the first of many ways Lernabit is improving education. There are more exciting innovations yet to come, so use the link above to create your account, get your free course, and receive all of the other sweet benefits of Lernabit.

Introducing Lernabit Premium, And A Sweet New Feature

The mission of Lernabit is to make education better and more accessible by leveraging technology. I strongly believe that the best way to achieve that goal is by providing educational content in audio format.

Up until now, Lernabit has been focused on the accessibility angle, and I have done this by distributing free educational mini-lectures. Audio content is accessible while doing other things at the same time, making education accessible from the perspective of time. Meanwhile, making them freely available has made it possible for anyone to access educational content regardless of income.

Today, I am excited to announce a new feature that takes the first step toward making education more effective. The new feature is called “Remembered Bits”, and it will change the way you study and retain information.

When browsing Bits, you will now notice a new button that says “Remember”. When you click that, the Bit will be added to your list of Remembered Bits, and that is where the cool part happens.

The “Remembered Bits” feature is not just a “Like” or “Favorite” button like on many other sites. Instead, the Remembered Bits feature will actually help you remember the information in that Bit using a spaced repetition algorithm.

According to research, memory retention is improved when you study at gradually increasing intervals rather than repeatedly cramming the information at regular intervals. It is believed that that this technique is beneficial because rather than repeatedly reviewing the information at a superficial level, it provides more time for the brain to process the information at a deeper, conceptual level.

This study technique is known as “spaced repetition”, and the Remembered Bits feature on Lernabit utilizes such an algorithm. When a Bit is “Remembered”, it will be issued a review date. When that date is reached, you will receive an email letting you know that it is time to review it. Then, it will calculate a slightly longer interval, set a new due date, and notify you again when the new due date is reached. At first, the interval will be very short (initially 1 day), but will gradually increase to weeks, months, or even years.

Note that the due date is only updated if the current due date is in the past. In other words, if you listen to a Remembered Bit that isn’t currently due for a review, the current due date will remain unchanged. This is by design so that the due date is not pushed further into the future every time you listen to it. Otherwise, listening to a Bit multiple times in the same day– such as when studying for a test– would quickly push the due date months or years into the future. In short, this feature is designed to improve long term retention but also to get out of the way if you do need to cram.

This leads to the next announcement I have today. I’m introducing a new Premium version of Lernabit. The Premium version is a paid plan that offers additional features. The Remembered Bits feature is the first feature exclusive to the Premium plan. In addition, Premium members don’t see any ads on the site.

The ever-increasing usage of ad-blockers and decreasing effectiveness of advertising has made it very difficult to build a great product without an additional source of monetization. The addition of a Premium plan is part of my goal to turn Lernabit into a sustainable tool that will be around for many years. The price of the Premium plan is currently set at $8 per month, which is comparable to the monthly cost of Netflix or Spotify Premium, and hopefully more useful. Also, don’t forget that the Free version is still there and always will be.

In the future, there will be a number of other awesome features to keep furthering my mission to make education better.

Lernabit Is Now In Beta!

Today is an exciting update for Lernabit as I’ve removed the “Alpha” tag and officially moved into “Beta” phase.

For those who might be unfamiliar with what those terms mean, they simply refer to stages of software development. “Alpha” phase is a very early stage of testing done primarily by the software developers. “Beta” phase is a more public phase in which others are invited to use the software too, while the “Beta” tag indicates that there may still be a few rough patches.

Moving out of Alpha and into Beta is an exciting development for Lernabit. As mentioned, Beta testing means that there will still be a few quirks and bugs, but things are working mostly as expected. Coming up over the next week, I have some more exciting announcements regarding our mission to make education more accessible. Keep an eye on the blog, and follow Lernabit on Twitter to find out what we are up to.

New Update: Bit Tagging For Better Browsing

A new update has been made to Lernabit with many improvements. The most significant change is the addition of a new tagging feature.

As Lernabit continues to grow, one of the immediate problems that has come to light is the difficulty of browsing Bits. In fact, the lack of structure is one of the primary reasons that the Bits have all focused on a very small handful of topics. Focusing on a small selection of topics has made it easier to browse around and find interesting Bits, because if you like one Bit, you will probably like any of the other ones you happen to stumble across. And while there has been a search feature for a long time now, that is only really effective if you already know what you are looking for. When you just want to browse and discover new Bits, the search feature is far less useful. With the latest update to the site, that is no longer a problem. The new tagging feature adds a new degree of organization to the Bits on Lernabit, paving the way to begin covering other topics.

In addition to tagging, I’ll be building out some other new features to further improve navigation and create a better listening experience.