If you’re a daily commuter, the time on the train or bus can feel like time wasted. There is no real way to make the commute more enjoyable - particularly on a soggy autumn morning - but there are, at least, ways to make the time more useful. You could use the time spent to learn something new, with even just half an hour a day very quickly adding up into new, interesting and useful skills.
Whether you’re interested in learning a new academic subject, dabbling in computer programming, or picking up some holiday Spanish before your next break, there is an app for you.
Khan Academy say proudly ’you only need to know one thing - you can learn anything’, and with over 100000 interactive exercises to help you learn one of dozens of different subjects, they might be right. Choose a topic such as computer programming, history of art, economics, science or maths, log in and learn for free from your computer, tablet or smart phone. It is a not for profit organisation - so if you get value from it, you can always give back through helping translate content to make it more widely accessible, or even applying for an internship.
TED is an institution - with thousands of interesting and inspiring talks available to view or listen to, covering politics, science, health, creativity, and so much more. Access talks through the website, or app, or download podcasts if you’re on the move. There are even curated ’playlists’ of talks along a theme, and podcasts which pick out different angles on the same topic. Talks average about 15 minutes long, meaning they’re perfect for snatching back some time on a coffee break or commute.
Learn one of eight different languages, including French, Dutch, Portuguese or Irish, through the duolingo website or app. This tool is highly praised and popular, with new languages being added - so keep looking if the one you want isn’t there yet. You work through translating information on the web to and from your chosen language, effectively learning by reading what other real people are saying and writing. The app learns the sort of questions you struggle with, maps your progress, and makes language learning into a game whereby you earn and lose ’lives’ as you go along. There are bite size lessons covering a mixture of reading, writing, translating and multiple choice questions, which - combined with the gamification of the site - makes for an addictive way to learn.
The least traditional or academic of the suggestions here, Quora is an answer and idea sharing community - post your own question about anything at all, from the practical to the abstract, to receive answers from around the world. Alternatively sign up to certain topics to see the sorts of questions asked and the responses given. The community is broadly friendly and supportive, and the site is a strangely addictive mixture of interesting answers and intriguing insights into the minds of those asking and answering questions. Whether or not what you learn is actually useful is up to you, but you can’t fail to learn something from some time playing on this site!
If you’re facing a week of dull and tiring commutes, then try livening them up with one of these apps - they can’t help you get to work any sooner, but should at least make the time seem to pass a little quicker.
Main image: Cronica Ferroviaria
Image 1 (Khan Academy): Vectorvault
Image 2 (TED): Google+ via Daily Genius
Image 3 (Duolingo): LearnThatLanguageNow
Image 4 (Quora): Prandtheweb