10 Facebook apps that teach you something

Facebook is used as an escape from the daily headaches. But why not use it for something constructive or educational? These will stimulate your brain (or be otherwise useful).

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
5 min read

There are hundreds of Facebook apps that provide no real benefit. How many times can you send flowers to your friends with Flowers of Friendship before it gets old? Do you really need Pieces of Flair to show off your interests in your Facebook profile? I don't think so.

That's why I thought I'd write something constructive today. Facebook might be fun, but some of its apps can really teach you something. Let's take a look at 10 apps that stimulate your brain (or are otherwise useful).

Time to learn

Books Books is a book-sharing and discovery application that will help you find titles that interest you. When you add the app to your profile, you can immediately begin adding books you've read. You can then rate the book and write reviews for your friends to see.

Books also lets you view titles your friends are reading. If you think it's something worth trying out, you can click on its link, and you'll be brought to its Amazon.com page so you can complete your purchase. Books' listing of the most popular titles is another great thing to check out. You'll find a slew of interesting reads.

Books has a listing of all the most popular books. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

CourseFeed CourseFeed is a unique service. The Facebook app helps you find high-school and college classmates, and connect with them through the service. You might be surprised by how many people are on there.

But where it adds considerable value is in its "learner" feature. The app makes classes from major universities available to users. You can learn computer science from Stanford University professors, or nuclear warfare from Notre Dame. It gives you access to online-learning tool BlackBoard, so you can see all the documents, quizzes, and instruction the professors provide. CourseFeed is a great learning tool.

Pick your favorite class in CourseFeed. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My Personality When you're looking for apps that teach you something, what's better than an app that teaches you about yourself? When you add My Personality to your Facebook profile, it asks you to give honest answers to questions it poses on a questionnaire. The more questions you answer, the more accurate the reading (at least by design). When you're done answering the questions, My Personality will tell you if you're shy or confident, trustworthy or untrustworthy. It provides you with a full evaluation of your personality.

My Personality
Learn about your personality with My Personality. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Teach the People Teach the People is a community of teachers who want to share their knowledge with Facebook users through classes and workshops. The app has a variety of topics. Once you pick something that interests you, you can subscribe to the class.

When you enter the course, you'll find instruction videos, audio, documents, and more. You can even share insight on the course's comment wall. Not all courses are created equal, though. Some classes you join will have little instruction. Others will be loaded with documents, videos, images, and discussions. So be sure to pick your classes carefully.

Teach the People
Pick your favorite topic to learn about in Teach the People. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

There Test One of the biggest issues folks have when writing is determining which "there/their/they're" to use. Thanks to the There test, they might learn how to use those words properly. The test asks you to pick the right word that would be used in 20 different sentences. When you're done, you can see how well you did and retake the test to fix your mistakes. You can also share the result with friends. It's a simple test, but it should help you remember the rules for using those words.

There Test
There, Their, or They're? Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Typing Speed Typing Speed gives you a simple tool to see how fast you can type. It asks you to type out words it highlights in a sentence. The further you get in the test, the faster your typing speed. It also measures your accuracy, words per minute, and percentile--how much better you performed than those who also took the test. To increase your typing speed, the tool lets you retake the test as often as you'd like. Over time, your typing speed--and hopefully your accuracy--will increase.

Typing Speed
Hurry up and type with Typing Speed. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Veechi Classes Veechi Classes is designed for students. It tells them which classes on campus they should take, providing grade distributions for previous semesters, as well as class and instructor ratings. It uses that information to recommend the class that will help students get the best grade. The tool also finds other Facebook users who are in the class, so students can befriend them on the service. The only problem with Veechi Classes is that it doesn't apply to every college. But if you go to a big school, you should be fine.

Veechi Classes
Veechi Classes helps you choose a class. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

Visible Vote Visible Vote is a really neat tool that tells your legislators how to vote on key issues. You research those issues in the app. Every week, the app sends a fax to the legislators' offices, telling them what their constituents want them to do. Once they vote on the issue, you can see how they voted to see if your voice is being heard. Visible Vote not only gets you involved in the political process, but it educates you on all the key issues facing the United States today.

Visible Vote
Many discussions are being debated with Visible Vote. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

WeRead Reading books is an important part of life. But too many people aren't reading as much as they should. That's where WeRead comes in. When you first add it to your profile, WeRead asks you to click on the books you like from a list. Based on those choices, it automatically generates a list of books you might like to read. It even lets you search friends' profiles to see which books they recommend. If you read a lot of books, you might want to take the WeRead "Never ending book quiz." It asks you questions about hundreds of books to see how much you comprehend after you finish a book.

Pick what you like on WeRead. Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

What's Your Philosophy? Philosophy is one of those topics that teaches you about yourself. But defining your philosophy can be difficult. That's why the What's Your Philosophy? app is such a useful tool. It asks you a variety of thought-provoking questions. When you're finished answering the questions, it gives you a listing of philosophies that might interest you. What's Your Philosophy? is a great way to learn more about yourself.

What's Your Philosophy?
What's your philosophy? Screenshot by Don Reisinger/CNET

My top 3

If you're serious about learning, definitely add these three apps to your Facebook profile.

1. CourseFeed: Learn from the best professors in the U.S.

2. What's Your Philosophy?: There's something so nice about learning about yourself.

3. Visible Vote: Stay informed on all the big issues.