Knowledge for in between: these learning apps make you smarter

Getting a little smarter every day. This is the promise of the providers of so-called Learning and knowledge apps for the smartphone. They are aimed specifically at people who either don't have time in their day-to-day lives or simply don't feel like slogging through reference books. Despite time constraints, most people want to continue their education in everyday life or polish up their general knowledge.

Knowledge apps: Blinkist cuts non-fiction books to 15 minutes of reading time

For them come offers like Blinkist as called. The globally oriented app, based in Berlin, advertises that it summarizes nonfiction books into key statements that can be read on a smartphone in just 15 minutes. Users can already find over 4500 titles from various categories in German and English in the app, condensed for quick reading or listening. The provider speaks of around 17 million users worldwide.

collections of reference books are also offered by the Swiss provider Getabstract. The service has been on the market longer than Blinkist, which was founded in 2012, but is more focused on titles for managers and executives. App providers cooperate with publishers. Blinkist summarizes the core statements of books but also partly without original quotes in their own words and thus circumvents copyright law.

The aim and principle are always the same: to steam up knowledge into easily digestible morsels for in-between or on the go: knowledge to go, in other words.

Gaiali: New app packs general knowledge into short audio stories

In addition to Blinkist, another start-up from Berlin now wants to jump on this trend with a new idea: Gaiali. The Knowledge app has been available in Apple's store since the end of January, with an Android version planned for the summer. "We want to impart general knowledge, but as exciting as a Netflix series," Cornelius von Rantzau tells our editorial team.

The 33-year-old co-founder wants to play with Gaiali also make the user community a little smarter every day. But instead of non-fiction, Gaiali is all about basic knowledge, presented in the most gripping, comprehensible and compact way possible. Instead of texts, the provider relies on audio stories to listen to on the smartphone.

"General knowledge should be fun again," Cornelius von Rantzau outlines the idea behind the app. "But many people don't have enough time for it, and there hasn't been an easy way to get there yet."A solid performance General knowledge, he is convinced, makes everyone a more interesting person, because you can have a say everywhere. In addition, one goes with other eyes through the world, if one brings along for example to cities, buildings or art background knowledge. "You can't see the beauty of the world until you understand it," says von Rantzau.

Knowledge app Gaiali relies on anecdotes to listen to in everyday life

Gaiali wants to make the way there for users playful and entertaining. "It shouldn't feel like learning at all," app founder stresses. The roughly ten-minute Knowledge stories you should be able to listen to it on the side, while doing sports or cleaning your apartment.

The name Gaiali goes back to von Rantzau's wife Gaia. The art historian "dragged" him to operas and museums, says the Hamburg native. "She explained a lot of things to me about art and architecture using short stories and anecdotes. Suddenly I could understand it all." That's how von Rantzau, who has been at home in the start-up world for ten years, came up with the idea for Gaiali.

Small audio books instead of knowledge podcasts

Over 600 Audio short stories from twelve knowledge areas have now been written, 300 of which are already available in the app, says von Rantzau. From history and literature to nature and technology. Every audio contribution goes through a process.

Included are experts with doctorates, writers as well as specialist editors. The audio stories are recorded by professionals. With knowledge podcasts the founder Gaiali does not want to compare. "We write real little audio books," he says.

Newcomers can, after a brief introduction, a handful of selected Knowledge stories listen for free. In addition, a certain top topic can be called up free of charge every day. Those who want unlimited access to all audio stories must sign up for a paid monthly or annual subscription.

Background on the Mars mission, Corona pandemic and more

Those who are currently fascinated by Mars exploration can acoustically immerse themselves in earlier Nasa missions. If you want to get to grips with the Corona crisis, you can be transported back in time to past pandemics – and cook along the way.

But how much remains in the benefit of this entertaining Knowledge apps really hang? Turn us into experts at record speed?

Learning researcher warns against deceptive morsels in everyday life

"There is no expert knowledge to go," warns Professor Martin Korte. He is a learning researcher and neurobiologist at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany. "To think that one could listen to some app while putting away the washing machine and thus use the time effectively is the typical error in thinking among adults."

In order to have a lasting knowledge of a subject and to be able to base decisions on it, one has to think through a topic oneself and learn about it via Specialist books work out, says Korte. "If you want to understand mathematical relationships or know how the human circulatory system works, it's not enough to listen to ten minutes of anecdotes about it."

Short stories help learning – when nothing distracts

The learning researcher does not want to demonize services such as Blinkist or Gaiali. "Such apps can be amusing, and they can also refresh your own knowledge on a subject. But there's no shortcut to expert knowledge."

That emotional stories help learning and improve memory has been scientifically proven, says Korte. But only if you focus on these contributions while reading or listening to them. "Whoever thinks they can do something concentration-absorbing on the side will be disappointed by how little they can remember from these short knowledge stories."

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