File your taxes online for free.

The Internet Book of Life

Free FileIf your income last year was less than $57 thousand, file your federal taxes electronically for free with Free File.This year, 15 private tax preparation companies are participating in the Free File program. They all have different eligibility rules, so use this “wizard” to find the best one for you: Note: You may have to pay to file state income tax forms electronically. Those of any income level can use IRS-approved Free File fillable forms. Fill them in online, print them out and send them through the mail.

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Revive your algebra skills at Khan Academy

Khan AcademyAmerican educator Salman Khan, a graduate of MIT and Harvard, started the Khan Academy in 2006 for the purpose of making “a free, world-class education available for anyone, anywhere.” Khan, a mathematician by training, features videos of an electronic blackboard on which he works out math problems while explaining them in voice-over. His site has expanded its offerings until now it not only hosts lessons in math, but also computer programming, economics and even art history. Site registration is free, and those who complete courses can earn “badges” for their accomplishments. The lessons are aimed at a college preparatory level. Still, if I had to brush up my algebra, I would click right in to Khan Academy. Khan Academy lessons are available through free apps, too.

Khan Academy

Learn stuff for free through iTunes U.

iTunes UIn 2007, Apple jumped on the free online college course bandwagon through its iTunes application. Here you will find iTunes U, a selection of recorded videos, ebook, .pdf files and podcasts from courses offered by a variety of schools including Harvard, Stanford, and Earlham Community School District. These days, iTunes U offers “courses”, as noted by the binding on the left side of the course icon, and “collections”, that is, gatherings of lectures on a topic. For example, “Statistics 101”, taught by Harvard’s Joseph Blitzstein, was designed as a class, whereas “What Great Bosses Know” is a collection of podcasts from Poyntner Intsitute’s Jill Geisler. All are available on a desktop computer through iTunes or through the iTunes U app for iPad or iPhone. These courses are offered freely, but one cannot get college credit for them.


Take science classes from MIT for free online

OnlineCourseWareMIT began to offer virtually all of its course content over the web for free in 2002 through its OpenCourseWare (OCW; program. Many of the classes have been translated into eight languages, including Chinese, Spanish and Turkish. OCW has a separate program for independent learners called OCW Scholar ( These courses are more complete than typical OCW offerings and feature supplemental multimedia materials. Subjects covered include biology, mathematics, and microeconomics.

MIT OpenCourseWare

Take college-level classes online for free at the Online Learning Initiative

Open Learning InitiativeFree college-level online classes have been available since 2001, when Carnegie Mellon University introduced its Open Learning Initiative (OLI). Today, OLI offers 18 introductory-level online classes in a variety of subjects including Biochemistry, Statistical Reasoning and Elementary French. Students affiliated with the university pay a fee to have their tests graded and receive credit for their work. Independent learners, on the other hand, are welcome to work through the pre-recorded lectures for no charge, but they will not be quizzed nor receive credit. Still, they are encouraged to establish a free account with the OLI site so it can track their progress. OLI designs their courses with measurable learning outcomes, which gives them the tools to “iteratively improve our courses and improve the teaching and learning experience.”


The Internet Book of Life

SnowtweetsRichard Kelly, professor of geography at the University of Waterloo in Canada, wants to track climate change and predict the spring runoff but he needs your help. He says, “We’re asking people to really look around them when they’re outside and perhaps make a measurement of how much snow there is in their backyard, or on their way as they drive along. They can perhaps make an estimate of snow depth.”

Use Twitter to send a message about the snow, marking your tweet with the hashtag #snowtweets. Send the hashtag and your guess of the snow depth in centimeters or inches followed by your GPS coordinates or zip code. Your tweet should look like this:

#snowtweets 15 in. at 14226

Android and iPhone users can visit to download the app for their smartphones.

Do your part to help the Department of Geography and Environmental Management at the University of…

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Buy gifts that are made in America with help from USA Love List

USA Love ListPhiladelphia’s Sarah Wagner is on a mission to bring manufacturing back to the United States. To that end, she urges all of us to try to buy Christmas gifts that are made in America. Although it is difficult to find electronics and appliances that are manufactured domestically, Wagner says that things like jewelry, cosmetics, clothing and candy are not hard to find. Craft fairs and the site are sure-fire places to locate locally produced gifts.

Wagner advises shoppers to check the tags on products in big box stores like Target or WalMart or department stores like Nordstrom and Bloomingdales for domestically made goods. She found products ranging from candles to cast iron cookware that were made in the U.S.A.

Wagner and her staff highlight deals on American goods on her blog USA Love List.

USA Love List