Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2013
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Dictionary - Merriam-Webster

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No-frills reference isn't highly engaging but gets the job done

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Teachers say (8 Reviews)
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Grades
6-12 This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
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5 images

Pros: Shorter definitions are better for younger students.

Cons: This dictionary has less functionality than its rivals, and the Word of the Day feature isn't very engaging.

Bottom Line: This comprehensive classic reference has easy-to-read entries, although the voice-recognition system needs work.

It's a dictionary. You can use it to look up words, or to teach students how to look up words. But there are no games or pictures.

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Dictionary - Merriam-Webster is -- shocker -- an online dictionary. It has an intuitive interface, and concise entries include pronunciation with a "say it" button, part of speech, multiple definitions, origin, first use, synonyms for a range of disciplines, and geographical, biographical, historical, and scientific terms.

The bottom of the main page offers Dictionary, Recent, Favorites, Daily, and More buttons. You can search by tapping the microphone icon and saying a word, or by tapping the magnifying glass to type. Recent keeps track of your search history, and a star at the top of each entry lets you add words to a favorites list. The Daily button gives a word of the day with usage examples and a "Did you know?" section that has dry, factual information rather than engaging and thoughtful analysis. The More button allows users to give feedback, rate the app, post a word to Facebook or Twitter, or send a word in an email.

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Entries are a tad more accessible for younger students, with a larger and bolder font and less content than Dictionary.com. Unfortunately, there are no built-in games, no illustrations (except in the premium version), only rarely links within entries, and none of the front matter found in the traditional book format to help students learn how to read entries.

Unlike Dictionary.com, Dictionary - Merriam-Webster's voice recognition offers alternatives, though they're sometimes absurd, like single letters or words or phrases with no entry. Unfortunately, the voice-recognition feature seems to foul up data connections (which it relies on for matches), can hang up searches, and sometimes goes down entirely.

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Overall Rating
3

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?
3

Dictionary - Merriam-Webster is a reference tool with little in the way of built-in engagement. You get no pictures (although the premium version has pictures) and few links within entries.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?
3

Some customization and continuity but no information on how to read entries. No dictionary-based games.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?
3

The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. There are no extensions or links to www.m-w.com, and voice recognition is inconsistent.


Teacher Reviews

4
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Featured review by
Charles Y. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Bethel Park High School
Bethel Park, PA
3
Clean interface, authoritative, to-the-point

For quick reference, the mobile app is faster than logging on to the excellent website version and keeps the favorites list for personalization and review. There's really no fluff, just clear definitions, and interesting facts. The Word-of-the-Day narratives are usually engaging, and encourage students to think about how words and their meanings develop and continue to develop. The audio pronunciations are a great aid, especially with high school vocabulary and SAT practice. The app also allows students to copy and share definitions to notes or social media.

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