Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2013
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Dictionary.com

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Useful reference tool with voice recognition and daily updates

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • English Language Learning

Skills
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (8 Reviews)

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Pros: It's a functioning dictionary with complete entries, voice recognition, a point motivation system, and daily updates.

Cons: You get no games, activities, or meaningful social interaction.

Bottom Line: Dictionary.com works great for lookups or classroom warm-ups but lacks significant engagement and interactivity.

Some of the features of Dictionary.com could be a springboard for discussion or research, or simply a fun way to start the day or create transitions between subjects. The Daily section offers a word of the day, a Spanish word of the day, and The Hot Word, which is written in a conversational style and asks for input (though the only place to respond is in the Feedback area found by tapping More on the main page). A question of the day (e.g., "What two words make the contraction ain't?") allows students to guess before selecting and reading the answer.

Keep in mind that this is an adult-level dictionary with historical, geographical, biographical, and scientific entries, not to mention objective and non-glorified definitions of sex, drugs, and curse words.

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Dictionary.com is an intuitive and hip reference tool -- as hip as a dictionary can be -- for older kids and adults. The main page offers icons for relatively engaging daily updates, a thesaurus search, favorites, trends, recent searches, the mPOINTS rewards system for searches, and more (feedback, sharing, rating, and about). Complete entries with pronunciation, parts of speech, multiple definitions, etymology, related forms, synonyms, and antonyms give the full dictionary experience, even adding geographical, biographical, historical, and scientific terms.

Most words have an audio pronunciation button, and students can search by selecting the microphone and speaking the word, or by typing. Voice recognition is quite good for searching but not perfect (babble gave us Babel). An easy slide menu switches you to thesaurus mode.

 

Dictionary.com is superior to similar apps such as Merriam-Webster (Android version) in popularity (total Google Play downloads), ease of use, and overall functionality. Content is licensed from "over 15 trusted and established sources including Random House and Harper Collins," per the website.

Unfortunately, there are no built-in games or illustrations (despite references to them) and none of the front matter found in a traditional, book-format dictionary. The Nearby feature, somewhat dubious in terms of security, tracks the locations of nearby searches but might have some interesting educational value for statistics or research projects.

 

Overall Rating

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

Daily updates can give kids ideas. The rewards system prompts them to search. The Nearby feature could be fodder for research and analysis. The Share feature gives them access to social media, email, and SMS.

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

You get no games or direction on how to read entries. The Recent and Favorites sections allow some customization and continuity. 

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

It doesn't include any extensions or links to the companion website. The interface is intuitive and easy to navigate.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 8 reviews) (8 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Cynthia C. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
McSwain Elementary School
Merced, CA
Dictionary.com is a life saving tool for teachers who need a quick definition and pronunciation of a word.
My overall opinion of dictionary.com is favorable. I appreciate its many features such as being able to hear the word and seeing it used in context. This application is very user friendly and beneficial to students who struggle with word pronunciation. My ELL students love to,use dictionary.com because they can listen to words being pronounced without fear of embarrassment. They can have it repeated as many times as it takes for them to understand the word and pronounce it correctly. It gives them a sense of independence as they do not need to ask a friend or the teacher how to pronounce a word. Or worse yet, just gloss over it.
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