Common Sense Review
Updated January 2013

Dictionary.com

Useful reference tool with voice recognition and daily updates
Common Sense Rating 3
  • Main menu in Dictionary mode.
  • Definition for "dynamo" with pronunciation, part of speech, multiple definitions, origin, and variants.
  • Thesaurus page for "dynamo" with list of synonyms and back button to Dictionary entry.
  • Daily page gives brief summaries to entice user into special features.
  • Trends page allows users to see words searched by nearby users.
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.
Leslie Crenna
Common Sense Reviewer
Common Sense Rating 3
Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return? 3

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? 3

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? 3

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

About our ratings and privacy evaluation.
How Can Teachers Use It?

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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What's It Like?

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.

 

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Is It Good For Learning?

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.

 

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See how teachers are using Dictionary.com

Lesson Plans