Sunday, September 8, 2013

Thank Goodness for Digital Dictionaries

Image Source:   greeblie.
Creative Commons 2.0 License
I like to think that I'm a relatively well read individual. My family would likely say that I read a lot. I'm not terribly intimidated by listening to Rex Murphy on the CBC, and I can usually decipher the meaning of unfamiliar words from their context. However, now I'm in a position where I must do some academic reading, and whether I understand a word "mostly" or "exactly" matters.

Instead of purchasing the traditional hard copy version of a text for an online course I'm taking, I purchased it through Google Play. For me, a digital text was the way to go for a variety of reasons. I usually have at least one digital device with me, so if I get some time, I can keep reading. I really like being able to search through a text digitally (as opposed to thumbing through it), and when it comes to taking notes, sticky notes and notes in the margins just won't work for me. First, I'm too slow and sloppy when handwriting (I'm a lefty), and second, I like the flexibility of moving typed notes easily between different places, so I can quickly move my notes into the rough draft of an essay without replicating work that's already been done.

Perhaps the best feature of online texts, is the ability to quickly define an unknown word. On my tablet, I simply press on the word and choose "define" from the pop-up menu. Instantly, the built-in dictionary gives me the definition of the word, it's origins, usage and related words. If that's not good enough, I can copy and paste it into another dictionary or thesaurus app and see what results appear. And, in the case where the built in dictionary or apps don't work, I can always query Google (define:erotetic - it's not what you think).

I know that I could do these things with a hard copy dictionary, but then I'd have to carry it around with me, and even though I understand alphabetical order completely, it's just more effective using the digital tools. I'm not advocating that students don't learn how to use dictionaries, but using voice-to-text to "look it up" just makes life easier.

Here are some of the tools I've used or currently use:
Merriam Webster Dictionary (Website)
Concise Oxford English Dictionary Dictionary and Thesaurus (Website)

Most E-Readers have a built in dictionary that you can access.  In any Google Search box, type "define:" before the word you'd like to look up.