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The eBook and the Dictionary

I was just reading today how Google Books (in the Flowing text view), now has an option that lets you look up the word in the dictionary or have the word translated. I think that such tools are very important and actually increase the chances that a student would look up a word that they are unfamiliar with. Back when I taught middle school, we used to keep a collection of dictionaries on the side of the class, and realistically they were never used by my student, even in our textbooks, unless they were doing a vocabulary exercise there wasn't a lot of turning to the back of the book. I'm often surprised by how much students read without knowing all the words. This was shown to me when I had an undergraduate class work to create an audiobook version of Tarzan. Students were constantly noting words that they either didn't know or know how to pronounce as they read the text aloud. An issue with looking words up in a dictionary or glossary is the disruption that occurs to have to do that (mostly in the audiobook event, my students just asked me what it meant or how to say it). If a student didn't know a word and has to look it up, they loose the context of the word as they move to the glossary, and going across a room to a dictionary opens up lots of opportunities for other things to catch their interest and then they have to remember the word (and spelling) to look it up. But with an embedded dictionary or translation tool, the student doesn't have to leave the text (or the context) to find about the new or unfamiliar word. Instead they just click on it. Google Books can be accessed at http://books.google.com 

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