CD-ROM Dictionaries training

This is a brief description of the training session I mentioned on {{link http://www.psa.eu.com/pages/blog/archives/00000008.htm 6 June}} and the reactions and comments of the participants.

The session was based around a worksheet which can be downloaded {{link http://www.psa.eu.com/PDFs/CD-ROM_dictionary_training.pdf here}}.

Click on “link” below for an introduction to the summary and our conclusions.

The {{link http://www.psa.eu.com/pages/cd/cd_dic_training.htm summary of the session}} can be found in the CD-ROM section.

Introduction

My original plan for the training session was to distribute the worksheet to do in small groups or pairs; check that everyone had the correct answers; ask which features they found most useful in the everyday teaching then see what could be done to extend their knowledge – perhaps with a little peer support – and go on to discuss how to train learners to use the dictionaries and how to integrate these skills into the classroom and self-study.

In fact, the people who attended the session varied quite considerably in their experience of using the dictionaries with learners. Very few of them ever used the CD-ROMs as a tool for lesson preparation.

As a result, the session focussed more on familiarising the participants with the features of the dictionaries, listed on the worksheet. I was fortunate to be able to use a training room equipped with a computer projector. The dictionaries were all installed on the computer and we had Web access. This made it easy to combine discussing the features whilst demonstrating them and conducting a comparison between how they were implemented in different programs. As advertised we focussed principally on the second edition of the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary and the up-dated Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. The first edition of the former being the program most used in the school up to that point and the latter being the competing product I thought would most find favour with my colleagues and our learners in the terms of features and ease of use.

The {{link http://www.psa.eu.com/pages/cd/cd_dic_training.htm summary of the session}} can be found in the CD-ROM section.

Conclusion

The general consensus at the end of the session was that both dictionaries offer a wider range of features than even the most expert user might need to use. It was felt that the advanced search and sorting features such as the multimedia search on the Longman or the Thesaurus on the Cambridge were worth showing to learners in order to demonstrate that CD-ROM dictionaries could be used to develop and extend vocabulary as well as simply to look up the meaning. Another aspect which found favour was that both publishers had taken advantage of today’s large, cheap computer hard drives to provide extra examples of words and phrases in context and, in the case of the Longman, to allow learners to hear those sentences being spoken. Finally the quickfinder features, used as reading tools, were considered to be a huge boon to the accessibility of on-line and other electronic texts and also potentially motivating for learners who would have otherwise avoided such activities.

All those who attended the session resolved to show the two dictionaries to their learners and to provide feedback on how they used them; which they preferred and whether their learning benefited from it.