Academic journal article English Language Teaching

English Digital Dictionaries as Valuable Blended Learning Tools for Palestinian College Students

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

English Digital Dictionaries as Valuable Blended Learning Tools for Palestinian College Students

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

Students at higher education institutions around the globe often feel pressured to finish extensive reading assignments for their various courses. Such readings are mostly done in English, the language of instruction at most universities including those in Palestine. One may also argue that a considerable amount of college reading is done online due to the scarcity of print sources at some universities or to the convenience of such sources for saving, compiling and editing materials that would later be used for the purpose of academic writing. Two of the most valuable sources that students utilize when reading online are the electronic (CD-Rom) and online dictionaries. These dictionaries are suitable for the blended learning mode because even if electronic equipment is not readily available inside the classrooms, such dictionaries can be used out of the classroom, in a lab or at a café, to finish reading and writing assignments, build vocabulary and prepare for presentations. All these features and advantages, however, would go to waste unless the students are familiar with them and can utilize them efficiently. When knowing these features, students will take control of their own learning and will be motivated to spend more time navigating and exploring the dictionary which will offer them an unprecedented opportunity to expose themselves to unabridged or authentic language input that will enhance their overall language proficiency.

This study, hence, attempts to investigate the current state of Palestinian College students' familiarity with the features of electronic and online dictionaries and to check their purposes for using them. The paper also looks at the domains in which students use electronic dictionaries, i.e., home, classroom or campus. The study also probes the change in the above variables after the students were introduced to a new classroom activity, i.e., "word of the day" which impacted the students' overall language proficiency and their awareness of the special features of electronic dictionaries.

2. Literature Review

Nowadays, one may easily notice that a large variety of electronic and online dictionaries are available for learners to choose from while working on the completion of college reading and writing assignments. These dictionaries enjoy a wide array of functions that are not available in their print counterparts such as the pronunciation feature and the hypertext links. Additionally, these valuable sources can be freely accessed by the student at home as well as at the college library or computer labs.

One may also argue that electronic or online dictionaries are not only sources of information for learners but they also provide an ample opportunity for enhancing students' motivation and for developing a new learning style that entails autonomy and learner centeredness (Sharma & Barrett, 2007).

Boonmoh (2010) lists three types of electronic dictionaries that are available for learners, namely, CD-Rom dictionaries, pocket electronic dictionaries (PEDs) and online or internet dictionaries. Boonmoh goes on to argue that PEDs are not readily available for learners and that the use of PC or CD-Rom dictionaries is not popular when compared to the use of online dictionaries which are favored by the majority of students.

In the Palestinian context, however, one of the most popular dictionary types available for students is the CD-Rom or PC-based dictionary, later referred to in this paper as the electronic dictionary. This dictionary is usually provided alongside the print version, and it may be uploaded into the computer, thus enabling the learner to access additional features such as sound and pronunciation.

As for online dictionaries, they are mostly available on the World Wide Web for free. Besides enjoying the general features of a CD -Rom, online dictionaries also boast an additional feature which is being continuously updated to include new information, hence providing learners with the latest and most recent data. …

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