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What image comes to mind when you think of a dictionary? A heavy, thick book with an infinite supply of words? A useful tool, but boring read? Actually, Noah Webster's first American Dictionary of the English language, published in 1828, became one of the best selling books of the 1800's. Webster's dictionary had 70,000 entries and took 27 years to complete. His work lives on and led to today's standardized and "American" spellings, i.e. color instead of colour, plow instead of plough.
However, even Mr. Webster has joined the digital age. Today's dictionaries are online with audio, video and other student-friendly features. Merriam-Webster offers a Visual Dictionary Online, connecting words with images... a winning combination for today's visual students. Merriam-Webster also features Word Central, a gaming site that allows students to build their word knowledge.
A favorite online dictionary for middle and high school students (and adults) is Word Ahead. This site features vocabulary videos of over 900 difficult words. It also includes a Study Room with video and flash cards for ACT/SAT vocabulary. (You have to see this!)
Another interesting visual dictionary for middle school students and above is Visuwords. This site offers word meanings and associations in a diagram that resembles a neural network. Students can explore word meanings and their associations with other words and concepts. The interactive site allows students to click on the background to pan around and drag the individual word nodes.
Here are some other student-friendly dictionaries worth checking out.