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Are Dictionary Skills Valuable in the Internet Age?


At one point in history, the dictionary was a staple in every student’s collection of school supplies. However, with the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, phone texting and instant access to information via the internet, it sometimes seems that spelling is no longer a critical scholastic requirement. Often, words are spelled interpretively and unspoken assumptions are inferred.  Unfortunately, poor syntax and grammar are commonplace on the internet and in some cases, negatively affect young children who are developing reading skills.

How the Internet has Affected Dictionary Use
With printed books, there is usually an editing process that eliminates poor quality and misspellings.  The internet however, does not regulate online material.  As such, many children have never been exposed to a dictionary.  With this in mind, students use emoticons, abbreviations and frequently substitute speed for quality. However, the internet has been a positive addition, creating new words and suffixes into use such as “i” for internet and “e” for electronic.  In addition, words that are used in common language are now showing up on websites such as Urban Dictionary.

The Positives of the Internet and Dictionary Use
Children today can get immediate help if they are having difficulty spelling a word by visiting an online dictionary. For that matter, with access to nearly unlimited resources, students are able to complete more difficult assignments than ever before.  Because most of these children have grown up with the internet as a tool, it has become second nature to use it for research. As a result, the internet helps to build literary and vocabulary skills. In addition, online dictionaries are useful if words are spelled incorrectly. Misspelled words are automatically changed when typed on the computer by built in spell check programs.

Reasons Students Today Still Need the Dictionary
Luckily, if you are unsure of the meaning of a word, or how to use it correctly in a sentence, there are online tools to help you.  For instance, words within definitions may be unfamiliar and online resources can be extremely helpful for finding keywords, phrases and synonyms. However, it is still a valuable skill to know how to use a dictionary.  In addition, a quality dictionary can help students decide if there is more than one meaning for a word and if the spelling is correct.
Despite the problems the internet has created for students learning to spell, it can be a tremendous help to have a dictionary tool available at the touch of a button. With word documents, spelling can be automatically corrected, however, there must be human oversight to prevent a correction that is inaccurate.  For students, it is helpful to write down unfamiliar words when reading a passage and use the dictionary to find the meaning later. A dictionary provides useful support and helps students achieve proficiency of a universally acknowledged language, while the internet has created a lexicon of new words.