My only real experience of using an online reference tool comes from doing task 11.3, so what follows includes an element of self-plagiarism. I looked at http://thesaurus.com/ This is aimed at the general public (L1 speakers) but would be useful to teachers and intermediate/advanced learners, including those wanting to gain admission into English speaking universities in the US, as there is reference on the site to GRE, which according to wikipedia stands for The Graduate Record Examination (GRE): “a standardized test that is an admission requirement for many graduate schools in the United States, in other English-speaking countries and for English-taught graduate and business programmes world-wide.”
Overall, I would describe the site as having an impressive array of word resources, The site is sub-divided into sections: dictionary, thesaurus, reference, flashcards, quotes, translator, Spanish. I was taken by today’s quote, which sums up my current attitude to online learning on a good day!
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered”. (GK Chesterton)
I liked the flashcard activities and came across one called syllables and semi-vowels: phonetics word preparation, which would be really good for teachers and possibly advanced learners learning about phonetics.
The Miss Spell’s Class is a great way of testing your spelling.
Also several parts of the site are available as iPhone and android apps.
I think it might have been helpful to have had some tutorials to help you navigate about the site as well as tutorials for particular resources.
It could be used with advanced learners to extend or reinforce vocabulary, to try out new words in writing tasks, to analyse their output and to find synonyms and antonyms.
I think the advantages of using an online reference site as opposed to printed versions are:
· they are available 24/7
· they are portable, particularly through mobile telephony
· searchability that isn’t just alphabetically based
· possibility to bookmark and personalise
· they are fun to use, particularly for digital natives
· you can test yourself and track your progress more easily than with a printed alternative.
The disadvantages are:
· You need to learn how to maximise the use of the online resource
· You can get sidetracked and end up “wasting” time. I spent three hours “researching” this site!