Review ~ Primary iDictionary 2An engaging and easy to use self-study CD-ROM package for young learners
The Primary iDictionary 2 is an interactive picture dictionary CD-ROM published by Cambridge. It is designed for primary school aged learners of English with the vocabulary being suitable for children preparing for the Cambridge Movers exam.
The program contains over 300 words divided into 14 vocabulary topics ranging from animals to weather, as well as language-focused units on things like adjectives and past simple forms. In each topic, the vocabulary is presented via images with the accompanying word. The pronunciation of each word can also be listened to, as can the spelling of the word.
Each unit also contains a song, a story and a game, all of which draw on the vocabulary that is presented. The songs can be listened to with the lyrics or without, or in the ‘karaoke’ mode that allows the child to sing along. There are 4 different types of game: a drag and drop game in which words are matched to pictures; a drag and drop game in which items are added to a picture based on an audio description; a listen and match game in which a description of an item or action is listened to before choosing the corresponding image; and a memory card game in which matching pairs of cards need to be found.
The program is easy to install and works on both Windows and Mac operating systems. It can be run in full-screen mode or in-window mode, a welcome feature sometimes lacking in CD-ROM packages. The general interface and layout of each unit is attractive yet also child friendly and easy to use, making it ideal for self-study. The illustrations and animations are colourful and appealing to the target age group and navigating from unit to unit and activity to activity is straightforward.
I offered some of my students who are currently preparing for the Movers test the opportunity to use the Primary iDictionary 2 at home. Their reactions were generally favourable, with the stories and games in particular receiving rave reviews. The fact that the stories and songs were presented on their own with no follow-up activities was appreciated and the drag and drop games were popular. All of the students were able to use the software by themselves without any difficulties being reported.
They did also have a few minor criticisms. While the stories were enjoyable, a few students expressed a dislike for the songs and said they stopped listening to them after the first couple of units. The illustrations for each word were generally clear but this was not always the case with confusion expressed over the ‘Body’ unit in particular (for example, the picture for ‘back’ had an arrow that was pointing more towards the shoulder). Also, the sound quality is not especially great with one student likening it to ‘the old CD players we use for listening in class’!
However, the overall impression of the iDictionary was a positive one. From a teacher’s point of view, the engaging presentation and simple-to-use format are big plusses, particularly if you are looking for self-study materials for your students to use. The vocabulary and the stories and songs are all pitched at the right level and the games are engaging. The games also provide some useful practice for the Movers exam with the ‘listen and match’ and ‘complete the picture’ games closely mirroring question types from the test. Although I did not have the chance to use the program in class (due to lack of equipment), I am sure it would also provide useful support to the main syllabus when used with an interactive whiteboard or projector.
I would recommend the Primary iDictionary 2 to anyone who is preparing their young learners for the Movers test or teaching general English to children. It would be especially useful as a self-study resource.