Word Dynamo is a vocabulary-building iPad app and website that features a series of quizzes tailored to the skills and goals of the user. While Word Dynamo draws from familiar flash card-style instruction, for those so inclined, the app provides an accessible and polished method for more efficiently reviewing words and discovering words to learn.
Word Dynamo distinguishes itself with its wide range of word challenges, lists (pulled from Dictionary.com) spanning all grade ranges, subject areas, and many tests, as well as its variations in quizzing style. While lists are user generated and range widely in quality (we observed that the college-level section features quite a few silly lists that have dubious connections to the dictionary), the challenges, which are built into Word Dynamo and progress with the user, are well curated and tuned to the ability of the user.
This assessment and customization is the result of the user's "Word Score," a number that estimates how many words they know, which gradually increases as the user learns more words. This score determines what words populate the quizzes, so that the user is consistently challenged and constantly building vocabulary. In the iPad version, this score is tied to an account that the user creates either through Word Dynamo or by linking a Facebook account.
While Word Dynamo lends itself well to independent study and review, especially for upcoming tests or supplementing instruction and bolstering vocabulary, it can also be a useful tool for personalized and customized learning in the classroom. Students can participate in a running assignment requiring them to generate and review word lists, or educators can create custom lists and have students practice vocabulary. Alternatively, students can be tasked with reading or studying material and creating pertinent word lists to share with the class.
Word dynamo breakdown
When first loading the app, the user is prompted to choose a grade level (elementary school, middle school, high school, or college and beyond) before taking a short test matching words to definitions. Once finished, Word Dynamo requires the user to sign up for an account or sign in through Facebook (Note: an account is required to use the iPad version but not required to use the web-based version). There are six account types: middle school student, high school student, college student, teacher, parent, or other. It is unclear what these account types do.
With an account created, the user is shown her word score and approximate grade level and can choose from a few different games. Two are pre-built word list quizzes, one is the option to browse all lists, another is the Word Dynamo Challenge, and the last creates a new list. Depending on what you tap, you will either be presented with a stand-alone experience or taken to the dashboard, the main navigational interface for the app. The bottom left of the dashboard screen displays the user's word score and current progress in the challenge mode.
The dashboard is broken down into five primary tabs or sections: "Word Dynamo Challenge," "Your Lists," "Recently Played," "Recommended Lists," and "Browse All." These sections can be organized into the two primary features of the app: challenges and lists.
Word Dynamo Challenge: This will most likely be the mode most users experience in the app. It consists of twenty levels with three-to-six-word sets in each. As the user completes word sets, more unlock, and whe she completes the final quiz for a level, she progresses to the next level and its word sets. Each word set increases the user's word score and each level bestows upon her a new rank that's displayed above the word score.
With each set of words, the user has three options to choose from. The first is simply to turn the words into flashcards for review. These flashcards can be modified, so that the term and definition are shown, or just the term or definition is shown and a tap reveals the answer. (Important: in this mode and all other modes, users can hear the words spoken. This is a particularly useful feature for language learners.) The other two options are "game types" that actually test the user's knowledge and advance her word score and level. One of these game types is to listen to the word and choose the definition, and the other is to read the word and choose the definition. The web-based version has an additional game type that converts the word list into a crossword puzzle.
Lists: Alongside the Word Dynamo Challenge, users can review and quiz words from a range of lists, broken down by subject, grade level, tests (e.g. SAT, LSAT), and foreign languages. Most of these lists are user created and, as with all user-generated content, vary widely in quality. To help find good lists, there’s also a display of popular lists and an entire section of recommended lists.
Users are not limited to existing lists. They can also create custom lists for personal use or share them publicly. When creating these lists, the user adds a word and Word Dynamo draws from Dictionary.com’s database to pull up preset words and definitions. Alternatively, the user can enter her own. This is a particularly useful feature in an educational context, allowing content to be customized to the needs of classrooms or even particular students.