Review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated February 2016
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Elements 4D by DAQRI

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Augmented reality transforms paper blocks in chemical-reaction sim

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Critical Thinking

Subjects
  • Science
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5-12
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Pros: Students get to play with blocks and learn about chemical reactions at the same time.

Cons: Downloads can be hard to find, and the app can be a little tricky to use.

Bottom Line: An innovative, amusing way for students to test predictions about particles that would normally be too small to see.

Elements 4D is best used when integrated into classroom lessons. Students can work in pairs or small groups with an iPad to bring the element blocks together and test their predictions. Patterns become more obvious when all the small groups share their observations using a central data collection point either in a shared online document or posted at the front of the room on a large data table.

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Elements 4D uses augmented reality to help students explore elements and chemical reactions. To use the app, first print special element blocks on standard letter-size paper in your classroom. Cut the shapes out, follow the instructions to fold them into cubes, and glue them together to hold them in place. Once the blocks are ready, you can hold them in front of your device camera so the elements they represent can be viewed in augmented reality. 

Students can manipulate the cubes to look at 36 different chemical elements and also learn those elements' names, atomic weights, and structure. They can also bring together two different element cubes to see if they react. If they do, students will be able to observe the compound created and the chemical equation that represents the reaction.   

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Elements 4D by DAQRI is a powerful way to help students notice patterns in the periodic table. It lets them predict whether or not elements will react and then actually see if their prediction comes true. One challenge is finding the required element blocks to print out. When you click on the Get Blocks button on the app, it leads to an error page. But if you hunt around on DAQRI’s website, you can find paper printouts that also work on the last pages of the teacher lesson plans.​ DAQRI claims they will have wooden blocks available soon for purchase.

Lesson plans labeled with different NGSS Performance Expectations are available on DAQRI's website. Be cautious of this alignment. One lesson claims to meet the performance expectation that students will "communicate scientific and technical information about why the molecular-level structure is important in the functioning of designed materials," but students only use Elements 4D by DAQRI to determine whether elements in their standard states are solids, liquids, or gases. Other lessons (such as the fifth-grade Adventure 1 "What Could Matter Be") are spot-on, guiding students to use the app alongside classroom activities to help them visualize the elements in everyday items such as an aluminum can. The augmented reality is a neat twist, but keep in mind that it's not crucial for helping students understand how and why some elements combine.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Students will find the blocks a neat twist because they seem like a toy. The paper blocks are a little clumsy, but at least they're free.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

As students observe the different elements, they can notice patterns and make their own predictions, letting them develop insights and understanding about how matter interacts.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

NGSS-aligned lesson plans are provided for fifth-grade, middle school, and high school teachers, which helps make this a stellar tool for learning. Oddly, it can be tough to figure out how to download the printable blocks.


Common Sense Reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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