App review by Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Education | Updated August 2019
MEL Chemistry VR Lessons
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MEL Chemistry VR Lessons

Zoom in to the atomic level with limited VR interaction

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Editorial review by Common Sense Education
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Grades
6–12 This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
Subjects & Skills
Science, Critical Thinking

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Pros: Uses VR technology to help kids clearly see atomic scale.

Cons: VR viewers only allow for single-click interactions when kids could benefit from drag-and-drop manipulation of atoms.

Bottom Line: While virtual reality draws students in, other chemistry apps allow for deeper conceptual understanding.

Teachers can best use MEL Chemistry VR Lessons as a hook for individual students who are motivated by virtual reality. Students who haven't previously used VR viewers will need support identifying the metal ring to select items on a screen. Use one of the sample videos on the MEL Science website to help students understand how to interact with the lessons.

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MEL Chemistry VR Lessons introduces key concepts such as atomic structures, periodic trends, isotopes, and electron configurations. Each lesson contains a narrated video followed by a few multiple-choice questions that check for understanding. After learning to name the orbitals, students are asked a question like "How many electrons can share the same orbital?" and get immediate feedback.

To use MEL Chemistry VR Lessons, students will need a virtual reality (VR) viewer such as Google Cardboard that fits a handheld iPhone or Android device -- or a VR headset such as Google Daydream, Oculus Go, or Gear VR. One lesson pack is available free; additional lesson packs can be purchased for $9.95 each. Families who subscribe to MEL Science for $34.90 a month get the VR lesson packs along with the MEL Chemistry sets.

MEL Chemistry VR Lessons draws kids in with the excitement of virtual reality. Students can literally look around their virtual chemistry lab and select a lesson. However, the initial buzz of excitement that VR brings to the classroom fades quickly: The only way to interact with the material is through single clicks. Students get frustrated because they can’t drag and drop or spin the atoms themselves. A different tool, Happy Atoms, combines physical models with the ability to manipulate the molecule students have created.

MEL Chemistry VR Lessons uses VR technology to help kids clearly see scale, a major Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Science and Engineering Practice. These activities are fairly didactic, with little opportunity for students to notice and make sense of patterns. An alternative tool, Collisions: Play Chemistry, uses engaging puzzles to help students figure out chemistry principles themselves.

Overall Rating

Engagement Would it motivate students and hold their interest? Is it visually appealing? Would it inspire teachers to try something new or change their instruction?

Though kids are excited to use virtual reality technology, they're limited to single-click interactions with the material.

Pedagogy Does the tool help teachers promote a more student-centered experience? Will students gain conceptual understanding or think critically? Does it deepen teachers’ pedagogical thinking?

Lessons are accurate and direct, but there are limited opportunities for deep conceptual understanding of chemistry content.

Support Can students and teachers get assistance when they need it? Is it created with people of different abilities and backgrounds in mind? Is learning reinforced and extended beyond the digital experience?

Students get immediate feedback for selected response questions. A companion app and website provides opportunities to engage in classroom experiments.


Common Sense reviewer
Emily Pohlonski Classroom teacher

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