Review by Jenny Bristol, Common Sense Education | Updated January 2018
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My Molecularium

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Molecule-building app handy for visual learning but lacks depth

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • Science

Skills
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
5–10
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Pros: Fun interface, visual and interactive molecular models, interesting facts, and online extension resources.

Cons: Lack of depth is extremely limiting, and many students may be frustrated by the aim-and-shoot game style, especially on higher levels.

Bottom Line: Students who persevere will have a little fun and get an opportunity to study the arrangement of atoms in many types of molecules, though the lack of depth means it's just a piece of the puzzle.

Teachers can use My Molecularium in any science or chemistry class as an introduction to molecular shapes and the specific atom arrangements of over 30 kinds of molecules. Once students understand molecular bonds and electron shells, this app can show how those concepts are applied to more advanced molecule types. Allow students to study and interact with the three-dimensional molecule models inside the game, and discuss the facts about each one during or after gameplay (students can also compete for high scores in the game and Game Center achievements unlocked, though that won't necessarily reflect how much learning has happened). Then head online and use some of the online videos and activities with your students. These cover topics such as molecule building, states of matter, electron shells, relative scale, materials, and DNA. There are also educator resource guides to help.

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My Molecularium is a chemistry app where students learn how to build over 30 molecules, such as water, butane, ozone, adrenaline, and the molecules that make up DNA. After being introduced to a molecule and its chemical symbols, structure, and model, and get an opportunity to interact with the molecule and see it from all sides, students work to build that molecule from available atoms. This is done by aiming the device and swiping with a finger to shoot additional atoms at the starter atom, trying to get new ones to stick in the right places. The clock is ticking and the temperature keeps rising (to what end, I'm not sure, as temperature doesn't seem to affect anything in the game). This takes a lot of patience and finesse, especially if you're playing the game on an iPad or large tablet (the one in-app purchase available allows for a Rapid Fire Power Shot). Once a molecule is complete, students learn facts and properties of the molecule. They are given a score, along with time, accuracy, and completion bonuses. Then, having unlocked the next molecule, they can move on.

The instructions in the game are both printed and spoken, which is helpful for those with low literacy. The game is integrated with Game Center and offers a number of achievements to unlock. Some will be unlocked quickly, but others won't unlock until much later in the game.

My Molecularium helps students understand a bit better how molecules are put together and allows them to interact with three-dimensional models of many molecular shapes. Students are also introduced to how skeletal formula notations are determined, and what role each of the molecules plays in our world. They then build the molecules from available atoms through the gameplay. That's about where the learning stops, however. The app presents information and allows some interaction, but students have no way to demonstrate their learning or take their newfound understanding to the next level. The continually increasing temperature while building each molecule doesn't seem to have any effect on the game, other than to create an artificial sense of urgency. The game can, however, teach some patience, since shooting atoms as projectiles is, as it turns out, an inexact science. Also, the play portion of the app is not well-integrated into the learning aspects.

By itself, this app doesn't have too much to offer students, but when used within the context of a much more in-depth lesson plan, including some of the online resources, it can be a fun piece of the (molecular) puzzle.

Overall Rating

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

The game's fun attitude and happy molecules will attract students and pull them in to get started, but frustrating and repetitive gameplay may not keep their interest for long.

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

The game presents factual information and allows students to interact with molecules, but gameplay isn't well-integrated into the learning, and there are few ways for students to show their understanding.

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

The instructions explain how to use the app in both text and spoken-word form, and the app's simplicity makes it easy to understand. Online resources can extend the learning, but the material doesn't delve deeply.


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