Review by Leslie Crenna, Common Sense Education | Updated April 2013
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Instructables

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Slick DIY app with projects that have classroom potential

Subjects & skills
Subjects
  • English Language Arts

Skills
  • Creativity
  • Character & SEL
  • Critical Thinking
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
8–12
Great for:
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (9 Reviews)

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6 images

Pros: Unique ideas appeal to a wide range of interests.

Cons: Some projects deal with iffy topics or are otherwise inappropriate for students to attempt.

Bottom Line: Cool project ideas and let tweens and teens showcase their creativity and instruction-writing skills; supervision required.

While some instructables, like the "Arc Welder," would only be appropriate for shop class, many, like "Polymer Clay Dragon Pendant," "Puffy Dimensional Paint Jewelry," and "Tape Painting," are quite doable as classroom art or integrated unit studies projects. Although instructables listed in Explore mode categories avoid most sophisticated content, potentially inappropriate topics can be found in searches (recipes for alcoholic beverages, "How to Put on a Condom," etc.), so you'll want to carefully structure access to the app. You'll also want to model reading through all the instructions before starting to determine needs like background knowledge, equipment, materials, cost, and safety.

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Instructables is a slick DIY and how-to share site intended primarily for adults, but it has lots of projects middle and high school students could do. Instructables is super easy to use with large fonts, icons, easy edit and delete functions, and the ability to take photos in-app. Projects range from a giant sun jar (made with a clear glass cookie jar, solar lights, LEDs, and frosting spray) to maple bacon cheddar garlic biscuits to a homemade arc welder. Contest topics include jewelry, puppets, and bikes; registered users can vote for their favorites.

The app opens in Explore mode with large photo-based panels in eight categories. The main menu includes a search function, contests, followed contributors, and a profile page. You can vote for contest entries, comment on instructables, or create your own instructable (to create a new instructable, you'll need to register with username, email, and password). Users tap on instructable panels (title, photo, and contributor) to bring up step-by-step instructions and photo illustrations. Video links don't always work, and contest instructions display nonsense symbols in some versions of the app.

Attempting an instructable means applying information, testing meaning with real-world objects, making inferences about part-whole relationships, and thinking critically. Kids must combine previous knowledge with some research or adult assistance. If attempting to create an instructable, kids will test their imaginations, push the limits of innovation, and set goals like winning votes in contests. Because engineering is a trial-and-error process, kids will have to move beyond obstacles and persevere when things go wrong.

Overall Rating

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

With a wide range of interesting projects, the app is sure to engage. Graphics and design are top notch, and plentiful photos enhance the experience greatly. Contests add interest.

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

Projects are well-described, empowering kids to be successful with their own attempts. The comments function lets users ask questions, give support, and add info. Teens can also learn from the experience of adding their own projects.

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

Links to reference and background info would improve learning significantly. 


Teacher Reviews

(See all 9 reviews) (9 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
August D. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
Ridgewood Elementary School
Eureka, CA
The Go To Source for All Things DIY!
I have been a fan of Instructables for many years, and highly recommend it for any teacher interesting in performing both simple and complex do-it-yourself projects. It has uses both in and out of the classroom, but at my grade level (kindergarten), this app, and the website that gave rise to it, are appropriate for teacher research only. Without a content filter, one never knows what will be found in the step-by-step instructions and/or comments. However, with some work ahead of time, it is easy to find live Instructables (or at least screen shots) appropriate to share with students before jumping into a group project.
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