How I Use It
For about an hour a week, my teaching partner and I allow kids to work on personal leaning projects of their choice. This often results in them deciding to make something. Sometimes a student really can't think of anything to work on.
We show this site to students once in awhile just to show how many different ideas are floating around out there, and to encourage them to try things that they may have not thought were in the realm of possibility for them.
A lot of kids will just give the site a cursory look without really trying to find something that gets their attention. But if they stick with it, they will find something that they are interested in doing or learning more about.
It is also a good place for teachers to post project-based learning plans that involve hands-on activities.
Instructables is a user-driven website that has grown into a vast collection of step-by-step instructions for how to make, modify, hack, or create just about anything. Makers of all skill levels submit their work, get feedback and advice, and become part of a community founded on invention and creativity. The iPad and iPhone apps are decent but do not provide as good an experience as the website. But there are fewer distractions (like ads) when viewing projects on the app.
In a classroom setting, it is an excellent resource for anyone wanting to start or continue a "Genius Hour" or other personal project-based learning program. It is a good resource for someone who has an idea for making something but is not sure where to start. There is nothing wrong with following someone else's instructions for a first effort and then using that experience as a springboard to go in a more individualized direction. And, some of the offerings are video-based making them useful for people who struggle with reading technical instructions.