App Review
Instructables

Slick DIY app with projects that have classroom potential

  • Main page shows top menu bar as well as main list menu and one Explore mode featured instructable at right.

  • Each instructable is represented by a photo dominated panel, title, and by line. Other categories are accessed to the right by swiping.

  • Many instructables include informal introductory text. Users can select Vote at top to recommend instructables for contests.

  • Steps texts include photos and text. Users can always go back by selecting the menu icon at top left.

  • Creating an instructable is easy: take photos by selecting the photo icon, add steps by selecting the plus icon.

Quick Take
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.
Learning Scores
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? 4

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? 3

Links to reference and background info would improve learning significantly. 

Our Review
What's It Like?

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.

Is It Good For Learning?

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.

How Can Teachers Use It?

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.

This review of Instructables was written by

Related Products