Using Instructables with your students?

Hey Instructables!

I'm working this summer at Instructables on how we can better connect with and serve educators - this could be anyone from a homeschool instructor to a middle school teacher to a scout leader to a parent looking for an educational activity with their kid.  I'm curious - has anyone had success using Instructables as a learning tool with their students, particularly on having kids write their own Instructables in order to document projects they completed?  On the flipside, what's hard about using Instructables with young people?  Would love to hear any thoughts.


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Kiteman5 years ago
From the UK:

I've used published Instructables as both "worksheet to follow" and inspiration for students (most recently, my first boomerang project was used as a seed for 12-13 yr olds to design and make their own boomerangs).  A colleague in another school used the


In some UK schools, the site is filtered because of "adult content" (the profusion of projects with the word "gun" in the title, and forum topics on explosives, plus the odd highlight like casting a female torso in chocolate, tend to upset some filters or human administrators with child protection legislation in the back of their minds).

The format doesn't quite match the needs of a UK DT teacher regarding documentation and assessment - there is a focus on mood-boards, concept evaluation, target market, and follow-up evaluation that doesn't quite fit in an instructable that would be useful to other people.

However, the format does work well to address literacy requirements in the UK system, as well as independent study and peer assessment.  Certainly in my school, that is a route that would work well in "selling" the site to a school, as well as focusing on the benefits to G&T students and the fact that our school intends to become a specialist engineering school.

I have plans in the next term to start a STEM club that will also outreach to the local community, happening both on school premises and on this site, and I am going to ask that the Technology department's next whole-school home-study project be channeled through Instructables.

Doesn't the OP sit right next to you? No one talks face to face anymore :P


add anything related to me in the filters...wait

The use of outside sites is pretty much not recommended unless it has been approved by the school board and teacher's union. Homework assignments are only through the school run school website. The only other site accessed for learning materials is through those run by the textbook publisher overlords.
Ibles does not proven it's uptime reliability. I will refrain on commenting on its tech support.

Documentation is a chore at any age. Formal documentation is extra work to kids. Unless you figure out how ibles is relevant to using the scientific method and make a case for having the data/project hosted on ibles servers you will have a tough time trying to justify projects where the end product is a research paper or presentation item. Many have desired an offline editor. Some kids still need to queue up at the library to access the internet.

As much as I adore technology, it isn't a good fit for all possible use cases. In my experience schools don't like to use outside systems over which they exercise little to no control/authority. (Also, particularly since The Assimilation I'm leery of storing data.)

I don't really see what value this would add to the educational process that would surpass that of a more traditional presentation/evaluation format using existing tools and skills - powerpoint, a word document with text and pictures, a diorama or posterboard. Newer isn't always better.
(He usually sits behind me, actually, but he's working in another building right now.)

"Documentation is a chore at any age."

Agreed, and it is, but it is still must be done. No matter how good a student is in a subject, a school must be able to present actual evidence of that ability, and most of the time than evidence is accumulated through the child's documentation of their work.

As a teacher, a real PITA getting kids to write enough - they may have very good reasons for choosing to make an item with a certain tool, for instance, but they must actually write down the reason to get the credit for considering their choice of tools. If they present a wonderful piece of work at the end of a project, but offer up no documentation of the process that produced that object, and nothing to show they considered their own success and progression, then they cannot be given a (UK system) level above a 3, which is that of a "typical 9 year old".

Kids, on the other hand, hate writing with pen and ink, but love typing. They won't write a note to tell their family where they've gone, but they will text or email.

A significant proportion of my students will, rather than cross out a spelling mistake and rewriting the word, will tear up the piece of paper and start again - giving them the ability to edit their work, even after it has been "handed in", would be a big plus to them.

"In my experience schools don't like to use outside systems over which they exercise little to no control/authority."

True, but this is sometimes forced upon the school.

A strong argument that will stop schools using any external system is a requirement from examiners that schools be able to prove that all coursework was actually done by the pupil involved, and thus what was, in the past, allowed to be done as homework, must now be done within school hours, in controlled conditions. Thus, whilst Instructables is a great format for 13-14 year olds, and for work that is not formally assessed, or does not need to be externally verified, it will (I predict) not see a strong take-up in schools working with pupils 15+.

I can't work out whether the above comments are for or against using Instructables in school. The context varies dramatically from school to school, country to country, based on national legislation, local interpretation of that legislation, and especially upon the personal will of the staff of that school.

All I can say with certainty is that my school will be using Instructables on a steady and growing basis, mainly because I brought it to the attention of my line-managers in a positive light, and show a pretty constant enthusiasm for the site, and that the use will be pushed out into the local community for the same reason.


Nope - they don't seem to keep that anywhere - as AIR, I've already had to give my most basic personal details (email and postal address) to two people, and the only reason I know what's happening around me is because Eric added me to the in-house email list himself.

>True, but this is sometimes forced upon the school.

I don't really understand what you're saying. We seem to agree that schools probably won't be wild to voluntarily adopt the use of an outside system over which they have no control.

>Nope - they don't seem to keep that anywhere

Don't seem to keep what anywhere? All my instructables, photos, and email address seem to be in one piece. By "data," I don't just mean my shipping address (though that's part of it), I mean "all data I have submitted, of whatever type" (and in my experience staffers certainly can - or historically have been able to - access all different varieties of my data quite easily).
In principle, Instructables is a good tool for schools - my own school is happy for the children to use it. It is a more focused kind of site than, say, Facebook or YouTube, and the enforced "be nice" policy makes it a safe place to be.

On top of that, it's free. The restricted-access websites that schools use for students to store and share files and to discuss their work cost thousands of pounds a year, and they are not as controlled as might be thought - it's impossible for a school to monitor what children are saying in their messages, or including in their files - and they are certainly not proof from including inappropriate materials, since the pupils have to be able to access the systems from home, which means they are open alongside tabs with absolutely unrestricted access to the net.

Some schools are now turning to ordinary "cloud" systems like Drop Box and Google Documents for storing files for pupils to use (my own school's email system is actually Outlook Express), because they are just as easy to keep out of public view with passwords etc.

The Only thing stopping all schools going over to the free systems immediately is, as I say, the requirement that schools be able to prove that a pupil's coursework is their own, so it has to be created in formal sessions, instead of for homework.
I'm not saying there aren't any advantages at all, but I don't see things that I think most school boards here would find compelling enough to make any kind of significant, long-term shift.

>it's impossible for a school to monitor what children are saying in their messages, or including in their files

Au contraire! If only it were so. It is eminently possible!

I guess what I'm saying is that while there are certainly nice things about the system, I don't see humongous net advantages for schools over existing systems, and for that reason I doubt they'll switch.
OK, make that "ridiculously impractical" - in my school, a tech support department consisting of one person cannot realistically maintain a constant watch on the activities of 400 students 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

(Don't say "but they can use filters", because I know you know how unreliable they are, and (I am told) they cannot look at the content of attached files.)
They don't have to maintain a constant watch - why wouldn't filters work? Ibles' filters work fine. The issue is of using keywords that don't generate lots of chaff, like Robot's.

When you have access to the router through which network users' traffic is routed, you can access ALL the things. (And SSL? Ha. Can be broken. Has been broken.)

There is no privacy on a network you yourself do not control. I don't believe the line about being unable to look at the content of attached files. Maybe not normally, but trust me, there's always a way.

I think they have more control (perhaps it's only potentially) than they are willing to say. Maybe they would give up the ability to police the network (if only in theory/on paper) for reduced costs, but I still kinda doubt it's worth the tradeoff.

Could be wrong on that, though.
I suppose one could SSH tunnel out if they wanted to.
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