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What Does Our Discomfort with Fidget Spinners Say About Education?

Posted by on in Studentcentricity
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fidget spinner

As educators, we have all encountered colleagues bemoaning the rise of fidget spinners, whether in-person, on blogs, or on social media.

For some perspective, consider how people outside education view fidget spinners. Watch The Young Turks enjoy playing with them. Forbes magazine calls them the "must-have office toy for 2017." The sheer delight of staffers playing with fidget spinners at AJ+ bears this out. Most poignantly, YouTuber Bunny Meyer says, "I find...I've been struggling with depression and anxiety...and these things [fidget spinners] calm me down." Quick aside: How awesome would it be if we cultivated creativity in our students that resulted in them having eight million YouTube subscribers like Bunny Meyer does?

These positive takes are not surprising when you consider Nerdist's piece about how physics explains why fidget spinners are so fun. Non-educators think of fidget spinners as fun and comforting, so...

What does our discomfort with Fidget Spinners say about education?

My best guess is that some educators are uncomfortable with fidget spinners because they distract from a traditional, teacher-centered, industrial model of education that relies on learners paying attention and distractions kept to an absolute minimum. Fidget spinners are a problem when we expect students to be audience members in their classrooms. A simple solution - don’t expect students to be audience members in their classrooms

If the concern is that fidget spinners take students off-task, consider the gainfully employed people in the examples above. Further, if we are worried about fidget-spinners taking learners “off-task,” how dedicated are we to moving away from our industrial model of educationSecond quick aside: Can we please eradicate the child-hostile terms “off-task” and “on-task” from education?

One last question to consider: if our kids care about or are fascinated by something, and it is safe, doesn't it belong in their classrooms as a hook to engage them?

The Good News

Fortunately, not all educators are uncomfortable with fidget spinners. Some are using them to engage and teach. Have a look at these great examples from Education Week, Denis Sheeran, and Meagan Kelly. You have all summer to contemplate this issue. In 2017-18 will you ban fidget spinners or use them to engage students?

Thank you for reading. I am curious to hear from you about this issue. Please comment below or tweet me at @TomEMullaney

Thank you, Canva, the tool I used to make the image for this post. This is the chalkboard in the image. This is the fidget spinner.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I HAVE NOT RECEIVED COMPENSATION OF ANY KIND FOR  MENTIONING THE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES IN THIS POST. I WAS NOT SOLICITED TO WRITE THIS POST AND I HAVE NO RELATIONSHIP WITH ANY OF THE COMPANIES MENTIONED. 

 

 

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Tom Mullaney is a Digital Learning Integration Designer for the San Francisco Unified School District. Tom's education experience includes Special Education, Social Studies, and educational technology coaching in New York, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. He is a Google for Education Certified Innovator and Trainer. Tom hosts the Sustainable Teaching Podcast and contributes to the BamRadio Network EdWords blog. Use his TED-Ed lesson to teach your students about the French Revolution. Contact him on Twitter, @TomEMullaney or via e-mail, mistermullaney@gmail.com.

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Guest Monday, 20 November 2017