The cyclist in me loves that the fidget spinner craze has us thinking about smooth bearings and balanced design. If some someone from generation spinner can find inspiration to dethrone Chris King as the supreme leader of sublime spinning, this will all have been worth it.  From the cycling perspective, then, spinners are a smashing success. 

The teacher in me is not so sure.

I have seen it all up close in class and at home. In the best moments, the toys may allay anxiety improve focus, though I personally believe the assertions about the later are wildly exaggerated. In the worst moments, the glorified tops are distracting to the users and all those within a radius. My take on spinners really soured when I witnessed a boy in the front row of our theater starting and stopping and starting and dropping said spinner in the middle of a pretty serious talk. Does this mean adults should give in to our “ban reflex”? I don’t believe we should.

We should learn about what they are and why kids are–for the present moment–crazy about them. What does the science say? What do the students say? Is there a relationship between the trinity of trends that any parent or educator will tell you defined the 2017-18 school year: The Dab, the water bottle flip and the fidget spinner? Even if the science says there is a marginal benefit, should schools be in the business of handing them out and making them available?

What does the science say? What do the students say? Is there a relationship between the trinity of trends that any parent or educator will tell you defined the 2017-18 school year: The Dab, the water bottle flip and the fidget spinner?

In one significant way, the spinner is different than The Dab and the water bottle flip: it is a commodity. It is a “widget spinner,” if you will. I have seen two interesting example of this phenomenon up close in the past week. In one example, my sons’ elementary school gave them out as rewards for having participated in a fund raising event. In another example, a student I teach purchased spinners in bulk and then sold them off, splitting the profits between the club he heads and a charity of his choosing. Are both of these cases example of inspirational and/or entrepreneurial efforts in schools? Yes, they are. Did the schools and the individual students benefit? Yes, they did. In fact, my youngest son reported that he had more butterflies in his stomach before they call students down to the office to pick up their spinner than he did before the Memorial Day Show. Still, it is difficult to point to examples where schools trafficked in commodities like this. Schools typically do brisk business in t-shirts, but there is no assumption that the shirts have any academic benefit. In the case of spinners there both there is and isn’t. This makes it a tough call.

For now I’ll keep my head on a swivel, trusting that swivel bearing technology is in an unprecedented growth phase.

 

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