Fidget spinners have suddenly become one of the hottest topics in education right now. They are the current craze with students all over the United States. Touted as a low-tech toy, they are perceived as being either helpful or harmful, depending who you ask. Countless articles, blogs, podcasts, interviews, etc. can be found each day about these spinners. Spinners range in price from a few dollars to a few hundred for elaborate custom-made versions. Seeing this type of craze feels familiar. I’m reminded of other passing crazes from the past. At different times, marbles, jacks, hula hoops, yo-yos, clackers, Rubik’s Cubes, Pokemon cards, pogs, Furbies, Beanie Babies, and Tamagotchi were all considered must-have things, distractions, or even just wastes of time.
I can’t help but wonder if fidget spinners will just be the next item on the list. What have we already learned from the history of toy crazes? How does a current craze really affect our teaching of students? Is student engagement in the classroom really compromised because of a popular toy? Is the constant barrage of daily information about fidget spinners a distraction that is useful? How would I manage the presence of fidget spinners in my classroom?
In my opinion, toys that create a craze really do contribute to a teacher’s own professional learning. Fidget spinners have created such a stir that they have opened doors for educators to engage in conversations, collaboration, and opportunities to think about setting parameters and priorities for their classrooms. Who knew that toys could be such a catalyst for teacher learning? I can just imagine the discourse about fidget spinners in faculty, PLC, or casual meetings in schools, deciding how to allow students to use these toys and what approach to use for doing so. This craze will also pass. What I do think is that the stir may definitely be an educational opportunity, one that was never planned or ever proposed in a school’s professional learning plan. So, look at fidget spinners like an added bonus, and hop on, join the craze. You never know when something will add a learning opportunity.