Are fidgets, like the hugely popular fidget spinners and fidget cubes, becoming a real classroom problem? How are teachers, deans, principals, and the likes of schools as a whole handling the craze? A craze which seems to have swept the attention of students across the globe and perhaps even overshadowed the once global phenomenon—Pokemon Go? The Jury is split between whether the influx of fidgets in schools is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ thing for students, teachers, and schools. Here are two perspectives of two teachers, one for, and one against the use of fidget toys at school.
Aside from their entertainment value, fidgets can also provide learning and health benefits. When fidget spinners and fidget cubes hit the scene and took off around the end of April 2017, shortly thereafter, it was apparent these fidget spinner toys had something that made every kid and their sibling want to do anything to get one. Fast forward to where we are today and they are now everywhere in and around schools. And, some schools are embracing this fidget revolution in the classroom. For instance, Roslyn School in Palmerston North, New Zealand have found a way to embrace fidgets to help teach lessons and aid with student learning. Here’s what Teacher Mandy Veza had to say to Stuff New Zealand.
“We want to engage our children and have more hands-on activities. We find students that just sit, get bored, and then we get behavior problems, so we wanted to use the fidget spinners to get them engaged and talking and working on their oral language.”
On the other side of the world, a similar approach has been taken. Castle Gardens Primary School in Newtownards, County Down in Northern Ireland are embracing fidget spinners in the classroom. While the Castle Gardens has enforced ‘strict rules’ on when fidgets can be used, teachers at the school are incorporating the toys into lessons. Here’s what Heather Hutchinson had to say to BBC News.
“The children wanted to know whose spinner was going to spin the longest, so I saw an opportunity for a maths investigation.”
“They timed each other’s spin, recorded it on a table and then put it onto a graph.”
“It was an opportunity for something a bit different with their learning.”
Not all schools, however, view fidgets favorably. There are plenty of schools and teachers out there that find fidget toys to be nuisances, distractions, the classroom menace, and even dangerous. Here’s what teacher Walter Boomsma had to say about the use of fidgets in schools.
“I teach adults and substitute teach elementary school (K-6). In my adult classes, I actually provide stress balls for students to use while taking quizzes and tests… Many adult students find them helpful. The balls are silent, unobtrusive and I often can’t tell who is actually using them. I would concur that the test of whether a gadget is a tool or a toy may be found in how it is used. How it is used is, however, often determined by how it is designed.”
“We often must request that children not bring toys to school and if they do bring one, it is typically collected or relegated to the student’s backpack. While I haven’t conducted a study, my observation is that most of the kids who bringing spinners to school are doing so because it’s fashionable and fun. It’s not the “fidgety” kids who are using them. In fact, many kids object to them and find them more than a ‘little distracting.’”
“Yes, fidgeting has value, but part of our challenge as teachers is to teach children how to manage their restlessness. We also have an obligation to “protect” our non-fidgeters from distraction. If we do that well, we won’t have issues in our adult classes where cell phone become toys instead of tools. There’s a world of difference between a student (adult or child) squeezing a stress ball and a student texting on his/her smartphone. I’ve never had to confiscate a stress ball, but I have banned cell phones in my adult classes.”
On the one hand, fidget toys like the fidget spinner and fidget cube are helping students contain their fidget habits during lessons. And, schools that have found ways to embrace them, have shown that they can be used in a constructive manner. The flip-side, however, is they can also be a nuisance and distraction. Granted, fidgets were designed to help improve focus and concentration but we’re also seeing that kids do like to get competitive with the length of spins encouraging competition among users.
What, then, is the best approach schools should be trying to take on these ‘fidget widgets’ in schools? One way could be to do what both Jean Marie Oakman and Dean Stearns, principal of South Royalton School did. In a story covered by Valley News, Jean Marie Oakman, principal of the Weathersfield School, in Ascutney addressed the incidents and potential dangers of the likes of fidgets such as fidget spinners and fidget cubes by issuing a school policy on using fidgets at school. To Oakman’s surprise, the reaction from parents was received positively.
You decide. Are fidget spinners the classroom menace teachers and schools make them out to be? Or, do they simply need to be regulated in a way that allows both teachers to control their use during school time and students to use them in a way that aids their learning and development?
Whether we choose to embrace the fidget revolution or not one thing Walter Boomsma points out, that is certainly worth considering is:
“We need to be very careful that we’re not “teaching” students to multitask while rationalizing that it helps them focus.”