Saturday, July 01, 2017

Using fidget spinners to target literacies

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in July 2017 and is re-posted here with permission.
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Fidget spinners were the end-of-school-year passion for students. A fidget spinner is a small device, usually with three “arms” and a ball bearing center. The basic spin has the user holding the fidget spinner between the thumb and forefinger of one hand and spinning it with the other hand. The ball bearing in the center allows the spinner to spin for a long time. My $17 heavy metal spinner spun for over five minutes and I was anxiously watching the clock the entire time!
I can understand why fidget spinners were banned from many classrooms. First, the distraction of one student having one and spinning away, and students who did not have one being mesmerized by their classmate’s spinner might be a problem. Secondly, someone watching the clock to time their spinner or trying fidget spinner tricks could also be distracted from learning. In addition, fidget spinners usually cost between $2 and $10 but some, like the SunnyTech Silver Fidget Spinner, can cost as much as $460! Although the high-end fidget spinners are not found in most classrooms, there is also the worry the more expensive ones might “disappear” from a student’s desk, so teachers would rather they stay in the backpack or locker and out of the classroom.
However, as with any new trend, what about embedding it in the curriculum? Get a classroom set of fidget spinners and see what creative ways students and you can come up with using them to support teaching and learning. The cost to get involved is under $50 for twenty-five students, and you can always label them “physics support devices” on the purchase order!
There are plenty of educators who have embraced the fidget spinner and are using it to support a lesson or unit.

LESSON IDEAS

Carla, a preschool teacher, reminds the reader that one of the best ways to teach science is to make each lesson personally relate to the student.  With that in mind, she ordered a pack of fidget spinners for the classroom. Carla then developed a series of STEM challenge cards. These STEM challenge cards combine the principles of science, technology, engineering, and math with fidget spinner tricks. The packet contains activities for preschool students, elementary students, and some blank cards so your students can create their own challenges for the class.
Erin Flanigan’s blog post includes a wealth of information about the use of fidgets spinners to support the STEM curriculum. Her project has students…
  • observing their spinners
  • developing a spinning technique
  • investigating the length of time of their spinner stays spinning
  • finding the average spin length
  • graphing the spin times
  • comparing and graphing class data of all of the spinners
  • responding to critical thinking questions
  • looking at how human error can influence the data
  • using what they learned to design their own spinner
  • creating a slow motion video of their spinner (because) slow motion videos can help students observe motion and understand more of the science behind how things work
Matt Richard and Meg Richard provide an explanation of the how a fidget spinner works and the physics principles behind it in this Teaching Channel post. They also provide activities for middle and high school students which include both the use of a fidget spinner, as well as the creation of one, coding related to fidget spinners, and the scientific method of discovery!
This Education Week blog post article showcases Amy Garay, a third-grade teacher, who utilizes fidget spinners with her students to support some science and mathematics standards. She has them reflect on why some spinners spin faster or longer than others and if the circumference or weight make a difference. Amy has students make predictions, conduct test trials and then graph the results. Also included is an engineering design lesson by Nolan Wrage, a middle school engineering tech teachers, who has his students design and 3-D print their own fidget spinner.
Dan Bowen provides an overview of thirteen ways to use fidget spinners in the classroom that range from using it as a time to using the spinners to teach probability. Sound ideas that you can embellish for inclusion in a classroom activity.
Any Cohen provides a wonderful overview of fidget spinners and how to use them in this Science Budding blog post. She also provides some lesson plan ideas, adaptations of existing lesson plans on the Science Buddies site, and links to additional STEM content that could be enhance the usage of the fidget spinner.
This informational articles intended for Internet marketers, explains the “viral loop” process in business and gives tips on how to find these trendy items. This article would be a great addition to a high school marketing, business, or entrepreneurial class.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

There are a number of other neat things about fidget spinners on the Web.

DISCOVERY EDUCATION STREAMING

There are tons of resources in the Discovery Education Streaming video library and the Discovery tech books  to help introduce students to the scientific processes of fidget spinners.

What are your thoughts about the use of fidget spinners to support teaching and learning? Do you have any special ways you have students use them in the classroom? Please share on Twitter! #kathyskatch