We were all glad, when returning to school in January, to find that the bottle-flipping phenomenon had passed. Having already endured many a teenage fad (I still find the “let’s try to stab in between our fingers with a compass” the most traumatising to reminisce about), we were tentatively beginning to hope that we could make it to the end of the academic year without another preposterous trend.

Then came the fidget cube and its malignant spawn: the Fidget spinner.

Brainchild of Kickstarter go-getters Matthew and Mark McLachlan, the Fidget Cube has graced many a classroom across the country since early February. It is a small plastic device of no more than two inches cubed, which features a variety of clickable, twistable, rubable and flickable surfaces.

The case for Fidget Cube

This cube claims not only to displace the kind of fidgeting that results in biros being irreparably deconstructed and rulers being wobbled on the edge of tables (and resultantly snapped), but also to increase memory capacity and boost creativity. Many users have hailed this piece of plastic as life-changing and, as if that wasn’t epic praise enough, the McLachlan brothers are hoping that its in-class/office benefits will demonstrate that fidgeting ought not to be “stigmatised and mocked as unbecoming or inappropriate.”

Oh dear, sweet, innocent Matthew and Mark – I can tell you haven’t spent long in a secondary school classroom!

My problem with the Fidget Cube is not with the beneficial effects it may have on its users (though the scientific jury is still out on this matter) but with the effect it has on others in the classroom. It may be that we can put this down to the cubes’ current novelty, but for me this is not enough of a reason to continue justifying its presence.

Classroom problems

While adults in the office may use it responsibly, we all know that teenagers are not self-disciplined enough not to make a display of their new toy. And so, while it may displace the fidgeting needs of the user, it creates a distraction for those around them. This puts the teacher in a very awkward position: confiscate the Fidget Cube and run the risk of meeting the wrath of parents who insist that their child needs this cube in order to maximise their learning, or punish those around the Fidget Cube for being distracted?

Neither is desirable.

If it transpires that the Fidget Cube demonstrably boosts learning for its user (a call which should, in my opinion, be made by the teacher, not the parent) then I am happy to let it slide on the proviso that it is used discreetly under the table as it was always intended to be.

However, as aforementioned, the Fidget Cube has been the gateway gadget to a far more terrible fascination: the fidget spinner. The user places their finger into the central hole and, as the name unequivocally suggests, spins.

Need for action

These have become the bane of my life. Unlike with the Fidget Cube, there is absolutely no way that these spinners can be used discreetly. They necessarily must be held up for all of the class to see. Moreover, unlike the well-designed Fidget Cube, which has a couple of silent functions, these cheaply made spinning alternatives often produce a low ball-bearing whirr.

Now, if I were a parent, which I’m admittedly not, I too would want to maximise my child’s learning in whatever way I could. While I would like to reiterate that the scientific evidence is still inconclusive on the benefits of fidgeting, I am happy to accept that the Fidget Cube may have a place in the classroom for certain students who have an established need for one, if used discreetly. However, I would invite parents to consider that these items can be very distracting for children around the cube and thus implore them to consider whether their child really needs one before buying.

As for the fidget spinners: perhaps we could challenge students to freeze them in an ice bucket? Or flip them, along with a bottle, out of a window? Or maybe they could subject their spinner to the mannequin challenge? Just a thought.

Jessica Fear is a newly qualified teacher in the south-west of England. She tweets @fear_jessica. This article originally appeared on her blog, Even better if...

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