May 23, 2023

Tech tools to support executive function

By Jess Holman, Instructor

Tools and Technologies to Support Executive Function Skills

At Engaging Minds, we recognize that everyone needs different tools and resources in their Executive Function Toolbox. Over the past few years, our instructors and students have identified several free web-based tools which can be accessed on any computer or smartphone, to promote effective time management and planning, enhance attention and focus, and organize ideas meaningfully. Check out the resources below to explore tools and resources to enhance you and/or your student’s executive function skills and strategies!  

Time Management 

  • Google Calendar Google Calendar allows users to quickly and easily schedule meetings, events, and set reminders to inform them what’s coming up on the calendar. A benefit to using any Google platform is that students can access and update their tools on their smartphone, laptop, or tablet. Students can color-code events, set alerts as reminders, and easily share their calendar with their parents in addition to other features. 
  • Google KeepGoogle Keep is in the suite of Google Apps, and allows users to take notes, share them with others, set reminders, and check tasks off of a list. Students can color-code lists, set alerts, link lists to events in Google Calendar, and organize hyperlinks to frequently visited webpages. 
  • TodoistSimilar to Google Keep, Todoist provides an organized platform for users to create to-do lists and set reminders for upcoming deadlines. 
  • Homework Tracker (a chrome extension) For Google Chrome users who prefer to have everything all in one place, Homework Tracker is an extension that tracks assignments and deadlines. It automatically prioritizes tasks based on their chronological order to help users remember upcoming due dates. 
  • iStudieziStudiez is a great resource for students who receive syllabi early in the semester because it allows them to schedule classes, input assessments, plan their time, and calculate their grades and GPA. For students and families who use Google Calendar, you can merge both calendars to ensure you always know what academic and extracurricular activities are coming up.  

Attention and Focus

  • Forest – This productivity app plants real trees when users earn credits by not using their phones for an allotted amount of time. Users have to stay focused and meet their goal to get credit towards planting a tree. 
  • Postlight Reader (a chrome extension)For Google Chrome users, Postlight Reader is an extension that clears away clutter (such as advertisements and pop-ups) to help users stay focused on the content they are reading. 
  • Timers – There are plenty of free, online timers only a click away. If using a phone timer hinders productivity, a quick google search for free online timers can help students work in bursts.
  • RescueTime – RescueTime automatically tracks attention and focus while students work on their computer; the time-management software provides data outlining students’ activity to increase their awareness about time wasters. The software program informs users when they are doing too much at once, losing focus, or entering an ideal “focus zone” where they have the capacity to get more work done.
  • Google Tab GroupsFor Google Chrome users who like to keep several tabs open while working, Tab Groups can help you organize your tabs. Right Click a tab, select “add tab to new group,” name a group, and color code them to decrease visual clutter and stay organized while working on multiple projects. 

Organization of Ideas

  • Google JamboardJamboard allows users to co-author whiteboards with various tools, like sticky notes, to organize their ideas more visually than using a Google Document. This colorful and user-friendly tool may be particularly useful for brainstorming ideas for a group paper or project, and is a great alternative to a graphic organizer. 
  • Voice to Text For students who have a hard time putting their ideas onto paper, voice to text tools allow users to dictate their ideas without typing. This is particularly helpful for younger students who may think faster than they type or for perfectionists who have a hard time getting any of their unpolished ideas onto paper. You can use voice to text on most smartphones and directly into a google document (Click to open the Tools menu, then choose Voice to Text) 
  • Google Slides Google Slides allows users to organize their ideas in an online slideshow. It is a great platform for collaboration among multiple contributors, and allows users to easily move and rearrange text boxes as necessary. While you may be most familiar with using Google Slides to create presentations, it can also be used to help students break down multi-step problems or directions; users can put in one step per slide to visually declutter the learning process and allow for greater focus on each individual component of the assignment. 
  • Inspiration & Kidspiration For users who prefer to organize their ideas visually, Inspiration provides a mind mapping software to help brainstorm ideas with shapes, colors, lines, arrows, and images. For K-5 elementary-aged students, Kidspiration Maps is a mind-mapping tool that provides colorful images to help students organize and classify information. 

The aforementioned tools and applications are just a sampling of all of the great technologies and resources available to support executive function skill development. Exploring these resources and inviting your student to pick 1 or 2 tools to test out may be a great way to garner buy-in for and ownership over the process of acquiring executive function skills over time.