Using Technology to Help Students Succeed
Updated: Mar 21
It's no secret, organization, or lack thereof, isn't just a ‘kid’ thing. Getting organized and staying that way is no small feat for any of us. The trick here is helping our kids to master this beast called organization and then be able to say, as an adult, without a hint of sarcasm, “Why yes... I’m very organized.”
In order to create this type adult of, we need to instill, build, foster and maintain, habits of organization. Having said that, let’s be real. Many kids can deal with cleaning, say, quarterly. But….weekly? Come. On.
The same principle applies to keeping track of ‘stuff’. Most children can hang onto an important paper for a period of time*. If you’re asking for more than a few days, though, you’re kidding yourself.
So to help us all on this journey towards good habits that will save our sanity in the long run, we’re going to harness the power of technology. Since tech everywhere (phone, iPad, tablet, computer, Apple Watch, etc.) why not use it to help us make improvements? Work smarter, not harder!
These are not ‘apps’ per se, but features and functions of the technology you and your child are using every day.
Let’s start with the phone. As a fifth grade teacher, I know that nearly every one of my students has his or her own phone. Whether or not this is necessary (don’t get me started), we may as well use what we have.
Regardless of which type of phone you have, it comes with a multitude of functions that can help with organization, planning, and the like. Here are just a few ways a phone can help with student success:
Put to-do lists into the calendar - passport photos, dentist appointments, etc.
Use the calendar to remember due dates - papers, tests, study sessions
Set reminders for recurring tasks - desk clean out, bedroom purge, etc.
Set alarms for appointments - registration deadlines
Take a photo of what you need to remember - or where you parked your car
Need more ways to use technology? Bring on the iPad! In my classroom, every student has his own iPad (on loan from the school). Besides using it for content areas like reading, writing and math, my students employ many features to help them reach their goals.
Siri and voice dictation - launching an app, making a list, sending an email
Spotlight search - can find anything on your iPad, even within apps
Reminders - use Siri to schedule reminders - no muss, no fuss
Notes - whatever you need to remember - groceries, book titles, addresses
Calendar - using the same Apple ID allows calendar access to the whole family
SmartWatch or Fitness Tracker
These are terrific for receiving alerts when phones are on silent (during school). Additionally, the wearer can track activity, homework, chores, and more. There are many varieties on the market, from Garmin to Fitbit, each with its own shiny features.
Apps for Everyone!
There are hundreds of apps available to address executive function issues, and that number is increasing daily. Some of these apps may be designed for slightly older children, while others are great for any age. And, let’s be real - our kiddos are usually far more adept than we are in using tech, so don’t discount an app-based solely on age recommendations.
How can Evernote help your child? He can make a to-do list and keep it on his phone. Evernote allows the child to keep as many notes as desired, using both text and pictures. The app can also record lectures and scan handwritten notes.
The app Time Timer is great to show how much time is left, as it visually displays time passing. This visual cue can be very motivating for students who struggle with executive function skills.
Here is a list of apps recommended for children with autism. Do yourself a favor and check it out, regardless of whether or not autism is a factor. I guarantee you’ll find an app that helps streamline your child’s life....and therefore your own life!
Another app called Choiceworks is useful in helping students improve their wait time and complete daily routines. Umm. Yes, please! Choiceworks is recommended for children ages four and up and can be a game-changer in terms of self-monitoring skills.
Use Dropophone to make music that sounds like drips and drops falling on tiny instruments.
Sometimes the sounds get to be too much, and students need to get quiet. Earplugs are nothing new, but these by Livemusic are great for canceling out the noise.
Executive Function Skills
Here are some app suggestions organized according to Executive Function skills:
Planning and organization - Evernote
Time management - Task agenda
Task initiation and perseverance - My Homework
Working memory - Quizlet
Self-control - Choiceworks
Attention - Timers 4 Me - Timer & Stopwatch
Flexibility- First Then Visual Schedule
Huh? What do emotions have to do with learning? And SOCIAL? Really? These kids already know how to be social.
Seriously, we all know how important it is to take a break. The brain cannot remain in a constant state of learning all day. So whether the breaks are coming at school or at home, here are some terrific apps for some brain downtime.
Fluidity is an interactive, real-time app that is calming and meditative
Superstretch Yoga is a free, interactive yoga app that the whole family can enjoy
Calm offers free meditation and sleep stories to help the listener settle down
Breathing Bubbles allows the user to practice releasing worries
Even as I write this, educational professionals are working together with developers to create tools that save students and families time, energy and stress. Regardless of the age of the child, there is an app available to address the issues that are keeping him or her from being successful.