Education in the Digital Age with Dr. Marlena Reese, Ed.D. : Part 1

April 24, 2023

Education in the Digital Age with Dr. Marlena Reese, Ed.D.  : Part 1

Education in the Digital Age with Dr. Marlena Reese, Ed. D.

Part 1: A New Understanding

For today’s students, technology is so fully integrated into the school experience that it can feel impossible to unplug. While these advances make education more streamlined and efficient, they’re also contributing to new struggles. Seeing the need for support, JF&CS hired Executive Functioning Coach Dr. Marlena Reese in fall of 2022.

Executive Function is defined as “skills such as attention, time management, organization, task management, self-regulation, and so much more,” says Dr. Reese. “These skills are challenged by the ever-presence of technology, and it’s important to remember that many people struggle with these skills, particularly now as we navigate this digital landscape. You can have challenges with Executive Functioning skills and not have a diagnosable condition.”

To understand how technology has affected our executive functioning, we can look at how the tools for learning have evolved. For a moment, let’s consider how different school was only 25 years ago. Students would take down notes by hand in class. If they needed to review something, they’d flip back a few pages in a physical textbook. Organization happened on paper, and files and assignments were tangible. Interruptions were less frequent and more easily managed, and there was a clear distinction between school and play.

Today's students are experiencing a very different process. There is an expectation that before learning even starts, kids know how to navigate online resources and stay organized. A middle-to-high schooler today may rarely use paper; even textbooks are largely online. This means that many of the processes that help information “stick” in our brains- writing, note taking, even doodling- have been replaced by digital devices. With so much online, distractions are ever-present, pulling even the most dedicated students off-course.

How can we help our students?

We can start with empathy, since many adults can relate to Executive Function challenges. Once we've established a baseline of empathetic communication, we can help our kids return to the benefits of physical paper; mapping out a schedule and recording tasks into both paper and digital planners helps a great deal with organization, attention and task management.

Parents and caregivers also have an opportunity to give kids educational scaffolding. This supportive structure can look like helping students break up tasks into smaller steps, planning out projects in detail, and fully mapping out the steps to accomplish a goal. These structures help build self-regulation and time management and can reduce overwhelm. Finally, encouraging kids to print assignments, notes and resources increases comprehension and the retention of information. Even the act of mapping out a typed paper on a piece of paper first can make the assignment go more smoothly, says Marlena.

It can be difficult for parents to help their students with these sorts of executive functioning challenges. Often, students can feel embarrassed about the difficulty they’re having. Reminding your student that this is a common problem can help them go from a place of frustration to a place of hope.

Read more about Marlena here. If you think your child could benefit from Executive Function Coaching, reach out to us here.