National Research Council of Italy, Institute for Educational Technology (CNR-ITD) (ITALY)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN22 Proceedings
Publication year: 2022
Pages: 2339-2348
ISBN: 978-84-09-42484-9
ISSN: 2340-1117
doi: 10.21125/edulearn.2022.0610
Conference name: 14th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 4-6 July, 2022
Location: Palma, Spain
Executive Functions (EFs) refer to a family of adaptive, goal-directed, top-down mental processes needed to focus and pay attention, and when an automatic response would not be adequate.

EFs develop over a long period of time, but the most remarkable changes in EFs skills occur during the first years of life. In this period, EFs seem to be associated to other cognitive domains (e.g., self-regulation, social cognition, representational systems) and also deficit in EFs can characterize children with atypical development, such as children with ASD, language difficulties, and ADHD symptoms.

For this reason, recently, researchers have increasingly shown interest in studying EFs starting from a young age, in particular focusing on interventions on EFs both in educational and clinical contexts.

Although in the literature there is a great deal of interest on this topic, clinicians, teachers and parents often experience difficulties finding appropriate low-cost analog and digital resources to promote EFs already in young children. Concerning this topic, in the context of a wider research project named Sharefun, conducted by the National Research Council’s Institute for Educational Technology (ITD-CNR), the study reported in this paper has the main aim to explore the needs of a sample of users (clinicians, teachers and parents) related to the possibility to implement intervention to promote EFs already in the first years of life using appropriate low-cost analog and digital resources in both clinical and educational context.

Specifically, the research questions guiding the present study are:
(1) Do users think that an online platform dedicated to resources to promote EFs could be useful in their contexts of use?
(2) What resources do they think could be useful to find on the online platform?

To respond to these research questions, a total of eighty-four users were involved in this study. Data were collected through a custom questionnaire including a series of multiple-choice items.

Overall, the findings revealed that most users believe that it is useful to have the possibility to access an online platform dedicated to analog and digital resources to enhance EFs already in the first years of life. Furthermore, the users especially emphasized the importance of being able to:
(a) download printable paper exercises to enhance EFs, and
(b) consult a series of information sheets of analog and digital resources to promote EFs already in young children.

In conclusion, starting from these needs, a team of researchers of the ITD-CNR is going to implement an online environment for sharing information and experience about analog and/or digital low-cost resources and materials to promote EFs in both educational and clinical contexts. In particular, thanks to the online platform the users will be able to:
(a) download an app implemented to measure EFs in young children, useful to plan and develop a future intervention in the educational and/or clinical context starting from the individual differences;
(b) find detailed guidelines (one for clinicians and one for teachers) to conduct specific training to enhance EFs with analog and digital playful activities;
(c) download specific materials to create playful activities to enhance EFs;
(d) consult a series of information sheets of analog and digital resources to promote EFs through a search engine;
(e) follow training courses on this topic;
(f) share experiences with the Sharefun community.
Executive functions, online environment, shared knowledge.