Polytechnic University of Valencia Congress, INNODOCT 2019

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Using Apps in Formal Education to Improve Executive Functions in Preschoolers
Sabrina Panesi, Lucia Ferlino

Last modified: 10-04-2020


The term Executive Functions (EFs) refers to a set of higher order cognitive processes that are critical for goal directed behaviour. They include inhibition (i.e., the ability to suppress task-irrelevant cognitive processing and ignore salient yet irrelevant features of the situation), shifting (i.e.  the ability to switch between different operations or levels of processing), and updating (i.e. the ability to encode, hold and monitor incoming information in working memory, replacing information that is no longer relevant with new information). The most notable developmental change in children’s EFs occurs during the preschool period, and this is associable to and predictive of children’s general learning ability. For this reason, efforts to develop EFs in preschoolers is of vital importance. In recent years, only few studies have investigated the effect of EFs intervention on preschoolers, despite the potential preventive effect of early intervention on later developmental problems. A number of related solutions have been proposed over the years, including both paper-and-pencil activities and digital applications (e.g., software and videogames). However, few attempt have been made to integrate the many advantages of traditional, low-cost playful activities with the (often) powerful affordances of digital technologies. Hence, we propose just such a hybrid solution, with a set of mobile applications (apps) designed to foster EF development among early learners in education settings. We opted for such a solution as mobile apps have proved to be familiar, highly usable and well accepted among young children. At a more general level, this contribution seeks to provide useful input on the affordances and indicators that can help guide the effective choice of apps useful for developing EFs, and how these tools can be optimally introduced and employed in traditional teaching and learning programs.


executive functions, app, preschoolers, educational context

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