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scott   By Scott Lutostanski – Director of Academic Consulting

Getting work done at home or in study hall can sometimes seem impossible for students. The right strategies for working independently can come from anywhere. Below are three apps that students can use to improve focus when working.

This is an app that rewards the student for not using their phone. The student selects a set amount of time in 5 minute increments, say 20 minutes. Once the student hits start, a tree begins to grow. If the student makes it the entire 20 minutes without looking at the phone, a full tree will have grown, which can be added to a digital plot of land—a sort of arboretum of productivity. If the student exits out of the app, the app will send a reminder that the student has only a few seconds to get back into the app. If the student fails to return to the app, the tree dies. The app tracks progress with graphs and charts. It is a great tool to use at home or in study hall to keep students off their phones and avoiding distractions. Students accumulate points, can add friends, compete, and win rewards. The app is free, but the premium version is $2.

Flat Tomato
This app uses the pomodoro technique. This technique states that students should have time on task, take a break, and then return to work. Flat Tomato is a fancy, animated version of this concept. It allows students to create tasks and customize on task time and break time. For example, 20 minutes on and 5 minutes off. Or even 5 on and 1 off. The phone takes the student through the activity with a flash graphic. The app can also be used as a planning device. Students can schedule increments when they are going to do work in the future. Flat Tomato will give them a notification when it’s time to get started.

This is a Role Playing Game (RPG). Students create an avatar that earns points and rewards for creating lists and then finishing the tasks. As students complete work and earn points, they can purchase upgrades, gear, and skills for their avatar. They can then battle against other users on the app. Students are able to play individually or join teams that can then have wars against other teams. The whole premise of the app is to get students to create lists, plan, and complete tasks. For students that are into RPG’s, this app can be very effective in motivating and improving focus.

All apps usually come with a few caveats. Students are sometimes able to manipulate them in some way. Often times, an app can either be a huge success or a big flop with a student. When using apps, it’s important to find ones that will be effective for the student and develop good habits over time.

If you are interested in learning more about how your student can improve executive functioning skills, click here to sign up for one of my Galin Chats next week at our Madison offices.


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