Learning Apps & Tools

3 Digital Skills That Ease Learning (and Life) for Students with ADHD

Digital skills like email processing and document filing are important but rarely taught keys to better school organization and productivity for students with ADHD. Learn the basics here.

Digital skills concept - calendar, email, document icons

Your children are digital natives. If they weren’t whizzes at Zoom, Google Drive, and SeeSaw before remote learning, they certainly could tutor you now. But knowing how to navigate digital tools and platforms — for completing lessons, assignments, tests, and more — is not the same as knowing how to harness them to their full potential. The fact is that many students — with and without ADHD — fail to take advantage of all the digital features and controls available to help them achieve better school organization and productivity.

From email hacks to best practices for digital filing, here are the secrets your students need to know for making the most out of everyday digital tools.

Digital Skills and Hacks That Boost Productivity

1. How to Organize Digital Files

Digital organization is critical — and best started early in the academic year. The following steps may seem obvious, but explicit instruction helps students visualize how they can best manage the piles of digital files they create and receive in a given school year.

  • Create one folder for the school year. Think of this folder as the virtual binder that holds material from every subject matter.
  • Create subfolders for each subject. Add the school year to the names of the subject area folders.
  • Do not “over-organize.” Avoid creating more than two layers to file structures, but do consider a uniform naming protocol for files that will make them easy to find.

Young students should use a comparable, single-binder system for school, with folders for each subject to organize paper materials. The similar set-up will help students transition more seamlessly to digital filing and organizing.

2. How to Process Email

Email is ubiquitous — which partially explains why so many students have crowded inboxes containing hundreds, sometimes thousands, of messages. The resulting overwhelm also explains why so many students end up ignoring their inboxes altogether.

[Get This Free Download: 10 Solutions for Disorganization at School]

Students need to understand that their email inbox is not a storage bin. They need to understand the difference between checking emails and processing emails, which may require translating messages to calendar events, archiving and labeling emails, replying, and so on. Students can actively manage inboxes by following these steps:

  • Bookmark the email login: If your student has a hard time remembering where to sign in to access email (often through a specific-school portal), teach them how to bookmark the login page and consider using a password manager to save login credentials and ease the sign-in process even further.
  • Set up labels to match digital files: Most email platforms let users create labels and assign them to emails. Students should match these labels to the academic folders (i.e. subjects) in their virtual binder.
  • L.A.T.T.E.S: This handy acronym will help students remember how to process emails. For a given email, students should apply one of these six options
    • Label
    • Archive rather than delete in case the item is needed in the future
    • Two-minute rule — if the email can be resolved in under two minutes, take care of it now. If not, convert it to a…
    • Task or an
    • Event or
    • Snooze if you are unsure how to resolve the item but want to keep it on your radar (snooze for a few days or a few weeks, depending on the item)

3. How to Set Up a Digital Dashboard

A digital dashboard is essentially a calendar that is strategically arranged to display all the recurring events, classes, tools, and other important items students need for school in one easy-to-access location.

No two students will have the same digital dashboard, but it should show events, appointments, and tools that your student frequently encounters. The digital dashboard image below (weekly display), for example, shows:

  • Class schedules (marked in blue)
  • Quick links to frequently accessed tools/software/items such as Dropbox, the school’s grading policy, the school counselor’s contact information, and other items (marked in purple).
  • Non-recurring event (marked in yellow)

[Read: Apps & Extensions That Improve Productivity & Learning]

Students can click each of these items to reveal relevant information and links. (For the counselor contact item in the sample digital dashboard, for example, the student would click through to see the counselor’s hours of availability and contact information.)

It is best to set up a digital dashboard at the beginning of the school year. It will take some time and tweaking to get a display that works for your student, but the effort will pay off. For students with ADHD, especially, the visual display and all-in-one location will help them stay organized and avoid overwhelm.

digital dashboard by www.studyskills.com

Digital Skills for ADHD Students: Next Steps

The content for this article was derived from the ADDitude Expert Webinar “‘I Forgot My Homework… Again!’” Fortifying Executive Functions to Solve School Disorganization [Video Replay & Podcast #368] with Susan Kruger, M.Ed., which was broadcast live on August 18, 2021.


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