The Future of Education

Edition 14

Accepted Abstracts

Promoting Executive Function Through Computational Thinking and Robotics: Two Case Studies

Betty Shrieber, Kibbutzim College of Education, Technology and Arts - Tel Aviv (Israel)


Executive functions are essential for several cognitive processes such as planning and decision-making, acquiring knowledge of novel situations or actions, managing new learning situation or difficulties, regulating impulses, and rejecting immediate gratifications to attain long-term objectives (Barkley, 2014). As such, the importance of executive functions in human existence is of paramount significance and serves as a predictor of success, achievement of goals, wealth, and overall quality of life, often surpassing the influence of intelligence quotient (IQ) or socioeconomic status. These functions also determine the ability to adapt to various life circumstances, in all contexts and times (Gardiner et al., 2018).


The integration of computational thinking into education has been shown to improve problem-solving skills in other aspects of life (Voogt et al., 2015). Using computational thinking enables the promotion of a sequence of actions as part of the development of working memory, which may lead to the development of planning ability, prospective memory, mental flexibility, decision-making skills, and the ability to regulate reactions in the event of failure. To illustrate this approach, the paper presents two case studies of teaching programs that integrate computational thinking with robotics. The first study assesses the impact of a COLBY mouse robot on working memory, while the second examines the effects of integrating computational thinking and a Lego robot on executive functions such as planning and emotional regulation. The results suggest that the use of robots for preschool children enhances their ability to sequence actions for coding the robot and improves auditory working memory to a greater extent than phonological working memory. The findings of the study with hospitalized children indicate that a high-technology learning environment fosters engagement, challenge, and motivation to learn. The use of the WEDO2 application in building Lego robot models had a positive impact on the students' executive functions, including emotional regulation and self-control.

Keywords: Executive function, Working memory, planning, Computational thinking, Robotic Program

References: [1] Barkley, R.A. (2014). The Assessment of Executive Functioning Using the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scales. In: Goldstein, S., Naglieri, J. (eds) Handbook of Executive Functioning. Springer, New York, NY.

[2] Gardiner E, Iarocci G. Everyday executive function predicts adaptive and internalizing behavior among children with and without autism spectrum disorder. Autism Res. 2018 Feb;11(2):284-295. doi: 10.1002/aur.1877. Epub 2017 Sep 27. PMID: 28960841.

[3] Voogt, J., Fisser, P., Good, J. et al. Computational thinking in compulsory education: Towards an agenda for research and practice. Educ Inf Technol 20, 715–728 (2015).

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