Some Apps For Organization

Image of iPhone screen standing on a table

Today, I want to talk about ways in which tech, specifically apps, can support learning, outside the world of AAC.  As I have attended professional development opportunities, and met with others who are enthusiastic about using tech to support all learners, I have generated an ever growing list of apps for education.

I was hesitant to post a list without giving some information on what each app does, and how it might be applied to support different learning styles.  I’ve decided to tackle how apps may meet a particular functional need.

This week, I we will take a look at some apps that can be used to support organizational skills.  This is a topic which I myself stand to benefit from.  I have already written about how some aspects of iOS 11, and built in iPhone/iPad features, can support learners (see, Working with What You Have).  On to a few apps!  

As always, I welcome feedback and ideas about other apps that can be used to help those with executive dysfunction.  Please, chime in!

Organizing Thoughts…

Writing can be an onerous task for those, like myself, who have difficulty creating a logical, organized, narrative.  Some apps can support this process by helping you to create mind maps.  These allow a student to see how their ideas are connected to a central theme, or to each other.  Mapping out ideas may allow the student to more easily see how ideas relate, and how they can be structured into a cohesive narrative.  


This app allow use to use text, drawings, and photos to create a mind map.  You can draw lines connecting your ideas.  Everything is easily customized.  You can take text copied from another document, and paste it into a “popple” (an individual bubble).  Your Popplet can be exported as a JPEG or PDF.  You can customize background color and color of each popple.  As well, there is a desktop version, so you can share Popplets between your computer and your mobile device.  The app can be found on iTunes.  

Image of Popplet mind mapping app


Mind mapping and brainstorming.

• Capture: grow your thoughts into fully-fledged ideas

• Outline: see your entire document as an indented list

• Fold branches: keep your documents organized

• Import: FreeMind, Mindjet MindManager, iThoughts, plain text, RTF, CSV, OPML, Markdown, TextBundle

• Export: plain text, RTF, CSV, OPML, PDF, PNG image, Markdown, TextBundle, TaskPaper, FreeMind

MindNode brainstorming on a smartphone screen

Time Management

Students with executive function deficits may have trouble staying on task, or knowing how much time to devote to a particular task.  They may even over focus on one thing on their to do list, to the exclusion of other tasks of equal importance.   Some apps can help provide visual and auditory cues to allocate time to a series of tasks.  

360 Thinking

This app gives you a clock face, which can be divided into several “slices”; Get Ready, Start, Mid-Point Goal, and End.  These slices are color coded yellow, green, and red.  Different tones are used as auditory cues for each phase of work.  The “Get Ready” slice of the pie puts an emphasis on the idea that you may need to prepare, or to slow down, to start your task. This may be helpful for those (like myself again…) who too often just want to dive right in!  By default, you are given 5 minutes to get ready, 25 to work, and 5 to finish up.  This is customizable.  You can “drag” the slices to change the duration of each step.  

Image of 360 Thinking time management app


What about a student who needs a task, such as getting dressed, broken down into concrete steps?  First Then Visual Schedule (FTVS) allows you to create a schedule, with photos, for each step.  You can then check off a step once complete and move on to the next. The app allows you to select pictures, add a video, or record a message for each step.  Short videos could be used to illustrate each step in a list. You can also share, or print out a copy of the schedule.    

Image of FTVS HD visual schedule app

Classroom to Home Communication


There is even an app for teachers!  Remind can be used to send texts between a teacher and parents, a teacher and the whole class, or teacher and a single student.  Reminders can be scheduled ahead of time, and phone numbers are kept private.

Too Much Screen Time…

Having a smartphone, or tablet, can be a great organizational tool, or a great distraction….it can also detract from social interactions between students (or adults!).   We want these tools to be useful, and not just a vehicle for surfing the web, or staying isolated from our peers.  

There is even an app to help students stay off of their devices, and remain on task and in the moment.


This app is available as a chrome extension, Android app, or from iTunes.  It makes a game out of staying focused and being present.  You set a timer to, yes, grow a forest.  You plant a tree, and the app knows if you have clicked out of the app to do something else.  If you don’t touch your phone for the duration of the timer, your tree will grow.  If you become distracted by your tech….your tree will perish.  I can imagine this app would be useful for social skills groups.  Or for adults at a restaurant.  

Image of Forest stay off your tech app with a dead tree. Very sad.

Oops, time for me to put down the tech.

Kathryn Helland

Kathryn is a certified speech-language pathologist and works with children and adults with complex communication needs. She has been with the TechOWL team since 2015 and is currently working on her doctorate. She would like to examine how to best support AAC users in higher education.

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