What’s on my iPad: featuring teacher Julie Orris

“What’s on my iPad” is a new series that features classroom teachers who are exploring various iPad apps in their classroom.  This includes not only which apps, but also what they use them for and how they structure the activities with students. If you would like to be featured in this series, contact Brian Abeling (see Contact Page).

Featuring: Julie Orris
Special Education Teacher
Crestview Elementary
Years in education: 2





1. What are the top apps that are used in your classroom?


What do you use it for?
I use this app for brainstorming with students. I give them a topic and help them can create a mind map to organize their ideas.

Typically, I use the app either in small groups (each person with their own ipad) or with individual students. The main topic goes into the middle bubble (let’s say weekend). Students then brainstorm and record ideas that relate to the main topic and place them in bubbles that are connected to the main topic. The bubbles might be: fun, homework, outside, family – I ask them to keep the ideas very general.  This allows us to continue to draw bubbles off of those bubbles to describe them. For example, off of bubble labeled “outside”, they might put: leaves, mowed lawn, warm, etc.  Using iDesk allows them to map out ideas and outlines.

I also use iDesk in some small group situations, where several student share one iPad.  Each student then contributes to the brainstorm web or mind map with the iPad in between the two students.


It’s used as a word study activity for students. This app is a “game” that allows students to practice prefixes, suffixes, synonyms, homophones, rhyming words and more.

Students work in a small group with a partner or by themselves. Since this app is played or used like a game, I have modified it for teaching/practicing mode for students that struggle, students can play in a versus mode, team mode or by themselves. You can choose the “grade level” and then which activity you would like to do (synonyms, suffixes, etc).

Small group (teaching practicing): I model how to play the game, and they help me pick the words. The iPad is in the middle of the table and the students are practicing with me. This way I can model strategies, and help students that either struggle with reading, or struggle with not always winning. I have found that this is a good way to get students acclimated with the app.

Versus/Team Mode: Students each have half of the screen, and in Versus mode the students can play while winning things that slow the other person down. It adds a little competitiveness to the game. Team Mode is where students each have half the screen, but they work as a team finding words that fit the component they are working on (homophone, etc.).

Single Player: In this mode, students are working against time (they have from sunrise to sunset which is at the top of the screen). I use this mode very rarely because my students often time struggle to be independent. I have also found that students often spend their time guessing.


I use this App with students to organize thoughts and ideas into graphic organizers. The app comes with several different templates: KWL, Problem/Solution, Making Predictions, etc.

I use this application while students are either doing the graphic organizer in pairs or on their own. We discuss the entire (or pieces if just starting out) graphic organizer, and then the students input their own thoughts or ideas. They can use ideas that we talked about in our discussion, or different ideas that they might have. Often times students do not like organizing their ideas with graphic organizers, but using this, several of my students are excited to talk about problems and solutions, etc.

2. If we asked the students in your class – what would they say are their top three favorite apps they use in your classroom? 

  • Bluster
  • Rocket Math
  • Chicktionary

3. You have more kids in your classroom than you have iPads, how do you possibly make that work? 
I generally have a group or two in with me at once. I use the apps in these small groups to work on skills that the students are missing or struggling with.

Julie Orris leading small group work

Julie Orris leading small group work

4. What advice would you give to other teachers about managing the iPads in your classroom?
I label my lock screen with my name and a different background for each ipad. This helps students know which one to use. I have my chargers plugged in and students plug them in after they are done using them. We use them so often that they rotate through the plug in pretty quickly. I also plug in the iPads during lunch and plan periods if they have not been plugged in.

5. How much money have you spent on apps so far?  Do you find that this takes a lot of time?  Any tips/suggestions on where you search for apps?   What different resources/funding have you found for purchasing apps?
I have had my iPads for about 5 months or so and have spent maybe $15 on apps.  I would say that if you are searching for apps; use the filter options in the app store. I have also searched online and there are several blogs and sites that provide information and screen shots with app information. My principal has provided me with funding for these apps that I wanted which required money to purchase

6.  What has been some of the challenges with iPads…. are there features you wish you had? what problems along the way?
I haven’t had many problems with the iPads… but I wish iCloud would sync other application data other than data from Apple applications.

7. Any examples you can provide for how the iPad is making a difference in your classroom?
I have an IEP graph that shows how the student was doing prior to using the iDesk brainstorming application, and then after I started implementing the application. The student has made tremendous strides, and is starting to do this brainstorming on his own prior to writing in the classroom or in my room.

Chart showing student results after changing to use iDesk for brainstorming

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