Teaching the Last Backpack Generation: A Mobile Technology Handbook for Secondary Educators


Zachary Walker, Kara Rosenblatt & Donald McMahon

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  • Chapters
  • Front Matter
  • Back Matter
  • Subject Index
  • Copyright

    Praise for the Book

    Teaching the Last Backpack Generation provides a framework of implementation for current technologies and tools. This practical workbook is easy to digest, and, more important, easy to put into action as teachers upgrade their teaching and learning practices.”

    —Adam Bellow, Founder and CEO

    “It is difficult to keep up with the ever-growing list of available technology tools. These authors present a comprehensive guide that will help any educator find the best tools to ensure the purposeful integration of technology in the classroom.”

    —Eric Sheninger, Author of Digital Leadership and International Speaker
    Senior Fellow, International Center for Leadership in Education

    “After using some of the strategies in this workbook, I was able to create a much more authentic and technology-infused lesson plan for my classes the very next day. This book does a wonderful job of making technology useful for teachers of all different comfort levels. I am ecstatic that this workbook is available for teachers to start creating lessons and ideas for their own Last Backpack Generation learners.”

    —Kyle Kline, Secondary Math Teacher
    Twin Lakes High School

    “In the 21st Century world of education, technology continues to evolve, creating and changing not only the tools for learning, but also the methodology and pedagogy that must accompany that change. The authors of Teaching the Last Backpack Generation have presented a common sense, practical and easy to follow, hands-on approach providing educators the necessary means to stay relevant in a developing mobile environment for learning.”

    —Tom Whitby, Consultant and Author of The Relevant Educator

    “As students and learning continue to go mobile, it is important for educators to be equipped with the best resources and information to engage this new generation of learners. This text offers practical ideas, lessons, and more that will help educators anywhere prepare their classrooms to be mobile ready.”

    —Steven W. Anderson, Author of The Relevant Educator and Content Curation

    “This is a well thought out, practical guide on tech integration for teachers at all levels of the spectrum. It gives flexible considerations and planning points for individuals on solo dives or for small/large groups redesigning their learning spaces and approaches to teaching.”

    —Derek L. McCoy, Principal
    Spring Lake Middle School, 2014 NASSP Digital Principal of the Year

    “This is an extraordinary example of how “one book fits all.” Here is one of the richest, most comprehensive and user-friendly collections of practical ideas, strategies and tips for using technology to reach and teach today’s students. It is fully packed with timesaving tools for all secondary teachers and a wealth of ways to use technology to motivate students and ensure their active involvement in learning. Whether you are a beginning or accomplished tech user, and regardless of the subject you teach, this valuable resource will open up multiple, innovative ways to give your students voice and choice in their learning. While technology will continue to change, this book—with its emphasis on ways to use technology to maximize student involvement and learning—will be invaluable for many, many years to come.”

    —Dr. Boyce Heidenreich, Former Principal and Administrator

    “This is a practical workbook for teachers integrating mobile technology in classrooms. This book should be within reach of every teacher as they plan to make lessons more engaging for today’s students.”

    —Andy L. Carpenter, Assistant Principal, Curriculum and Instruction
    Louis Pizitz Middle School

    “Technological tools are rapidly changing. Newer, better, and faster are all the new norms. This book provides links, URLs and QR codes to support pages with updates and ideas for evaluating and using new tech releases. With a focus on teaching 21st century skills, the strategies presented in this workbook not only strengthen a student’s ability to engage technology, but also to problem solve through creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking. This book is an essential item for the successful integration of technology, PBL, and soft skill acquisition. Teaching the Last Backpack Generation is a catalyst for good teaching and learning!”

    —Terry L. Roller, Director of High School Education
    Tuscaloosa City Schools

    “This is an essential, easy-to-use resource for all secondary teachers who are ready to embrace using mobile technology in their classroom instruction. From marvelous management tips, to super strategies for using the most common classroom technology tools, to simple lesson planning guides, and more, this book has everything you need to get started and keep growing. I love the pep talks, advice, and tips scattered throughout book, as well as the companion website that I can use to keep me updated on the latest technology tools.”

    —Kathleen Kryza, Author and International Educational Consultant

    “This workbook is a practical, easy-to-use resource and is perfect for mobile technology integration strategies across all content areas. With schools now focused on BYOD policies, every teacher should have a copy of this workbook sitting on their desk.”

    —Susan Fitzell, Speaker, Writer, and Educational Consultant

    “Every teacher preparation course—regardless of content—should adopt this workbook. It is perfect for understanding why technology in the classroom is important, how to do it effectively, and what to do. So many ideas structured in simple, practical ways.”

    —Dr. David F. Cihak, Special Education Program Director
    University of Tennessee

    “I wish I had a guide like this when I got started with technology but now I am pleased to know that this great workbook is available to teachers in my district. This workbook is a fantastic resource for teachers with any level of technology experience. It has templates for lesson planning that make it easy for new teachers to start small while building their knowledge and comfort level. It also provides some really innovative ideas for experienced teachers using technology in the classroom.”

    —Tracy Arner, Coordinator of Innovation and Learner Engagement
    Riverside Unified School District

    “As a principal of a K–12 school, I know first-hand that we are teaching the last backpack generation. This workbook is a great resource—it is equally valuable for getting teachers started with technology as a resource or for teachers already using technology in their classrooms—all while emphasizing that technology is a tool to enhance effective teaching, not a replacement.”

    —Christine Ortiz, Founder
    Ampersand School

    “This workbook provides nuggets of information that will serve as user-friendly, just-in-time resources to teachers at any level. The practical approach used to present highly-useful content is evident on every page. Even the beginner technology teacher will be able to pick up the book and immediately begin to implement strategies to impact and change their classroom pedagogy.”

    —Dr. Connie Smith, Director of Instructional Technology
    Olathe Public Schools

    Thanks to the Educators

    We would like to take a moment to thank all of the educators with whom we have worked and who have provided the bulk of the strategies, ideas, and resources for this book. From classroom teachers to tech coordinators to school administrators, this workbook is based on our conversations with them. In addition, our students provide us with ideas, energy, and enthusiasm every day of the week. And, of course, we would be remiss not to thank our own teachers along the way who were not afraid to get creative in the classroom.

    Specifically, we would like to thank Tracy Arner of Riverside School District (CA), Andy Carpenter of Pizitz Middle School (AL), Kyle Kline of Twin Lakes High School (IN), and Sean McHugh of the United World College of Southeast Asia (Singapore). Tracy, Andy, Kyle, and Sean took time out of their busy schedules to review this text and add their own ideas, thoughts, and insights. Erin Null, thank you for your introduction to Corwin and your friendship. Finally, a huge thank you to Ariel Price for her help, guidance, and patience during this process. We teachers are always quite busy—and you handled us beautifully. Thank you.

    Zachary, Kara, and Don
    Publisher’s Acknowledgments

    Corwin would like to thank the following reviewers for their editorial insight and guidance:

    • Susan Herder, Instructional Technology Coordinator
    • Mounds View Schools
    • Shoreview, MN
    • Troy Hicks, Associate Professor of English
    • Central Michigan University
    • Mt. Pleasant, MI
    • Alice Keeler, Teacher
    • California State University, Fresno
    • Fresno, CA
    • Anna Kwan, Teacher
    • Denver Public Schools
    • Denver, CO
    • Ernie Rambo, Educator
    • Walter Johnson Jr. High School
    • Las Vegas, NV
    • Sam Richardson, Principal
    • Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools
    • Savage, MN
    • Tina Roberts, English Teacher, Department Chair
    • Gresham Barlow School District
    • Gresham, OR
    • Rebecca Rupert, English Teacher
    • Monroe County Community School Corporation
    • Bloomington, IN
    • Kati Searcy, Teacher
    • Fulton County Schools
    • Atlanta, GA
    • Minjuan Wang, Professor
    • San Diego State University
    • San Diego, CA

    About the Authors

    Zachary Walker is the founder of Last Backpack Generation and is currently a faculty member at the National Institute of Education in Singapore. Zachary is a special educator and technology consultant who teaches preservice teachers and provides professional development for districts, schools, and businesses. Zachary is a certified teacher who has taught at the primary, secondary, and university levels. His current research focuses on the impact of mobile technology on both students and teachers and practical strategies for teachers at all levels. He was one of five recipients of the 2012 Think College Emerging Scholar Award for his research on the use of technology to prepare students for postsecondary environments. Zachary has worked with educators in the United States, Asia, Europe, Central America, and the Caribbean. He also worked with the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) International Bureau of Education (IBE) on issues related to inclusive educational policy.

    Kara Rosenblatt is an assistant professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. Dr. Rosenblatt obtained her master’s degree in Special Education, Learning Disabilities, and Behavior Disorders in 2001 from Florida State University and her doctoral degree in Exceptional Education in 2009 from the University of Central Florida. In her current role, Dr. Rosenblatt teaches undergraduate and graduate level special education courses. In addition to her teaching experience in higher education, Dr. Rosenblatt has experience working within state agencies, collaborating with special education personnel and agencies to coordinate training and delivery of services focused on improving the use of assistive technology, accessible instructional materials, and virtual instruction and assessment. Dr. Rosenblatt’s research interests revolve around technology and learning, with a specific interest in the academic achievement and post high school outcomes of students with disabilities and the use of technology in teacher preparation and professional development. She has facilitated and evaluated professional development projects on the implementation of research-based strategies, parent–school collaboration, and the legal aspects of special education throughout Florida and Mississippi. She spent five years working with middle school students with behavioral and learning disabilities in Florida and Maryland.

    Don McMahon is an assistant professor of Special Education Technology at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. Don received his doctorate in education from the Special Education PhD program at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. In addition to his doctoral work, Don attended the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Universal Design for Learning Summer Institute. His research involves increasing the use of universal design for learning principles in education, using mobile devices to increase achievement for students with disabilities, and exploring the impact of augmented reality as an assistive technology for students with disabilities. Don was a special education teacher for seven years and then became an instructional coach for general education and special education teachers. Don is a national presenter, providing professional development sessions for both general educators and special educators on using mobile devices in education. He has worked with diverse groups of children in a variety of ways, including as the director of an adventure-based summer camp, an outdoor educator and sailing instructor, a volunteer in Haiti, a technology instructor, and a teacher at an alternative school.

  • Resources

    While we have provided many simple strategies to implement in the prior pages, the following section is meant to provide you places to go for further resources. In no way are the lists provided below comprehensive—there are literally dozens of good sites we have had to leave out. The resources below are simply meant to be a starting point for educators to find lessons, videos, websites, apps, and professional learning networks. There are live links to all resources available on our companion website. We highly encourage you to visit these sites often to find new tools and to share your own ideas.

    App Warehouses

    There are dozens of different resources for finding and evaluating apps. It is impossible to keep up with all of them. One strategy is to select two or three free app finders and check to see what paid apps are available for free that particular day.

    An example of an app-finder site is Apps Gone Free (www.appadvice.com). It only selects a few apps to highlight each day and seems to select them based on their quality and usefulness. While it’s not an education-specific site, generally there are several education apps in the daily list.

    Here are some other resources we find helpful:





    iTunes for Education


    Google Chrome Web Store


    App Advice—Education


    Common Sense for SPED










    Other favorites?

    Evaluating Apps: The Good, the Bad, and the App-ly

    As of this writing, there are over one million apps available for iOS devices. Some of them are amazing. Some are OK. Some are awful. How to evaluate, choose, plan, and teach with an app can be challenging. One of the things we encourage teachers to do is to have their students evaluate apps for them. Here are a few things for them to look for:

    • Is the app specifically designed to teach a skill?
    • Is it something that you can apply to creatively teach a skill?
    • Is it a distraction or more trouble than it is worth?
    • Is this a one-trick pony, or does this tool have some depth of content or a variety of uses?
    Multiple Means of Representation
    • Does the app present information using several options?
    Multiple Means of Action and Expression
    • Does the app allow students options to engage with content?
    Multiple Means of Engagement
    • Does the app provide engaging content for diverse learners?
    • Free is great, but there are many high-quality paid apps. An expensive app is one that is a waste of money, not one that costs money.
    Trapped in the App
    • If the app allows students to create content or to text or if it generates reports of progress... can you get them out of the app? Many apps now are including email, social networking, and even Dropbox access.
    Technology/Integration Review Tools

    Visit our companion website for live links to these helpful sites for educators:





    Directory of tested apps for education by Apple Distinguished Educators


    Teachers With Apps

    Teacher-reviewed apps


    Common Sense Media

    Apps are organized and rated by age appropriateness, device, price, genre, content area, applied skills, learning rating, topic, and user recommendation


    Florida Levels of Technology Integration

    Reviewing integration into lessons


    Mobilary: Mobile Devices in the School Library

    Reviews of apps to use with students in and out of the school library


    Learning in Hand With Tony Vincent—Ways to Evaluate Educational Apps

    Rubric based on features and usability


    Kathy Schrock’s Guide to Everything—Bloomin’ Apps

    Apps are divided by device and grouped into categories as they apply to each level of Bloom’s Taxonomy


    Other favorites?

    Copyright © 2016 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Teaching the Last Backpack Generation: A Mobile Technology Handbook for Secondary Educators by Zachary Walker, Kara Rosenblatt, and Donald McMahon. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com

    Twitter Chats and People to Follow



    When (U.S. EST)


    Educational—topics change weekly

    Tuesdays, 12 p.m. and 7 p.m.


    Special education topics



    Educational technology discussions

    Mondays, 8–9 p.m.


    The Dave Burgess Inspiration Show

    Mondays, 9 p.m.


    Education and leadership

    Saturdays, 7:30–8:30 a.m.


    Flipping the classroom

    Mondays, 8 p.m.


    Early childhood educators

    Mondays, 9 p.m.

    Other favorites?

    Copyright © 2016 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Teaching the Last Backpack Generation: A Mobile Technology Handbook for Secondary Educators by Zachary Walker, Kara Rosenblatt, and Donald McMahon. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com

    See also www.bit.ly/educhatcalendar for a list of multiple Twitter educational chats and their topics with the time and day they take place, compiled by @thomascmurray, @cevans5095, @cybraryman1, @conniehamilton, and @jrochelle.

    Video Warehouses

    These web destinations compile and share multiple video lessons for teachers. Visit our companion website to download this sheet.





    Sample lessons with a video library



    Free educational videos, organized by content area



    TED talks—educational division


    Khan Academy

    Video lessons on multiple subjects


    Gooru Learning

    A learning platform that allows teachers to create a playlist for students to engage with the curriculum on their level, at their pace



    An interactive whiteboard and screencasting tool that allows teachers and students to create short instructional videos and share them instantly with their class



    An app that allows teachers and students to create whiteboard lessons and videos and share them with their class and the online community; videos are organized by subject



    Educational videos that are appropriate for students and school settings


    Other favorites?

    Copyright © 2016 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Teaching the Last Backpack Generation: A Mobile Technology Handbook for Secondary Educators by Zachary Walker, Kara Rosenblatt, and Donald McMahon. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com

    Website Warehouses

    These sites are full of resources, ideas, and inspiration for teachers. There are many other great sites out there as well—this is just a sampling of sites that the teachers we work with like to use the most for finding resources. Visit our companion website for live links, but check out the other online warehouses out there, too!









    How to Learn




    Do 2 Learn for SPED


    21st Century Teacher


    Educational Freeware


    Educators Technology






    Other favorites?

    Copyright © 2016 by Corwin. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Teaching the Last Backpack Generation: A Mobile Technology Handbook for Secondary Educators by Zachary Walker, Kara Rosenblatt, and Donald McMahon. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, www.corwin.com

    Quotes to Keep in Mind

    “Every teacher has the right to live in a cave. However, they do not have the right to drag their students in with them.”

    —Tom Whitby

    “If you’re yearning for the good old days, just turn off the air conditioning.”

    —Griff Niblack

    “The future is already here—it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

    —William Gibson

    “Education must assume control of this new educational tool.”

    —1933, Elementary English, in an article about the manual typewriter

    “All technology breaks down. When our cars break down, we don’t immediately get back on horses. And we don’t teach horseback riding in school. When technology breaks down, we fix it and move on.”

    —Marc Prensky

    “Never consider failure as a possibility. But be uncommonly flexible about how you will succeed.”

    —Tom Kelly, The Ten Faces of Innovation

    “Technology has become entwined in my daily classroom routine. I don’t plan how and when to use technology... technology is just another tool in our crayon box.”

    —Linda Dyck, fourth grade teacher in Surrey, British Columbia


    Center for Applied Special Technology. (2010). What is universal design for learning? Wakefield, MA: Author.
    Cormier, D. C., Altman, J. R., Shyyan, V., & Thurlow, M. L. (2010). A summary of the research on the effects of test accommodations: 2007–2008 (Technical Report 56). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, National Center on Educational Outcomes.
    Graeves, T., Hayes, J., Wilson, L., Gielniak, M., & Peterson, E. (2010). The technology factor: Nine keys to student achievement and cost-effectiveness. Shelton, CT: MDR. Retrieved from http://www.schooldata.com/pdfs/ProjectRED_TheTechnolgyFactor_Intro.pdf
    The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, 20 U.S.C. § 103 (2012).
    Johnson, L., Adams Becker, S., Estrada, V., & Freeman, A. (2014). NMC horizon report: 2014 K–12 edition. Austin, TX: New Media Consortium.
    Johnson, L., Smith, R., Willis, H., Levine, A., & Haywood, K. (2011). The 2011 horizon report. Austin, TX: New Media Consortium.
    Kemp, S. (2014, September 3). Half the world now has a mobile phone [Blog post]. Retrieved from http://wearesocial.net/blog/2014/09/world-mobile-phone/
    McMahon, D., & Walker, Z. (2014, March). Universal design for learning features and tools on iPads and iPhones. Journal of Special Education Technology, 29(2), 3948.
    Murphy, M. E. (2014, August 5). Why some schools are selling their iPads. The Atlantic. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2014/08/whats-the-best-device-for-interactive-learning/375567/
    Rose, D., & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching every student in the digital age: Universal design for learning. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
    STEM Reports. (2014). Educator edition: 2014 national survey on mobile technology for K–12 education. New York, NY: Interactive Educational Systems Design. Retrieved from http://go.amplify.com/2014-mobile-report.

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