Over thirty National Archives documents are part of a free educational app for the iPad called the New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924. Created by the New York City Department of Education (via app developer Vanguard Direct), the app includes photographs, written documents, graphs and charts from the National Archives related to the topic of New York City immigration near the turn of the 20th century.
In addition to the 100+ images from National Archives, the app brings together primary sources from the Museum of the City of New York, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and the Museum of Jewish Heritage—a Living Memorial to the Holocaust. Each partner provided about 25 documents from their collections that they felt would help students and teachers at all levels (Elementary, Middle, and High School) engage in the study of immigration. Educators from these institutions then met with teachers and staff from across the five boroughs of New York City for 2 days at the National Archives to begin the process of analyzing, sorting, and creating questions for these primary sources.
In New York City public schools, immigration is taught during 4th grade, 8th grade and 11th grade units of US History. While the New Immigrant’s intended audience are those specific classrooms, the diverse collection of primary sources provides teachers, students, and history buffs in general with resources that could help foster a deeper understanding of this complex topic. The app could be used by teachers to engage students in a dynamic class discussion, by students to create their own collections or respond to an assignment, or by the general public to intrigue them to learn more about some of the stories behind these images.
Documents are organized into topic areas that touch on important themes in teaching immigration–including the Migration Process, Tenement Life, and Nativism.
A quick swipe of a finger allows the user to browse thumbnails of related documents. For example, in the section titled “Earning a Living,” photographs of children working in tenements, an article from the Brooklyn Standard Union about the role of immigrants in certain industries, and a protest following the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire are available.
Click on any of these documents thumbnails, and a document detail page loads providing background information about the document. On this page, users can also zoom in and crop the document, find text-based questions for a variety of grade levels and even add the document to their own collections. The document detail page also provides Tags that link to other related documents. For example, the Passenger arrival manifest of the SS Nevada, the first ship processed at Ellis Island on January 1, 1892, is tagged with terms such as Arrival, Ellis Island, and Push-Pull Factors.
For teachers using the app, each document has several text-dependent questions that require students to analyze and look deep within the document for answers. With the photograph of demonstration protesting and mourning the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, questions tiered for all grades are provided.
Just a quick tap on the plus sign on the document details page allows teachers and students to create their own collections of related documents. These collections can then be explored by within the app itself or shared via email with others (including non-iPad users) as a downloadable PDF. For example, users could create and share a collection of just the National Archives documents included within the app to have their students gain a better sense of the changing Federal role in immigration during this time period.
For teachers that want their students to explore the topic of immigration through a deeper Document Based Question (DBQ), several are provided for each grade level that focus on a specific theme in the study of immigration. For each of these DBQs, related historical thinking skill standards and Common Core State Standards strands are provided. In the performance task designed for 8th graders titled “The Immigrant Experience on New York’s Lower East Side”, students are given 10 documents from the collection and are tasked to write a newspaper article that cites specific evidence from at least four of these documents to explain the opportunities and challenges of the immigrant experience.
Each activity also includes a short “Ken Burns” style documentary narrated by Historian Edward T. O’Donnell to provide some historical context and educational scaffolding to the primary source documents.
Reviews and comments in iTunes for the app have been overwhelmingly positive with 23 five star reviews. User nwonderful resource for teachers, students and history buffs. It’s amazing to have all of these primary documents literally at your fingertips.” And Missbiss1980 called it an “inspiring teacher resource” that led her to develop a new project for her students to analyze primary sources and create documentaries using iMovie.
Download it today!: The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924 on the App Store on iTunes.