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Oh so sweet iPad app – The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924

immigrant 4

With over 1,500,000 apps available in the iTunes App Store and more being added every day, it’s not easy keeping up with the latest iOS tools for social studies. But I’m still a bit surprised that it took a year for me to run across The New Immigrants NYC 1880-1924. When a great app comes out, there’s usually at least a little bit of a buzz. A blog post somewhere. A mention at a conference. A cutting edge teacher tweeting out a lesson plan idea.

But The New Immigrants was released way back in December 2014, a lifetime in the app world, and I just this week ran across it. I know that some of you have probably already been using it but for those of you who haven’t? You need to jump on this because the app is oh so sweet.

Sweet for several reasons. Perhaps the biggest reason is that immigration and refugees and “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses” and the principles on which this country was founded are part of the current conversation. One of the most difficult things you are expected to do is to connect past and present – to find ways to help kids see how what happened 120 years ago still has relevance. And having intelligent conversations about how America reacted to immigrants and refugees in her past can lead to intelligent conversations about how she should respond to current immigration and refugee issues.

(The key phrase here being intelligent conversations – a skill that I think could use some improvement considering what we’ve been hearing lately.)

So . . . sweet because it’s relevant.

And doubly sweet because the app uses hundreds of primary sources, great guiding questions, and a focus on using evidence to solve problems to support high-quality historical thinking. Did I mention that the apps is free?

It’s a win / win / win.

Created by the New York City Department of Education, The New Immigrants iOS 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 100+ images and documents from the 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 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 two days at the National Archives to begin the process of analyzing, sorting, and creating questions for these primary sources.

While the New Immigrants app’s intended audience are NYC classrooms, the diverse collection of primary sources provides teachers and students from across the country with resources that help foster a deeper understanding of this complex topic. The app could be used by teachers to engage students in class discussions, by teachers and students to create their own collections or respond to an assignment, or to complement a larger unit on migration and movement.

Documents are organized into topic areas that touch on important themes in teaching immigration – including the Migration Process, Tenement Life, and Nativism.

The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924 Themes

You can scroll down or tap to select each section. Then a quick swipe left and right allows you to browse thumbnails of related primary source 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.

The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924 The Migration Process









The New Immigrants: NYC 1880-1924 Earning a Living

Click on any of these documents and a detailed document page pops up which provides background information about the document.  You can also zoom in and out as well as crop the document so that you and your students work with just the information you need.

immigrant crop

There are also specific text-based questions for a variety of grade levels that can help you lead analysis discussions or scaffold thinking for individual student use.

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And my favorite feature? Adding documents to your own collections. Tapping the Plus sign on the left side menu inserts the document into a separate folder that you can create for each lesson, question, or writing prompt. These collections can then be explored within the app itself or shared via email with others as a downloadable PDF. The link embedded in the email takes you to a unique URL just for your collection.

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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.

New Immigrants Document Detail

For teachers who want their students to explore the topic of immigration through a deeper Document Based Question, you can find several for a variety of grade levels 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. These DBQs and lessons can also be shared from the app to a specific URL for easy offline use and printing.

The New Immigrants: Teaching Immigation

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.

The New Immigrants: Teaching Immigration

Relevant to current events. Supports high level historical thinking. Free. Easy to use.

Oh so sweet.


(Thanks to the National Archives Education Updates blog for screenshots.)

5 Comments Post a comment
  1. Awesome app! Thanks for sharing. I’m excited to bring this to my social studies teachers I work with.

    December 1, 2015
    • glennw #

      It is awesome! Love all of the primary sources.

      Have fun / thanks for the comment!


      December 1, 2015
  2. Risa #

    Since I work at a school with one-to-one iPads (I know), I’m always on the lookout for iPad apps that could be easily integrated into my classroom. This one is particularly exciting because it fuses technology with the C3 Framework’s Inquiry Arc, and I am constantly on the lookout for primary sources for my students to read and evaluate. Thanks for sharing!

    December 10, 2015
    • glennw #

      I really like the app and hope it works for you and your kids.

      Good luck!


      December 11, 2015

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