History Comes to Life with ThingLink 360/VR Immigrant Museum

by Karalee Nakatsuka

Student Immigration Museums and the Limitations of the Presentation Board

Every year my students study immigration by conducting an oral history with an immigrant, writing up the details and, in the past, displaying their subject’s story on bulky large tri-fold foam core boards.  The lessons learned from the personal experiences of the immigrants are priceless. But the foam core boards are limiting, bulky and difficult to share.

ThingLink Makes the Learning Experience more Engaging

Two years ago, my students began to create their immigrant museums in ThingLink, a great interactive tool which provides students the opportunity to tell their immigrant’s story in an exciting and engaging way.  They were excited to create their virtual immigrant museum in google draw and use ThingLink to tag their picture with interactive links to their oral history, pictures of their immigrants, maps of the journey, a special artifact and much more.  A virtual museum provides students the opportunity to tell their immigrant’s story in depth and in an engaging manner that can be shared beyond the 4 walls of the classroom.

Bringing History to Life with ThingLink 360

The next step was for me to create a virtual immigrant museum in 360. My first challenge was to find a 360° image that worked.  I decided that I would take my own picture with my 360 cameras.  Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay would be perfect, but I didn’t have time to travel there, so I did the next best thing.  I staged a Chinese Immigration Museum in my dad’s walk-in closet.  My siblings located family pictures and different Chinese artifacts to include.  My aunt, the family historian, and curator contributed much including a Chinese vanity that my grandmother, a young match-made bride, brought with her to America.  We decorated and arranged, took 360  pictures, and rearranged the items until I was satisfied.

ThingLink Premium provides an excellent way for me (and my students) to tell my immigrant’s story (loosely based on my grandfather’s journey).  I inserted background audio to set the mood with some peaceful and reflective Chinese music.  I recorded an introduction to invite the audience to my museum. I loved using the new custom tags to introduce new materials to my audience. I tagged several pictures and added descriptions to describe the immigrant’s journey to America as well as his return to China for a new bride.  I recorded a short movie so people could see my grandmother’s vanity in all it’s glory–opening the drawers and showing the treasures inside. I found an old newsreel about Madame Chiang Kai Shek visiting Mount Vernon, which helped provide the appropriate feel and authenticity for the immigrant’s time period–raising his family during World War 2.  I added transitions to other sites for people to further explore Chinese immigration, customs, and culture.

ThingLink is also a great opportunity to appsmash.  I included Google Docs in the form of a MyMap to trace the immigrant’s journey as well as a template for my students’ Immigrant Oral History.  I created a slide-show movie in Animoto telling the immigrant’s story with original photos.  I finished the museum with a Flipgrid so people could respond to my exhibit by contributing their own immigration stories.

ThingLink provides such an engaging way to tell a story and involves the audience in that same story.  There are so many options for students to use and so much creativity that they can apply to their projects.  This is definitely an opportunity where students can hone their critical thinking and 21st-century skills as they research and prepare their museums.  We’ve come a long way from those tri-fold foam core presentation boards’ limitations. I had so much fun creating my Immigration Virtual Museum 360°  that I can’t wait to teach my students how to create their own.  I’m also excited for my next ThingLink project, the possibilities are endless!  Thanks ThingLink for transforming teaching and learning!

About the Author

Karalee Nakatsuka is a ThingLink Certified Educator who has taught U.S. History at First Avenue Middle School in Arcadia, California for 28 years.  She is passionate about making history come alive and integrating technology to challenge, engage and foster critical thinking and 21st-century skills in her students  Connect with Karalee on Twitter, @historyfrog.





We are dedicated to providing our education community with inspiring ideas for teaching and learning with ThingLink through this blog. We hope you will read more ThingLink Certified Educator guest posts and subscribe to receive weekly updates highlighting our featured content.


Share This Post
Certified Educator
ThingLink Certified Educators are a connected group of educators who are passionate about leveraging the power of ThingLink for teaching and learning. These talented educators work to explore, share, and teach others about great ways to use ThingLink in the Classroom.
Related Posts
Innovation with ThingLink + Google Apps!
ThingLink at #ISTE2016
Use Google Street View to create interactive 360° experiences on ThingLink