Integrating Technology: Linking Primary Sources to Literature

America's Music from Jazz by Walter Dean Myers

This is a guest post by Ruth Ferris, an elementary school librarian from Billings, Montana, and a grantee in the TPS Regional Grant Program.

It is always a pleasure when I can connect my love of books with my love of history, seasoned with technology.  One favorite tool is ThingLink, which allows you to take a picture and embed links to other types of media within the picture. 

I live in Montana and most of my students are more familiar with country music than jazz music. So how do I introduce them to new experiences?  I tease them with technology and open their minds with primary sources.  The book Jazz, by Walter Dean Myers, is a beautifully illustrated collection of poems that reflect the sounds and colors of this music developed in the United States. I chose the poem “America’s Music” from the book to connect with primary sources using ThingLink. 

I first took a picture of the two-page spread with my camera phone. I used this historic note from the book to guide my search: “World War I” saw black Americans going to Europe for the first time in large numbers.  The segregated black military outfits had their own bands and introduced Europeans to jazz.  James Reese Europe took an outstanding group of musicians through France as the head of theJames Reese Europe, the army’s most famous musical ensemble.  This coincided with another major influence, the growth of the recording industry.”

I searched James Reese Europe on I found a variety of primary and secondary sources. I also searched YouTube and found a great video that combined music from the 369th Infantry Band with numerous primary sources. I kept track of my sources by creating a table that included thumbnail images and links to my choices.


I then uploaded the image of the book spread to my Thinglink account and began tagging the image with links to the sources, which included the video, a historic newspaper article, and a portrait and biography of James Reese Europe.


When I finished, I simply chose to embed the finished Thinglink onto my website. Check out the finished product (mouse over the image to access the Thinglink icons that link to the sources).

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