Connect Chicago Featured in Report on how mapping is used to expand access to education environments

New America LogoThe Connect Chicago website, a resourced maintained by Smart Chicago showing free computer access and digital skills locations across the city, is featured in Putting Learning on the Map: Visualizing Opportunity in 21st Century Communities. Published at New America, an organization “dedicated to the renewal of American politics, prosperity, and purpose in the Digital Age” and authored by Lindsey Tepe, Policy Analyst  in their Education Policy Program, here’s how they frame the report:

Rising income inequality has been the subject of heated debate in 2014, and education is often proffered as a remedy. But do all American learners have access to the educational opportunities that lead to success in the 21st century?

In a new report, Putting Learning on the Map: Visualizing Opportunity in 21st Century Communities, author Lindsey Tepe argues for the greater use of community-level mapping to answer this question, exposing at the local level where resources are abundant and where there are disparities. The report spotlights examples of mapping initiatives that span the education spectrum—across early learning, public school, higher education, and informal learning environments such as computing centers and public libraries.

Here’s an extended snip about the Connect Chicago site:

Recognizing that many other public institutions, in addition to community technology centers, provide access to computing technologies and wireless connectivity, the city of Chicago began the project Connect Chicago. The project was designed to help residents throughout the city identify spaces where they could go to access information online. As Chicago’s Office of Innovation and Technology explains, “Connect Chicago brings all these resources to one virtual place, allowing residents and visitors—including those with limited digital skills—to easily find convenient and publicly-accessible technology resources and services.”

To easily find these resources and services, Connect Chicago mapped their locations, along with pertinent information such as operating hours. Residents of the city can search on smartphones by address—or by physical maps posted throughout Chicago’s public transit system—to locate the closest places where they can access computers to go online. The map includes community technology centers along with other informal learning environments that have online access, including public libraries and schools, city college campuses, senior centers, workforce centers, youth career development centers, and even Chicago Housing Authority locations that provide wireless Internet access.

You can download the report directly here.

Chicago School of Data Highlighted in the Chicago Community Trust Annual Report

chicago-school-of-data-logoOur Chicago School of Data project is highlighted in the 2014 Annual Report of the Chicago Community Trust.  Here’s a snip:

More data shared by more organizations will result in more benefits for everyone. That’s the premise of the Chicago School of Data, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and spearheaded by the Smart Chicago Collaborative, a funder collaborative of The Chicago Community Trust.

“We want to help organizations use data and technology to do their jobs, be more effective and make lives better,” explains Dan O’Neil, executive director of Smart Chicago (pictured at left). “Our objective is to pull together all of the great energy we see in nonprofit, government and other sectors in a cohesive way that can support everyone.”

We also talked about how important it us for us to be situated in the region’s community foundation:

O’Neil says Smart Chicago’s location within the Trust headquarters was invaluable to achieving these successes. “The Trust is at the center of all the work that we aim to be involved in, and being here provides us with an ideal vantage point,” he says. “It makes it easy for us to do outreach and build relationships, and that is so important for our long-range goals.”

Here’s the spread and here’s the complete text:

CCT 2014 Annual Report - Chicago School of Data - Page 1

CCT 2014 Annual Report - Chicago School of Data Page 2


CUTGroup #12 – Roll with Me

For our twelfth Civic User Testing Group session, we tested the Roll with Me, a website that helps residents find accessible transit directions in Chicago. This test had two components— a week-long remote test with an in-person discussion at our offices – The Chicago Community Trust at 225 N. Michigan Ave in the Loop.


Mohammad Ouyoun developed Roll with Me during an internship with Smart Chicago and as part of the Civic Works Project. We sat down with Mohammad to see what he wanted to learn from the test. We focused on individuals who have difficulties with stairs, and Mohammad saw use of this website for people that have temporary needs such as parents with strollers, or individuals using carts or luggage. Here are the things that we really wanted to know:

  • How does Roll with Me work in user’s normal day-to-day? Is it easy to use on different devices?
  • How important are the alerts for users?
  • How does Roll with Me compare to other user’s methods of finding transit routes? What features are users interested in having?


On January 8, we sent out an email to all of our 837 CUTGroup participants. We wanted to know if they would be willing to answer a short remote questionnaire 2 or 3 times during a week, and then be able to come to an office in the Loop for an in-person discussion on January 20, 2015. We asked some screening questions to gather information. We wanted to focus on testers who have difficulties with stairs, and ended up with 7 testers who said they did. Since we were looking for more testers, we also reached out to an additional 8 testers who were heavy users of public transit to provide feedback about this app in comparison to other transit apps and websites.

We ended up having 14 testers participate in this test from different neighborhoods in Chicago. Here is a look at the neighborhoods distribution of the testers:

Screening Questions

We heard form 95 CUTGroup participants through our callout for testers. We received a lot of good information just from the screening questions. Here is a look at what we learned:

  • 67% of CUTGroup respondents use public transit on a daily basis.
  • 18% of respondents use public transit to travel to the suburbs on a regular basis (2 or 3 times a week)
  • 23% of respondents specifically mentioned using CTA tools (such as CTA Bus tracker) as their primary way of getting transit route information. 21% of participants mentioned Google Maps as their primary way to search transit routes.

Test Format

We asked testers to participate in multiple test parts over a week’s time. We were happy with the level of detail respondents provided in the quantitative remote portion of the test .

14 of the 15 testers we invited answered Part I’s questions via an online form. A couple of days later, 11 of those 14 testers also completed Part II questions. Then on January 20, 2015, 10 of the 14 testers were able to make it to the in-person section.

We wanted to have an in-person discussion that was casual and focused on qualitative responses. This was not a traditional focus group. The goal of this discussion was for Mohammad to ask questions directly to testers and get feedback. Through this format, we were able to discuss very specific features that testers were looking for.


How does Roll with Me work in user’s normal day-to-day? Is it easy to use on different devices?

We learned that 71% of testers normally check directions on their mobile device. When talking about how it was to find directions, 50% of testers mentioned that it was simple, easy, or straight-forward.

Only 5 testers tried the “Find Me!” feature. 64% of testers did not try to use it and did not see it during their use of the website. Currently the “Find Me!” feature is not working, but once it is fixed, testers thought it should be larger and more prominent.

3 testers experienced problems with searching for their address due to the fact that their addresses came up in different cities rather than defaulting to “Chicago, IL.”

Also, testers were frustrated that when searching for directions they could not go back and edit the directions, but instead had to retype all of the information again.

How important are the alerts for users?


The majority of testers found the alerts to be very useful information, but a few testers thought that they were distracting from the route information. 3 testers thought it would improve the website if the alerts were moved from the top, center location.

Wheelchair CTA rider (#4) says, “I EXTREMELY like that the accessible info is available for the whole CTA system on the same page.”

During the in-person discussion, Writer Rider (#12) explained that she liked having all of the alerts because it brings attention to accessibility needs and the fact that routes might be unavailable due to construction or maintenance.

How does Roll with Me compare to other user’s methods of finding transit routes? What features are users interested in having?

During the first part of the questions, 5 testers (36%) wanted to see a map associated with their directions. 7 testers (50%) wanted to be able to input a custom travel times to get directions. The 15-minute intervals were not sufficient for testers.

For the second part of the test, we asked how important these features were to all of the testers:

How important is it for Roll with Me to display your directions on a map?

5 Very Important         9% (1)
4 Important                 55% (6)
3 Neutral                       27% (3)
2 Slightly Important    0% (0)
1 Not Important           9% (1)

How important is selecting a custom departure time when finding directions?

5 Very Important      55% (6)
4 Important                  36% (4)
3 Neutral                       9% (1)
2 Slightly Important   0%
1 Not Important          0%

How important is selecting a custom arrival time when finding directions?

5 Very Important     55% (6)
4 Important                 27% (3)
3 Neutral                      18% (2)
2 Slightly Important   0%
1 Not Important          0%

Roll with Me for Other Uses

We wanted to also see if Roll with Me could be used for residents who do not have mobile disabilities.

Blue Line + Buses Only (#10) says, “I think the name discourages people who might not be in a wheelchair but might appreciate accessible travel accommodations (ppl. uncomfortable taking stairs, who can’t go far distances on foot, etc.)”

How useful do you think Roll with Me is for people without mobile disabilities? Such as people with strollers, carts, or luggage.

5 Very Useful              27% (3)
4 Useful                       27% (3)
3 Neutral                    36% (4)
2 Slightly Useful         9% (1)
1 Not Useful                0%

Currently, Roll with Me does not specifically target these groups of people, but some testers did see the use of Roll with Me for people without disabilities.

Next Steps

Directions need to be easier to find.

We heard a few suggestions from testers to make finding directions easier:

Adding additional features

  • 90% of testers thought it was “important” or “very important” to have custom arrival and departure times when finding transit times.
  • 63% of testers thought it was “important” or “very important” to have a map to display directions.

We learned that most testers use other websites, such as the CTA Bus Tracker or Google Maps, and are looking for similar features in Roll with Me.

Final Report

Here is a final report of the results with the analysis of the questions we asked, followed by each tester’s responses, and copies of other questions we asked:

The raw test data can be found below with the written answers from every tester.

Kyla Williams-Legislative Fellow (India)

I have been selected by the U.S. Department of State traveling to India for 14 days, as part of the Legislative Fellows exchange program. The Legislative Fellows program is a two-way exchange, sponsored by the US Department of State Bureau of Citizen Exchanges, and managed by World Learning, meant to connect public policy professionals, in this case, from South Central Asia, with American counterparts. It is part of the public diplomacy effort of the U.S. Government and also serves the purpose of increasing the level of cooperation between our countries in a variety of fields.

During 2014, over 40 participants from the South Central Asia region came to the United States. Smart Chicago hosted one, Rakesh Reddy Dubbudu from Hyderabad, India. The opportunity came to us through World Chicago, via their participation in the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Professional Fellows Program.

During Rakesh’s three week in-home stay, he learned about some of Chicago’s civic technology work, of which Smart Chicago is at the center of, and met with other important members of the ecosystem. Rakesh and I worked on an action plan with the objective to influence open data policy and practice in India and make data available to the public. From that work, Factly, was released on Facebook as a first step to make the citizens of India more data literate.

I am one of seven Fellows from across the United States (California, Georgia, Ohio and Louisiana). We will spend our time in India visiting Delhi, Dehradun and Bangalore-Silicon Valley of India interacting with dignitaries, economic development and social enterprise stakeholders, as well as Fellowship Alumni. I specifically will be presenting 1-30-15 on the topic, “Framework for social enterprise and using business skills for public causes”. Smart Chicago through our guiding principles (Technology, Open, Everyone, and Chicago) as well as our three focus areas (Access, Skills and Data) have much to lend to this discussion.

Follow-up regarding my experience and learning opportunities are forth coming…

Stay Tuned!

Legal Assistance Foundation’s Camille Taylor explains Juvenile Expungement

As part of our work with, we rely on the expertise of the LAF. For over 40 years, LAF (formerly the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago) has provided free legal services in non-criminal matters to people living in poverty in metropolitan Chicago. LAF and Cabrini Green Legal Aid run the Juvenile Expungement Help Desk at Cook County Juvenile Court Building and works to help people expunge their juvenile records.

Camille Taylor of LAF Chicago

Camille Taylor of LAF Chicago

Taylor gives classes on juvenile expungement across the city throughout the year. We stopped by one of these classes to listen in. You can watch the whole class with slides below: