Learn Early, Learn Often — Early Learning Resources in Chicago

Learn Early, Learn Often — Early Learning Resources in Chicago

We are proud of the recent launch of the Chicago Early Learning portal. Its launch was well covered, and the portal has been well received.  The development of the site was in collaboration with the SmartChicago Collaborative, a start-up that formed as a partnership between the City of Chicago, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and The Chicago Community Trust.

The Early Learning portal has information about early childhood learning centers in and around Chicago.  It used to be difficult for parents and families to collect, explore, and share this information. Now that all the early learning centers in the city are mapped and listed in one place, it’s easier for parents and families to discover what services are available.

The portal addresses a simple data problem once the information has been collected. There is very little geographic processing that occurs in the application, and the portal’s main function is  to display location data.  It’s not that often that a school will move, so most of the data is relatively static.

Working on a web application with only a small amount of geographic processing was a little unusual for us. While unusual, we were pretty excited about it because we focused heavily on the user experience of the portal, in order to make it easier to use.  We chose technologies that were open and made the portal usable on desktops, tablets, and smartphones. The Google Maps API (which includes Geocoding and Directions), along with Twitter Bootstrap and Twilio enables the application to play friendly with many different devices and capabilities.

Not only that, but we’re excited about what’s coming next with the City of Chicago. The SmartChicago Collaborative is also working with the City of Chicago on Windy Grid, a massive, real-time data infrastructure. Building that infrastructure will enable much deeper analysis and hopefully connect many different agencies and their data tools together.

Deep analytics and big data at the city level would be really exciting, and we’re really happy to see the City of Chicago embracing these goals.  It means that web applications like the Chicago Early Learning portal are just the tip of the iceberg, and we’re anticipating great things in the future, both from the SmartChicago Collaborative, and the City of Chicago.