Ed Games Week Highlights the Emergence of Video Games in Education

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Ed Games Week wrapped up with a 48-hour Education Game Jam that brought together over one hundred veteran and independent game developers, teachers, and students. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Games and play are a central part of childhood and can stimulate creativity and learning. As technology grows as a tool for teachers, one question has been: what role might educational video games play in the classroom?

Today, increasing numbers of teachers are incorporating games to supplement and enrich classroom instruction. In addition, students of all ages are developing their own games, as showcased in competitions and hackathons in communities across the country.

Ed Games Week brought the discussion on educational games to Washington, D.C. The Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the U.S. Department of Education (ED) collaboratively planned a series of events including the Ed Games Expo, the Ed Games Workshop, and the White House Education Game Jam.

The Ed Games Expo

The Ed Games Expo showcased 25 newly developed learning games developed with funding from the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) programs at ED’s Institute of Education Sciences (ED/IES SBIR) and other federal programs. More than 150 attendees met face-to-face with the developers and played games that covered a range of topics – from STEM, history, and foreign languages – and used a wide variety of genres for gameplay. For example:

  • Addimal Adventure challenges children to solve mathematical equations with support of friendly characters.
  • Zoo U helps grade school students navigate a series of challenging social situations.
  • Reach for the Sun encourages deep understanding of photosynthesis as students grow a virtual sunflower from seed to full plant.

For more, check out the Office of Educational Technology YouTube channel:

Ed Games Workshop

The Ed Games Workshop brought together the Expo game developers and a team of federal experts. Workshop collaborators strategized exciting possibilities to create regional, national, or even international STEM game competitions featuring games that motivate as well as teach, such as through an X-Prize model. For more, see this article on the Clinton Foundation blog.

The White House Education Game Jam

Ed Games Week wrapped up with a 48-hour Education Game Jam that brought together over one hundred veteran and independent game developers, teachers, and students with the goal of creating educational games that make challenging K-12 topics easier for students to learn and for teachers to teach. Organized by the White House and Department of Education, developers were challenged to develop playable prototypes during the event. On Monday, Sept. 8, Game Jam participants presented videos of their games and demonstrated the prototypes at the White House. Twenty-three educational games were developed over the weekend including:

You can find videos of all the game prototypes on the Office of Educational Technology YouTube channel:

ED is committed to tracking the emergence of technology-based games in education as a way to enrich in-and-out of classroom learning opportunities for students. Follow @OfficeofEdTech and @IESResearch on Twitter for the latest!

Ed Metz is a developmental psychologist and the Program Manager for the Small Business Innovation Research Program at the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences.

Russell Shilling is an experimental psychologist and the Executive Director of STEM Initiatives at the U.S. Department of Education.

Mark DeLoura is Senior Advisor for Digital Media at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam: Old World Values with New World Strategies and Tools

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Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

When President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative, he called on Americans to make sure that every American — including our boys and young men of color — can reach their full potential.  On August 2, over 150 people showed up early on a Saturday morning for a “Data Jam” hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with Georgetown University and the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation. The Jam took place at Georgetown Downtown in Washington, D.C.

The My Brother’s Keeper Data Jam brought together a diverse group of high school students, teachers, data scientists, data visualization experts, developers and community and non-profit leaders. The aim was to find new and better ways to use data to highlight opportunities and create solutions that can improve life outcomes for all students, including boys and young men of color. It was a powerful day.

A group of young men started us off with compelling spoken word performances that reminded all in attendance of the incredible challenges they face and enormous potential they hold. While acknowledging the role they had to play in changing the narrative of their own lives, they made plain the real danger and risks they face each day and expressed frustration in having to overcome the negative stereotypes that are applied to them and their peers.

The attendees then broke into teams focused on the six universal goals outlined in the My Brother’s Keeper 90 Day Task Force Report– entering school ready to learn; reading at grade level by third grade; graduating from high school ready for college and career; completing post-secondary education or training; successfully entering the workforce; and reducing violence and providing a second chance. The teams were designed to capitalize on the range of perspectives and expertise among the participants. The student and teacher team members almost uniformly commented that they had never before been engaged in developing or even asked about tools and resources that impact their daily lives.

Nearly 20 teams worked through the day on crafting compelling ways to show data and creative solutions to chronic challenges – ranging from strategies to reduce preschool suspensions and expulsions to websites that enable students to find career paths and the required education or training to access them. At the end of the day, seven teams were voted by other participants as having the most promising ideas, and those teams committed to moving these and other ideas forward.

We are excited about the ideas that emerged and anxiously await seeing these ideas in action. We are even more excited about the lessons learned from the day and how they will improve future Data Jams that I am sure other colleges and universities will be clamoring to host. But we are most excited by the demonstration of commitment and unbelievable energy of the individuals and teams that participated. With no cash prizes or press coverage, these people leaned in and showed a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about – people coming together to help our young people and the country. The Data Jam simply applied a little technology and innovation to that simple but profound concept and left many of us feeling inspired.

Yet, nothing was as inspiring to me as the time I had during lunch with the youth in attendance. They asked how I got where I am; how I avoided and dealt with the violence in my neighborhood; how best to survive and excel on campuses where they, for the first time, might come across few people with similar backgrounds and experiences; and many other questions about life as they know it and imagine it. They shared their stories of struggle and triumph as well as their plans for the future and the impact they plan to have on the world. Their questions and their stories reminded me, as one young man said in the morning session, they are “overcoming every day.” So if we create ladders of opportunity, they are more than willing to climb. And, that, too, is a big part of what My Brother’s Keeper is all about.

Jim Shelton is Deputy Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education and Executive Director of the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force.

The My Brother’s Keeper initiative is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary approach led by an interagency federal task force to build ladders of opportunity and unlock the full potential of our young people, including boys and young men of color. Learn more about My Brother’s Keeper.

The Beeck Center for Social Impact & Innovation at Georgetown University exists to inspire and prepare students, faculty and global leaders with the necessary skills to generate and innovate solution-based social change both locally and internationally. It will promote collaborative spaces for fostering innovation and provide experiential opportunities to pragmatically impact the social sector. Learn more about the Beeck Center.

Secretary Duncan Praises Sustainable Schools and Announces Tour

Secretary Arne Duncan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Mark Schaefer and Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots celebrate green schools. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

Secretary Arne Duncan, Assistant Secretary of Commerce Mark Schaefer and Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality Mike Boots celebrate green schools. (Photo credit: U.S. Department of Education)

For the third consecutive year, a cohort of U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools (ED-GRS) and District Sustainability Awardees received accolades at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., for their sustainable, healthy facilities, wellness practices, and sustainability learning. Honorees participated in a celebration offered by the Center for Green Schools and Senator Tom Harkin’s office, where they met their Congressional representatives, and in a  range of tours offered by the National Park Service, the U.S. Botanical Gardens, the Department of Energy, the White House, and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, among others.

Joined by Acting Chair of the White House Council for Environmental Quality Mike Boots and U.S. Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary Mark Schaefer, Secretary Duncan praised these school and district sustainability all-stars at an afternoon ceremony for their efforts to reduce both their impact on the environment and utility costs through conservation and facilities upgrades, keeping students healthy with daily wellness practices, and using environmental education to teach all subjects, especially science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), civics, and green careers.

Secretary Duncan also announced the “Healthy Schools, High-Achieving Students” Best Practices Tour. The six-state tour will highlight practices that improve the wellness, productivity, and achievement of students and faculty through health, safety, and educational improvements in school facilities, as well as environmental education, nutrition and physical activity. This year’s tour will visit several Kentucky, West Virginia, Minnesota, Florida, Colorado and Maryland honorees from August to October.

What have honorees done to receive this award? They’re turning out the lights, adding insulation, changing light bulbs, implementing building automation, bringing daylight into their classrooms, and installing renewable energy sources, allowing them to save money. Their efforts  ensure healthy, safe air quality, better ventilation, and reduced contaminants, and they regularly maintain building systems, ban idling vehicles, purchase safe cleaning supplies, and implement integrated pest management.

Students also use the school building and grounds as instruments for learning. Using the school building, surrounding natural environments and school gardens as instruments for learning, students are eating healthy, local, and school-grown foods and are getting more physical activity outdoors. Nearly all honorees take advantage of Farm to School programs and through programs like Safe Routes to School or Walking School Bus, students reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve the quality of air. Their efforts improve the health of schools, literally helping students and staff to breathe easier. Students in Green Ribbon schools gain life-long civic skills and stewardship values, hands-on experience with science, technology, engineering and math and graduate prepared for the jobs of tomorrow.

Given all these benefits, it’s not surprising that ED has added a third award category for the 2014-2015 awards cycle. In addition to schools and districts, state authorities are invited to nominate green colleges and universities by February 1, 2015.

To learn more about this year’s U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon Schools and District Sustainability Awardees, visit our website. You may also subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Kyle Flood is a confidential assistant in the Office of the General Counsel and social media manager for the ED Green Team.

Ed.gov Has a New Look

The Department of Education has redesigned its website!

As you’ve probably noticed at first glance, our entire site has a more modern look and feel. We’ve also streamlined a lot of our site navigation elements, which we encourage you to explore.

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We’ve also improved our site search. We’re now using DigitalGov Search, GSA’s free search box solution that allows users to search all of our public-facing content. Additionally, the tool is powered by Bing’s index.

Our site is also now completely mobile-friendly. We know that the general public is increasingly accessing all sorts of websites on their phones, and we want to make sure that you can access all of our information, even when you’re on the go. This latest website facelift now makes it possible for you to read our content on your smartphone or tablet without having to pinch and scroll.

We’re not done improving our website, though. Coming later this summer all of our blogs will have a new look and feel. And coming in early 2015, we will have completed redesigning our homepage to make it even easier for you to find what you’re looking for.

Stay tuned!

Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education and co-chair of the Department’s Open Government Working Group.

ED Updates Open Gov Plan for 2014

The U.S. Department of Education has updated its Open Government Plan.

We consider open government to be a critical component in achieving the administration’s ambitious education goals, which are:

  • The U.S. is to become No. 1 in the world in the percentage of the population with a college degree by 2020; and
  • The U.S. is to significantly reduce gaps between low-income and minority students and their peers in high school graduation and college access and success by 2020.

The Open Government Plan of the U.S. Department of Education highlights how the department is using open government, including increasing our transparency and accountability, soliciting and incorporating more public input, increasing collaboration and communication with other organizations, and creating a culture of openness within our own organization.

Our Flagship Initiatives, highlighted in the newest version of the document, outline how we’re currently applying open government. From our data inventory website to our new version of FREE.Ed.gov to our Federal Student Aid Integrated Student Experience, we’re using open government throughout the department in a variety of innovative ways.

The principles of open government are now vital to effectively communicating and interacting with the general public, students, parents, teachers, and all stakeholders engaged in public education. These principles have changed how the Department of Education operates and its internal culture.

Let us know what you think! Share your comments and questions in the Comment Section below, email us at opengov@ed.gov, or tweet at us (@usedgov) with the hashtag #opengov.

Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education and co-chair of the Department’s Open Government Working Group.

 

Education Datapalooza

Duncan at Education DatapaloozaYesterday I participated in an Education Datapalooza hosted by the White House and U.S. Department of Education.  More than 600 people packed into an auditorium to discuss innovation in higher education—and what I heard and saw makes me excited for the future! The gathering was a response to President Obama’s call this past August to improve value and affordability in postsecondary education, in which he outlined an ambitious plan that included a major focus on innovation.  As part of his call to action, the President and the First Lady are speaking today about the importance of ensuring that every child, rich or poor, has the opportunity to access a quality college education.

At the Education Datapalooza, we gathered to celebrate innovative products, apps, websites, and other tools to help students get to and through postsecondary education. Many of the tools help students and families navigate the college choice and selection process. Others focus on improving teaching and learning, especially in ways that leverage technology to improve online and classroom-based instruction.

Events like this one are exciting because they bring together so many different people from different backgrounds and experiences. The event featured entrepreneurs and software developers, along with researchers in the fields of college access and learning. It also featured students, who taught college guidance counselors how to use the latest mobile apps so that they could refer other students to them, along with policymakers and representatives of non-profits that represent student voices. Video of the day will be posted soon here: www.ed.gov/datapalooza.

Duncan at DatapaloozaPart of Datapalooza was an innovation showcase, at which more than fifty organizations participated by giving live product demonstrations of their tools to empower students and families to make informed decisions about college—and improve teaching and learning. Among the participants were several teams that began developing their tools only a few weeks prior, as part of the Data Jams hosted by the White House and Department of Education to catalyze innovation. I got a chance to walk through the innovation showcase and meet with the entrepreneurs and student advocates who are developing new tools. The energy and excitement in the room was tremendous.

Many of the tools and apps developed, use open data provided by the Department of Education and other federal sources. In the past, even data that was free to the public was often difficult to find and use. Knowing that it is critical to innovation, President Obama signed an Executive Order last May directing agencies to make government-held data more accessible to the public and to entrepreneurs. Building on the Executive Order, the Department of Education announced a new public data inventory that went live in December.

And yesterday, we announced our intention to issue a Request for Information (RFI) to gather ideas and feedback on potential development of Application Program Interfaces (APIs) with key education data, programs, and frequently used forms—including the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). APIs offer the potential for developers to interact with these federal resources in new ways, including developing apps or services that benefit students and consumers.

While Datapalooza was the culmination of months of hard work by entrepreneurs and college experts, it is also just the beginning of a wider conversation. In the weeks and months ahead, the Administration will continue outreach to the community seeking to catalyze innovation. We value your input, so please send your ideas to Datapalooza@ed.gov.  We hope to engage those who participated in Datapalooza and others who are committed to promoting opportunity for American students.

Arne Duncan is U.S. Secretary of Education

Digging Deeper into ED Open Data: New ED Data Inventory

If you love data, and especially open data, there’s a good chance you also care about quality metadata. We have some exciting news: the Department of Education launched a new ED Data Inventory!

The Inventory is available as a searchable website and a JSON file.  It contains descriptions about the data the Department collected as part of program and grant activities as well as statistical data collections.

Richer information about the Department’s data makes it more accessible and understandable to researchers, developers and entrepreneurs. Our hope is that users will be able to put this freely available government data alongside other sources of data to advance new studies, products, services and apps. The tools and advances in knowledge and best practices can help American students, parents and educators and continue to improve America’s schools. Empowered with more relevant, timely information, students and families will be able to make more informed decisions about education and preparation for college and career.

The ED Data Inventory is a work in progress. The Department’s Data Strategy Team sponsored a working group that did the heavy lifting on this project under the leadership of Marilyn Seastrom, Chief Statistician for the National Center for Education Statistics. The inventory so far covers 33 data series with a total of 223 component studies or data collections. For each data collection, the inventory includes information on the specific data elements used and their definitions. The descriptions link to accessible, online copies of the datasets and systems. The inventory work is ongoing – the team is still at work adding descriptions of more data series and studies. 

The release of the ED Data Inventory is part of the Department’s response to the President’s Executive Order, Making Open and Machine Readable the New Default for Government Information, and the Open Data Policy. The content from the ED Data Inventory’s JSON file will soon feed the Department’s content on Data.gov. We have been working with the OMB Office of Science and Technology Policy to make open government data easier for the public and entrepreneurs to find, understand, and use. Check out the new Next.Data.gov, a design prototype of the next generation of Data.gov, and the education community on Next.Data.gov.  We provide a list of the 35 datasets accessible via API (application programming interface) at ed.gov/developer.

Learn more and connect with us at ed.gov/data. We look forward to your feedback, questions and suggestions.

Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education and a member of the Department’s Data Strategy Team.

 

New Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE) Site Features Open Data and Mobile-Friendly Design

FREE

Visit the new Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE) Homepage!

We are excited to announce that a beta version of FREE’s new website will launch tonight!

The new version of the Federal Registry for Educational Excellence (FREE) is powered by the Learning Registry, an open database for sharing digital learning resources. This partnership will provide our customers – educators, parents and students – with a broader inventory of educational materials from federal agencies and public and private organizations. More than 200,000 freely available resources are included in the new FREE.

The new site incorporates responsive design for mobile devices. This means FREE looks great and works well for customers on smartphones and tablets.

By modernizing the technology behind FREE, we are preparing a platform for future enhancements. It now will be easier to share content in FREE on social media networks. We envision crowdsourcing expertise from the education community and incorporating more customer-generated input in the future. We are considering new features so customers can rate, tag, and comment on specific resources, as well as save their favorites for future reference.

The new FREE is a work in progress. While new FREE is still in beta, we will be maintaining the previous version of FREE at free1.ed.gov.

We welcome your feedback on the new FREE! Send us your comments and ideas at FREE@ed.gov or on Twitter @FreeResources.

FREE is maintained by the Office of Communications and Outreach and the Office of Educational Technology at the United States Department of Education in partnership with the Advanced Digital Learning Initiative.

Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education

Disclaimer: The U.S. Department of Education does not mandate or prescribe particular curricula or lesson plans. FREE contains links to learning resources created and maintained by other public and private organizations.  This information is provided for the visitor’s convenience and is included here as an example of the many resources that educators may find helpful and use at their option.  The U.S. Department of Education does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness, or completeness of this outside information.

Further, the inclusion of links to items does not reflect their importance, nor is it intended to endorse any views expressed, or materials provide.

Listening to Web Users and Analytics

The Department of Education Web Team and Digital Government Strategy Initiative Team are pleased to announce ED’s participation in the government-wide Digital Analytics Program (DAP). DAP is designed to help federal agencies become more customer-centric and efficient at getting users the content they want.  To help us, we have made a few changes in the tools we use to measure what users want.

ED.gov will soon role out a new online customer satisfaction survey, using the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) ForeSee survey.  We will use the ACSI survey to compare ED.gov results to other government agencies and top commercial websites.

Digital Strategy LogoED.gov will also implement Google Analytics Premium, in conjunction with DAP.  Google Analytics (a third-party analytics provider) is the industry standard and provides invaluable information on usage of our websites. It is a powerful tool to measure how well we provide meaningful content. It also allows us to focus our efforts on areas of the website that gets the most use. Objective performance measures should drive the development and delivery of effective web content. Google Analytics allows us to do this.

Implementing Google Analytics Premium and ACSI ForeSee survey means ED.gov has changed its cookie policy and use.

When you visit any website, its server may generate a piece of text known as a “cookie” to place on your computer. Placing cookies allows websites to “remember” visitors’ preferences, surfing patterns and behavior while they are connected.

There are two types of cookies — single session and multi-session. Session cookies last only as long as your Web browser is open. Once you close your browser, the cookie disappears. Multi-session cookies are stored on your computer for longer periods.

The Office of Management and Budget Memo M-10-22, Guidance for Online Use of Web Measurement and Customization Technologies PDF, allows Federal agencies to use single session and multi-session cookies.  Previously, ED.gov used single session cookies.  Moving forward, ED.gov will start to utilize multi-session cookies. In using multi-session cookies, ED.gov does not receive any personally identifiable information, and does not combine, match, or cross-reference ED.gov information with any other information. We do not sell, rent, exchange, or otherwise disclose this information to persons or organizations. Cookies from ED.gov Web pages only collect information about your visit to our site.

We will start using multi-session cookies for two reasons: 1) to enable Google Analytics to differentiate between new and returning visitors to our site, and 2) to block repeated invitations to take the ACSI survey.

Based on how often you visit ED.gov, you may be asked if you would like to complete a customer survey (the ACSI ForeSee survey) of our website. The multi-session cookie is set to block repeated survey invitations, and it expires after 90 days. Simply put, if you say you don’t want to participate in the survey, the cookie will remember this, and will not allow you to be asked again during the following three months. We feel it is important and respectful not to ask our users the same question twice in a short period of time.

If you do not wish to have single session or multi-session cookies stored on your machine, you can opt out or disable cookies in your browser. You still will have access to all the great information and resources at ED.gov websites.

Jill James is web director at the U.S. Department of Education

Your Feedback Wanted: More Open ED Data

I am part of a team that is looking at ways to enhance the Department’s digital services and respond to the White House’s Digital Government Strategy.  We are spearheading a new initiative to make more of the data ED publishes open and developer-friendly via web application programming interfaces (APIs).  APIs allow web developers to pull data from one or more API-enabled sources into another website, application, or mobile app. It makes sharing information more fluid and current.  Check out the currently available 16 ED datasets with APIs on ED.gov.

Open Gov LogoThe Department of Education and the White House are reaching out to developers interested in working with education open data. The Data Jam held in June kicked off development of projects and tools to be presented at an Education Datapalooza event to be held at the White House in October 2012. Datapalooza will be an opportunity to highlight tools and services that leverage open educational data sets (education.data.gov), individual electronic student data (MyData), and data about learning content (Learning Registry) to improve student choices around learning.  Datapalooza will be streamed live (and posted online afterwards) for anyone who wants to participate. Email the team at edtech@ed.gov for more details about the event plans, or if you are currently working/interested in working on open educational data integrations.

But Datapalooza is only the first step to engage the public. We want to hear from you – developers and all of our customers. Tell us which ED data sets and online tools have data that should be more open. Great ideas come from everywhere. If you have an idea for an app that would help you and the public access certain types of information, let us know. Your input will help us prioritize the suggestions made here and some of the ideas we already have in mind.

To get the conversation started, here are a few datasets that could be enabled through API:

For more ideas, see our datasets on Data.gov/education/ and our lists of ED-funded websites and online tools.

Comments open on this blog post will be open through August 20. Our team plans to analyze your feedback and set out a plan for making more of our websites and tools more mobile in the coming months.

Thanks for taking the time to tell us what you think!

Jill James is Web Director at the U.S. Department of Education

Your Feedback Wanted: Making ED Online More Mobile

Are you reading this on a smartphone right now?  Would you be having a better reading experience if we offered a mobile-friendly version of the Homeroom Blog?

The web managers at the Department of Education, including myself, know the number of smartphone and tablet owning Americans is on the rise.  In the past 12 months the number of ED.gov visits on mobile devices increased by about 143%.

Digital Strategy LogoOur team is looking at ways to enhance the Department’s digital services and respond to the White House’s Digital Government Strategy.  We are spearheading a new initiative to make our websites and online applications more mobile friendly – by optimizing web pages for viewing on mobile devices or creating apps for mobile devices.

With the recent launch of the new StudentAid.gov by ED’s office of Federal Student Aid, the department has taken the first steps in meeting the demands of mobile users. StudentAid.gov always looks great because the site’s display adjusts depending on whether a visitor is browsing on a desktop, tablet, or smartphone.  StudentAid.gov provides consumers with a one-stop website where they can access federal student aid information, apply for federal aid, repay student loans and navigate the college decision-making process.

Additionally, the Answers.ed.gov site is optimized for mobile browsing and searching. The National Center for Educational Statistics created a mobile version of the School Districts Demographic System and a mobile application of selected NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) Results (for Apple iOS| for Android).

This is just a start and we have still have work to do.

We want to hear from you. Tell us which of ED sites and applications you think are the most important to make more mobile friendly. Your input will help us prioritize the suggestions made here and some of the ideas we already have in mind.

To get the conversation started, here are a few candidates to make more mobile friendly:

For more ideas, see our lists of ED-funded websites and online tools.

Comments open on this blog post will be open through August 20. Our team plans to analyze your feedback and set out a plan for making more of our websites and tools more mobile in the coming months.

Thanks for taking the time to tell us what you think!

Jill James is Web Director at the U.S. Department of Education