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Congress.gov: Coming to NCSS with Information That Will Amaze Your Students

The following is a guest post by Tammie Nelson, project manager of Congress.gov and an Information Technology Specialist at the Library of Congress.  It is cross posted on Teaching with the Library of Congress.

As part of my job, I read all of the comments that come to the Library about our online legislative information.  My favorite comment is this one, submitted on February 25, 2011:

“I am in 8th grade and I went and saw the House of Rep. in action and looked it up online afterwards and it was amazing to see that *every word* was online!!! AMAZING!!!”

Online legislative information inspired this 8th grader to use the word “AMAZING” about a social studies field trip.  Not to mention all of those exclamation points!  And who knows?  Perhaps the experience will inspire her to become a Representative and speak on the Floor herself one day.

Congress.gov United States Legislative Information

United States Legislative Information

The Library’s original Web site for public access to legislative data, THOMAS.gov, was launched in 1995, making it almost 19 years old!  Your students may find it hard to believe that the Internet even existed that long ago.  To update, and soon replace, this aging system, the Library of Congress launched beta.Congress.gov in the fall of 2012.

Congress.gov, a great resource for inspiring that kind of excitement about the legislative branch of our government, includes many powerful new features:

  • A single search box that can be used across all data sources provides facets that describe the result set and allow the user to narrow the results.
  • A bill tracker that helps to demystify the complex process by which a bill can become law.
  • Informative short videos about the legislative process, created by the Library’s legislative experts and including links to a legislative glossary.
  • Responsive design ensures the site will work well on any size screen, from a phone to a tablet to a full computer screen.
  • The Congressional Record is much easier to navigate than ever before.
  • Links between different types of legislative data (e.g., from a bill to the sponsor’s member profile page, from a bill action to the Congressional Record, from a bill overview to a Committee Report) provide a more complete understanding of the various legislative entities and documents.

It is not possible to list all of the benefits of the new Congress.gov, so please explore the site to find your favorite new features!

I am traveling to St. Louis with two of the Library’s education specialists to participate in the 93rd National Council for the Social Studies annual conference.  I look forward to demonstrating Congress.gov as part of a session presentation, but I am even more excited about the opportunity to engage one-on-one with social studies teachers in our exhibit booth, to show them what this site can do for them and for their students.

I also hope to learn from these teachers and from the readers of this blog post: How can we continue to improve Congress.gov so that it can remain an inspiring and useful teaching tool?

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