Free Wheeling

When you think about American history, probably the first thought that comes to mind is not the bicycle.  However, in Davis, CA, bicycles are VERY important, so this is the perfect place for the U.S. Bicycling Hall of Fame.  It is in downtown Davis, at 303 B Street.  Our host, Bob Bowen, was the perfect Bicycles R Us spokesperson!

I remember my first bike, well actually it was my mom’s bike, but my dad painted it powder-blue so I would think it was new.  It weighed more than I did, and the rust and oil from the chain gave my leg the tattoo-look before tattoos were popular.

No, this wasn’t the bike, but in the 1890s my great-grandfather rode one like this one when he was a kid.   Big-wheelers were fairly dangerous, and no helmets were required.  (or even imagined).  The biggest problem was that there were no brakes!!! AND you were 8 feet off the ground, and when you did stop you took a “header” landing head-first in front of the bike.

Bicycle hero, Major Taylor from my home state of INDIANA, caught my attention.  He was the highest paid athlete in the world for a time – a bicycle racer.  Of course that was before pro-football.  Even before pro-baseball.  But in 1899 Major Taylor was the man.

On the second floor of the Bicycle Hall of Fame were more heroic stories, many of them female including Rebecca Twigg, whom I liked for her name.  Born in Seattle, Washington – another of my favorite places, in 1963, she was an Olympic medalist, world and U.S championship race track cyclist.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Twigg9906_699.jpg

Next, we went into the basement.  Here the Hall of Fame houses the collection of bikes from across the ages. Transportation before bicycles was limited to walking and animal drawn vehicles.  Finally, here was a vehicle that people could power themselves.  The bicycle pictured below, called a running machine, started out without chains, brakes or other niceties that we consider essential today.  Running machines, powered Fred Flintstone style, by running them,  were used, mostly to go downhill, from 1817 up to the start of the Civil War.

Thank goodness women got involved in bicycling.  Before women started riding bicycles roads were dirt, or at best, cobblestones.  After women took the wheels, it wasn’t long until paved roads started appearing.  No wonder they called the first bicycles “bone shakers”.  Of course, the metal or wooden tires might have had something to do with that as well.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  At some point bicycling became a family event.  This bicycle seats 6.  I remember riding a bicycle for two, and when the person in front came to a large fallen tree in the path, she wanted to go over it.  I didn’t think that was such a good idea, but she was persistent.  OK, stubborn.  I think I tend to be somewhat passive aggressive.  So when she continued to power forward, I bailed.  I don’t think I made a very good back seat driver, so I hate to think of being in the back seat of this machine.  …Yes, she crashed, and I felt badly, but still convinced that I did the right thing, and she should have stopped.

All in all we had a great time on Bob Bowen’s Bicycle Tour.  I love alliteration.  I looked for a “B” word to substitute for the word tour, and after a few thesaurian clicks on synonyms I found the word “bender” meaning “a period of time escaping life’s harsh realities”.   Unfortunately it means a few other things as well, so we’ll stay with tour.

Some of us had more fun than others.

Some of us crashed.

Some of us  took the sport very seriously!  Win at all costs!

We all had a great time, and recommend this as a fun place to visit.  Thanks again to our hosts.

Twitter v TodaysMeet

Preparing for the implementation of the Common Core Standards includes implementing a high degree of technology.  As a professional developer, I need to be able to model the use of how readily available technology can be used in the classroom.  Yesterday my colleague, Mary, and I experimented with whether to use Twitter or TodaysMeet during our next presentation.

According to Rosa Golijan who wrote a blog article about Twitter over a year ago, there were 175 million registered Twitter users, not that all of them used it.  If any of those 175 million folks are like me they might have created an account to try it once.  I did, and then the account just sat there until I forgot my password and eventually even forgot I had opened the account.  I started a new account when I started this website a month ago today.  I am proud to have 37 tweets, follow 42 people, and have 16 followers on the account I use.  In comparison I learned about TodaysMeet last Friday, used it during a phone meeting on Wednesday, and practiced with Mary yesterday.

You can use either of these services as what we call a parking lot during a meeting or professional development to allow attendees to interact with each other and the presenter without verbally disrupting the presentation.  Engaged participants are actively listening.  They usually make comments to people either about the meeting or an idea that they are having at the moment.  When I started going to meetings, we whispered to each other, wrote notes and passed them all over the room, or waited until we had a free minute to talk.  By that time we usually talked about something else.

Technology makes this learning process easier.  With Twitter you do not have to  have an account to follow a meeting.  You go to Twitter.com/search and enter the name of the meeting that the presenter gives preceded by a hash mark (#).

The hash code will take you to a place where you can see all the notes that other people attending the meeting are posting.  You can write a post to make a comment or ask a question.  The presenter might have a co-presenter or a designated person who is following the tweets.  When an important comment or question is made, the designated person may either answer the tweet directly, interrupt the speaker, or even text the speaker that she/he has a question to answer.

TodaysMeet works the same way, but you don’t have to sign up for an account, or even use your real name.   The presenter creates a chat room, and you go to TodaysMeet.com/name of meeting, enter your name and join.

The presenter can press the twitter button at the bottom to invite all tweeters to the meeting.  This also takes people to the TodaysMeet chat room, not to Twitter.

Once you press join, you have entered the room and may start making comments.  You have up to 140 characters, then you press say.

The presenter can use these comments to tailor the meeting to the needs of the participants.  The comments are saved online for up to a month, and anyone can access them, but ultimately they disappear.

Twitter is different.  The comments are saved indefinitely.  Twitter screens out all of the other tweets so that all you see are the comments made during the meeting, otherwise it would be very distracting.  Another major difference with Twitter is that people can access information from other Twitter users’ profiles.  This can be helpful since networking is a great benefit to attending a training or meeting.  It is also nice to know about the presenter as well.

Mary and I decided to try only one of the two options so that we wouldn’t confuse ourselves or our participants.  Which one would you use or would you use both at the same time?  I’ll tell you after next week which one we chose, and how it went.  If you have any advice for us in the meantime, leave a comment.

Dropbox v Google Docs

Not all technology eliminates frustration and irritation from my life, but for the most part these two applications do.  Although I use Google Docs almost daily, I should be a Dropbox salesperson.  For now, I’ll keep my day job, because I’m afraid that I couldn’t live for very long on my commission checks since both of these products are free.

I could be a Dropbox salesperson.

I often work on large projects with several collaborators, and the way I write, the projects usually need lots of edits.  Before Dropbox I used to email myself work to do at home.  I was thrilled that I could do that!  I would write or edit, then email it back to work, where my secretary/editor would edit.  We had so many copies in our computers that we got lost in the stacks of virtual files.  We created new names, and new files to keep them all straight.  One time the server at the office went down, and when it came back up again there was a new P Drive.  What no one knew was that for some reason I was still accessing the old P Drive, and my secretary was editing on the new P Drive.  Oddly we didn’t catch on to that fact for days.  Hopefully this doesn’t even sound vaguely familiar to you because I guarantee it was frustrating.

Even simple games take time to develop.

Dropbox and Google both store documents on the web and have different benefits, but personally I prefer Dropbox for most uses because of the following reasons.

1)  Dropbox uses whatever software you are using.  I use Microsoft products, and Dropbox stores all my documents as Word docx.  Google has good products, but they do not have all of the flexibility that I have spent years learning in Microsoft.

2)  Most people say they receive and can open up a document that I send them from Dropbox.  I have had people complain that they couldn’t open a Google Doc.  That may not be the problem with Google Doc, but with me the techy-less wonder, or even possibly the techy-less friend to whom I am sending a link.

3)  I can open up Dropbox without even being on the Internet, do my work, and as soon as I turn on the internet, the work syncs to the cyber cloud.  You have to log in to use Google Docs, and on my pokey computer, that can take more time that I want to spend.  I’m not in the twitch generation, but I have become  accustomed to instant.

4)  This makes me happy.  Everyone with whom I have shared a Dropbox folder gets a little message every time I make a change on a document.  People say, “I got lots of notifications that documents have been changed.  You must work REALLY hard.”  Did you hear that boss?   Actually I’m never satisfied with what I write, but they might also be seeing all my secretary’s  or one of my collaborator’s hard work instead.  I just smile, the project is active!

" 9 files have been synced."

5)  Using Dropbox you don’t create multiple versions of documents that get in your way all the time.  All of the revisions are saved, but you have to click on a tab to locate them, so they are not in your face all the time.  With Google I seem to end up with revisions with the same name as the original documents.  It doesn’t take much to confuse me.

6)  Another problem I have with Google and other cloud-only applications I blame on my internet provider.  Rural America where I live is internet-challenged, and the monopoly service I use puts the brakes on the internet speed when I have loaded too many megabytes of information during a 24 hour period.   When I am using Google Docs and that happens, I  type a few words, and wait for Google to catch up with me.  Sometimes Google completely has left out part of what I typed.  That was so irritating that I quit composing in Google, and did my work offline, and then uploaded it to Google later.   I have not had that happen since I learned to manage my download bytes, but trust comes back slowly so I still do most of my writing on Dropbox offline for that reason.

7)  Finally, there doesn’t seem to be a size limit on the document that can be uploaded to Dropbox, but I have exceeded my megabyte limit on Google when uploading a document containing several pictures.

However, in spite of my love for Dropbox, there are some things that Google does better.

1) For example, if you are collaborating in real-time, you can see the edits instantly, and you can chat as you write.  So it’s like you are thinking out loud as you write.  You can have several people online all doing the editing and chatting at the same time.  Confusing, but doable.  With Dropbox the changes are not visible until you save and sync your document.  Even then, your collaborator is still seeing the old document, until they close, and reopen it.  This is not convenient when you are working in real-time together, even when you are all in the same room.

2)  I had an another experience in which several of us were taking notes on an agenda created in a joint Dropbox folder.  My notes wrote over someone else’s notes, and his were gone, and all Dropbox had to say about it was “Marsha’s corrupted copy”  Both of us were red in the face that time.  Mine was embarrassed.

3)  I have nearly run out of space with Dropbox.  If you get your friends to use Dropbox you earn more space.  I like that.  If you want to open up another Dropbox account with a different email account, you get more space, but you don’t have the same convenience as you do with your primary account that is downloaded to all your computers.  You have to go online to Dropbox.com and log in with a different email account, and that is a hassle.  I think it is better to have all your files in one account and bite the bullet to buy more space than to have all your files spread over different accounts.  Saving space by using multiple accounts is bad when you forget in which account you stored the minutes to the meeting,  and the meeting just started, and it’s time to read the minutes.   I have never run out of space with Google Docs.

When I was a middle school student, my mother learned to drive just so she could bring me the homework I forgot to take to school.  At least that’s what I thought at the time.   Moms of the”igeneration” will never understand that chore.  Homework is accessible from everywhere and even the dog can’t eat it.  Thank you technological cyber-geniuses.  That’s one less problem for moms in the 2012 world.