So what do you get a social network for its 7th birthday?

It was on this date — March 21, 2006 — that Twitter was born. Launching the service Jack Dorsey sent the very first public tweet — “just setting up my twttr” — back when Twitter was called Twttr (sans vowels).

Twitter Logo

Imagine if he had tweeted Watson to come join him in the room? Incidentally, it was another day in March — the 10th — in 1876 that Alexander Graham Bell made that famous first call to Mr. Watson.

And there certainly would never have been Twitter if there never had been a phone: thanks, Alexander Graham Bell!

Speaking of Alexander Graham Bell, I had actually tweeted my above idea in 2009 — and (as you can see below) @Jack replied to the post, correcting me that, the first actual tweet he sent on Twitter was simply “inviting coworkers.”

Using a service called MyTweet16 I found the first tweets for two of my Twitter accounts: @generative and @dadsamore.

I located some of some of the earliest tweets for @matthewagilbert (which I started using as my primary Twitter account in June 2011). I also found some of the earliest tweets from @doctorious when I made my account public again in 2010 after making them private for part of late 2009 and early 2010.

Regardless of what my first tweets were or when they were sent, since I began using Twitter on November 20, 2008 — from the DeVry University in Bakersfield where I was teaching — it has been one of the main subjects about which I teach. Notably, it is also the reason why I was hired for at least one teaching job.

Twitter has grown exponentially since that first tweet. According to their blog post celebrating the anniversary:

“we have well over 200 million active users creating over 400 million Tweets each day. The steep trajectory of Twitter’s momentum is something @jack, @ev and @biz only dreamed about back in 2006.”

So what DO you get a social network for its 7th birthday, after all? Honestly, I still have no idea, but Sir Richard Branson had some interesting things to say about Twitter — and that’s as good a gift as any!

Although the “New Year” is an arbitrary point in time chosen to indicate the end of one cycle and the start of another, it remains a worldwide moment of personal reflection and planning. In that spirit, a few days before the end of 2008, social media expert Chris Brogan posted a tweet on Twitter as follows:

Thinking hard about what my 3 words for next year should be. Pick 3 guiding principles to shape your actions/decisions. Boil down to 3 words.

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After carefully considering which three principles reflect my goals for 2009, I have decided  to be Affirmative, Generative and Transformative. Here’s why I picked each one:

  • Generative: This word fundamentally defines and guides me. The many definitions for the word generative reveal the most basic meaning to be “creative.” The word “generative” forms the foundation of of generative learning which Peter Senge claims “enhances our capacity to create.” Engaging in generative learning involves linking existing knowledge of a subject with emerging ideas, resulting in a more individualized understanding about its systemic significance.  It is for this reason that I am motivated by the motto “learn continuously, live generatively.” In 2009 I will continue contributing ideas and knowledge for the benefit of the greater good.
  • Affirmative: In its simplest definition affirmative means “positive” and that is what I will be this year. I am naturally predisposed tobeing cynical (in fairness, sometimes it is for humorous intent), but I will make an effort to re-frame a situation to see the good, not the bad. I’ve gone through some very trying experiences in the past few years (including almost losing my younger son several times and dealing with my older son’s diagnosis of autism). However, I recognize that focusing on the negative aspects of a situation won’t reverse its polarity to positive!  Two quotes come to mind when I consider this goal:
    • From John Milton’s Paradise Lost (Book 1, lines 254-255):  “The Mind Is Its Own Place, and in It Self / Can Make a Heav’n of Hell, a Hell of Heav’n.”
    • From Abraham Lincoln (Courtesy of @LizzHarmon on Twitter): “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
  • Transformative: With the election of Barack Obama, the theme of “change” is foremost in the minds of many people. However, I desire something more than change, which merely implies something different (not necessarily better).  I will work towards being transformative which promises a marked change, as in appearance or character, usually for the better. That is my desire for this year: a significant evolution — perhaps even a revolution — on a personal and professional level. I am ready for that “next step” and ready to engage the energy around me and leverage it beyond my wildest expectations.

Now that I’ve revealed my three guiding principles, I invite you to share the ones with which you most strongly identify in the comments area below.  After all, nothing helps you achieve a goal more than writing it down!

I received an e-mail from a reader of my blog asking for suggestions as to how she could “break in” to academia as an adjunct instructor.  Although I am far from an expert at navigating the potentially pitfall-ridden pathway to academic employment, I felt it might be helpful to relate some of my experiences so far.

Whether or not they will work for anyone else — or, to be brutally honest, me — is unclear.  However, I am a firm believer that by doing good I can do well, so here goes: Craigslist education and teaching jobs (seriously).

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I mostly use Craigslist for Los Angeles, but have also explored the sites for Ventura, Santa Barbara (which is how I found the opportunity at UC Santa Barbara Extension) and Bakersfield (which is how I found out about the opportunity at DeVry University).

I have found Craigslist to be a great source of leads for adjunct level positions and even some full time ones. In fact, with the exception of my position at Axia, every single adjunct teaching job I now have was the result of a posting on Craigslist.

I first ventured into education by teaching traffic school for nine months — and, yes, I found the job on Craigslist! Despite not being academic, teaching traffic school helped me develop my classroom management and curriculum development skills.

Mind you, I did this of my own free will (there were no court orders or community service hours involved!). I realize the mere thought of traffic school has already made some of you uncontrollably twitch and or gag, but I could not have asked for a more effective “entry level” experience.

It was a great way to test the waters of teaching — especially because those waters were full of sharks and piranhas. Think of it this way: what better way to prove that you are meant to teach than by putting yourself in the worst possible teaching situation and making a difference?

Knowing that everyone in attendance would have rather spent an afternoon making human pyramids at Abu Ghraib, I went out of my way to make the class as interesting and engaging as possible. Granted, I still had to show the requisite outdated videos about road rage, traffic safety and related topics — but I found clever ways to stay within the DMV’s guidelines while managing to have some fun.

I even managed to show a few minutes of the campy 1985 film “Moving Violations,” starring John Murray (the lesser known brother of Bill Murray), Jennifer Tilly, James Keach, Sally Kellerman, Fred Willard and Clara Peller — the octogenarian actress best known for the 1984 “Where’s the beef?” ad campaign for Wendy’s.

One of the highlights of the day happened just after lunch when, as an introduction to the curriculum about drinking and driving,  I showed mugshots of celebrities arrested for DUI to the students and had them guess who everyone was. I knew it was working when the evaluator who showed up at one of my classes unannounced after lunch was laughing!

I am extemporaneomoving-violations-signsus by nature, so a good part of my “material” was improvised based on what was discussed in class.

I found that engaging the students directly and making them a part of the program made the day more interesting for me, but (big surprise!) it actually made them more interested in the class as well.

Of course, being “interested” in traffic school is a relative term — don’t for a minute think I was recreating scenes from Stand and Deliver! That being said, it was a rewarding and (to use a “report card word”) unique experience unlike anything I could have imagined.

Since then I have taught 15 sections of asynchronous online writing and business communication courses for Axia College of University of Phoenix. I have also taught ten sections of computer, English and management courses in a hybrid classroom/asynchronous online model at DeVry University in Bakersfield.

I have also taught one section of a buying behavior course at UC Santa Barbara Extension along with one principles of marketing course and one organizational behavior class at International American University, a private school focused on providing Asian students with an American education.

As for another resource, I have to give massive applause to the members of the Chronicle of Higher Education Forums — what a wonderful resource they all are! There are threads on all sorts of topics of interest to a aspiring academic — and a good number of the members are active and emeritus professors.

Everyone is very willing to share their insights and experiences — often with an unexpected sense of humor (teachers are people too!). I’ve asked (and had answered) questions about which Ph.D. programs to pursue to how I should format my CV.

Its best to sit quietly and read many of the existing threads before jumping in head first — what until you get a flavor for the tone and temperament of the place. If you want to avoid posting threads all together and just want to go straight for raw information, check out the following threads/resources:

I also found my way to a Facebook Group sponsored by The Babb GroupMake a Living Teaching Online — it is definitely worth signing up for; even if you just lurk and read the posts made by others the information is exceptionally helpful.

Hopefully these resources are useful to those of you looking for information on how to transition into a career in academia. Certainly, my experiences are not typical, but then I suppose they are not entirely atypical.

Happy teaching!