**UPDATE, Jan 2012: Amy just made a Prezi about how to get started on Twitter as a teacher. It is embedded at the bottom of this post; have a look!**
Step 1: If you're here, you have probably already done this, but just in case: Go to twitter.com and get yourself an account.
Step 2: (not critical, but helpful): Follow a few folks. @happycampergirl and @hechternacht are good choices to start with. Checkout the screennames on the kinderchat map for more possibilities. Really, it is hard to go wrong when you follow kindergarten teachers!
Step 3: (not really a step, more like a quick lesson on hashtags): A hashtag is a twitter "label" so people can easily find tweets of interest to them. Somewhere in your tweet, you type the "#" sign, followed by a keyword, with no space in between. (Examples: "Can't wait for #kinderchat in 3 hours!" or "How do you teach children the difference between sleeves and kleenexes? #kinderchat") The #kinderchat hashtag is used throughout the week for all tweets that may be of interest to the kindergarten community.
Step 4: Sometime before Monday, 9 pm EST**, try out a few of the following sites/services to follow the hashtag. I listed them in order from simplest to more complicated. More complicated usually means more features, so play around according to your needs and comfort level.
- tweetchat.com: A particular favourite of kinderchatters, and probably the easiest to use. Login using your twitter acct (if you get a pages asking for your permission, click "YES!") and type #kinderchat in the box at the top. All tweets containing the hashtag will appear on the page, and will update automatically. When you type in your own tweet, tweetchat adds the hashtag for you, which is a nice feature if you tend to forget, like me.
- tweetgrid.com: Not as pretty as some of the others, but simple to use, Tweetgrid allows you to follow several topics at once. It does put ads in your stream, so I recommend choosing a 1x2 setup at first, and ignoring the lefthand column, as that is where ads appear. Click on 1x2, click "Login", click "yes" when asked for permission, then type #kinderchat in the box at the top of your righthand column. Click "search" and all tweets containing the hashtag will appear. Type your own tweets in the box at the top (where it says "Tweet:") Tweetgrid will remember the hashtag for you after you type it in the first time.
- Hootsuite.com: Hootsuite uses tabs to follow as many hashtags as you want. It has a LOT of functions, and many kinderchatters love it (I find it a little complicated to set up, but maybe that is just me). In addition to Twitter, it can be linked to a number of other social media outlets: Facebook, LinkedIn, Foursquare, etc. It requires you to create a separate account (whereas Tweetgrid and Tweetchat just link directly to your Twitter account). If you are pretty comfortable with social media, I recommend you play around yourself and decide if you like it.
- Tweetdeck.com: Unlike the others, which are web-based, Tweetdeck is software that you install on your computer. It allows you to follow an unlimited number of topics, sorted into columns. It is also compatible with facebook (And it MAY, in some cases, provide a workaround if your school wireless network blocks your access to the Facebook site. Just sayin...)
Step 4: Check out the topic for the week. We (@happycampergirl and @hechternacht) usually tweet the week's topic starting on Sunday. You can also check our calendar for upcoming topics, and links to related articles.
Step 5: Just before the chat starts, login to Twitter and the service you are using to follow the hashtag. There is usually a fair amount of banter starting about an hour before the chat begins. Feel free to jump in. Once the chat starts, introduce yourself and join the conversation. Having tech trouble during the chat? Feel free to ask for help, we are a friendly bunch!
For more information about the format of the chat, please visit The Chat page.
We can't wait to have you join us. See you Monday!
**We acknowledge and apologize for our North-America-centric-ness. Please be patient as we find the very best way to help you all find the chat in your own timezones. EST refers to the time in New York, if that helps you do the calculations...