On October 9, 2009, Bob Reuter and I held our first TechLunch on Campus Walferdange (Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education – FLSHASE) of the University of Luxembourg. We had initiated this informal lunchtime session to give students, teachers, and researchers the opportunity to learn about digital technologies in a relaxed setting. Often, people at university do not have a lot of time to participate in workshops. Furthermore, 3- or 4-hour workshops are not always the right format to whet the appetite for a topic. To get people interested in something, we thought that a shorter session could be more beneficial. Participants would not have to invest much because they could eat their lunch at the same time. Thus, TechLunch war born.

We planned to hold it approximately twice a month also depending a bit on the internship schedule of the BScE (Bachelor in Educational Sciences) students who are a primary target group for us as we are both involved in that study program. However, we also welcome anybody else from the university, i.e. students, researchers, teachers, and staff from all 3 campuses, to join us. We have had 4 sessions up to now with 4 to 12 participants. All sessions are video recorded and uploaded to YouTube in case anybody who could not attend the sessions wanted to review them.

Although we are happy that anybody shows up, we would, of course, like to have a larger audience.

TechLunch survey

We set up a questionnaire to find out what further topics would be interesting to our potential audience now that they may have already heard about TechLunch or even attended one. Within the last 4 days we have received 23 responses. Now that everybody is in holiday mood and preparing for the festivities, I do not think that we will receive many more responses, but we will keep the questionnaire open.

Out of these 23 people, 5 had already attended a TechLunch. We also already have a couple of regulars who have come to 2 and 1 already to 3 TechLunches.

TechLunch time

One concern of ours is the time to offer TechLunch. With students not having classes every day, researchers and teachers also being on campus often irregularly, it is very difficult to come up with a time that would suit most. We had opted for Friday 12:00-12:45 p.m., but wanted to see if other times might be more convenient.

Friday does not seem to be too bad, but our preferred time was not among the ones chosen most (only 3 people agreed with that time).

  • 6 participants preferred Friday, 1:00-1:45 p.m.
  • 5 participants opted for Wednesday, 12:30-1:15 p.m.
  • 4 participants each voted for Monday, 1:30-2:15 p.m., and Thursday 1:30-2:15 p.m.

One person suggested to offer a date with several time slots before each TechLunch and see which one is the most popular. In theory that might be a good idea, but bringing in a sign-up process would complicate everything. We had asked people to sign up for the first TechLunch (Zotero for Beginners) because we knew the topic was a favorite for our students, but it generated more emails than people actually came to the session because some could not come in the end and apologized or asked if they could come late etc. Having the sign-up process also feels as if it is something formal whereas we want to keep TechLunch open and just as a gathering to exchange ideas and opinions about using digital technologies for learning, studying, teaching, and researching.

TechLunch topics

Before planning the coming “summer” semester (it starts in mid-February 😉 ), we wanted to get an idea if the topics that Bob and I would offer would also be of interest. We proposed 13 topics:

  • Bookmarking: synchronization and sharing with others
  • Electronic notetaking
  • Advanced features of Zotero
  • Facebook and Twitter
  • Alternatives to PowerPoint
  • Setting up a personalized start page in a browser
  • Mahara [this eportfolio system doubles as social network and is in use in the BScE] as social network
  • Creating cartoons online
  • Open Educational Resources: What’s that?
  • How do I find photos online that I can use?
  • Why should I have a blog?
  • How can I subscribe to online content and view it easily?
  • Password management

Only “Creating cartoons online” got less than 5 votes. Maybe we should have added “… for learning purposes / with kids in the classroom” or something like that. 😉

The top 3 topics with 14+ votes are:

  • Alternatives to PowerPoint (17)
  • Open Educational Resources (15)
  • Using online images legally (14)
Interest in proposed TechLunch topics
Interest in proposed TechLunch topics

Some people also provided their own suggestions for future TechLunch topics:

  • Troubleshooting common error messages on a Mac (I guess, also Windows computer owners could find some); unfortunately, no examples were provided and also no email address to contact the commenter
  • Chrome OS
  • Cloud Computing
  • Privacy Issues
  • Image, audio and video editing
  • Using Word optimally
  • Google Wave (that was already on our list, but we did not put it forth because it is not out yet for everybody)
  • iTunes U
  • Zotero for beginners (two times)
  • OpenOffice (two times)
  • R as alternative to SPSS
  • SPSS
  • Creating online surveys with tools other than Grafstat
  • Tools for creating handouts (which tools are there? compatibility PC-Mac, preferably free)

We also asked if anybody would be interested in leading a TechLunch. Although up until now we have led all 4 TechLunches that doesn’t mean that that needs to stay that way. We welcome others who want to share their experiences and use of software or online services. Two people were interested in doing just that. Yeah. 🙂

Comments in the survey

In the general comment text field we received encouraging comments to keep up with TechLunch. However, we need to make it clear that the language in which TechLunch will be offered will depend partly on the audience. The first posters were in German thus discouraging some people to attend. However, the last two sessions were conducted in English as we had some non-German speakers in them. Thus, we can be flexible, but it must be clear to our audience. Initially, we used German to encourage the BScE students to attend. The language issue is a bit complicated because the University of Luxembourg has three official languages: English, French, and German.

Originally, we intended TechLunch for students, researchers, and teachers. However, administrative staff can also benefit from some of the sessions. Therefore, TechLunch really is for anybody at the university.

Where to go from here?

So how will we continue? Well, the last session for winter semester 2009/10 will be held on January 15 (time to be announced) and we will look into using polls in the classroom and for research. The online service PollEverywhere will be introduced. Then there will be a brief semester break and TechLunch will be back in summer semester 2010. We will come up with a schedule and take all the topic suggestions as well as preferred times into account to allow more people to join us.

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