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Robert - Senior Academic Technologist, University of Warwick

RobertWhat do you do in your current job?

I am part of the Academic Tech team in IT Services, part of a central learning technology team. It's a very varied role - anything within reason that is necessary to get technologies better used and better integrated within learning, teaching and the student experience. So I do some teaching, some research, some design, some media production, some programming, and because of the complexity of the University, lots of strategic work.

In fact, the deep strategic work has taken over somewhat, as we seek ways to accelerate change. For that, I draw heavily upon my knowledge of teaching and close work with students. We are adopting a "student champion" approach, trying to get people to work from the student perspective first.

I recently completed a PhD with the Centre for Education Studies. That was an opportunity to look at how the University gets constructed "by accident and by design", compare it with the work of professional designers, and bring those ideas back into our work. The PhD was a brilliant thing to do, especially as it allowed me to reflect upon and connect my previous work as a teacher, as an academic philosopher, and as a learning designer.

So, as you can see, an extremely varied skill set being expanded all the time. I suppose we can learn from that the importance of understanding learning and being a fast and effective learner.

What led you to this career?

I've been working at the University of Warwick since 2001, in various roles which have evolved with the University. But perhaps the key point was back in 2003. We started to experiment with academic blogging, and then in 2004 we launched the Warwick Blogs platform, giving access to an easy to use but far reaching blogging channel to everyone in the University. As we developed our ideas for it the team all blogged. Through that I learned the value of writing - just write, write, write - it doesn't even matter if you get an audience or not, develop your ideas and your ability to communicate by just doing it. Write about politics, travel, art, literature, yourself, try lots of styles. That certainly helped me in 2008 when I successfully applied for the biggest award in University teaching, the National Teaching Fellowship, which then led seamlessly into doing a PhD.

Why do you think a career in education is important?

Because it's the most effective way to improve society, and it's the most exciting of fields.

What's the best thing about teaching?

I get those moments all the time! For a few years I ran a student champions initiative called the Arts E-Squad. I provided a room, video cameras, iMacs and support for students to do tech enhanced learning projects with staff. Always seeing those student and staff partnerships start working like colleagues, being transformed through the media, and achieving things that they couldn't achieve on their own - that was great.