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NTFS Winner 2008 - Robert O'Toole

Mr Robert O'Toole

Job title: Arts Faculty E-learning Adviser
Organisation: Arts Faculty, University of Warwick
Email: Robert O'Toole


National Teaching Fellow 2009

Robert O'Toole is a technologist, educator and philosopher with over ten years of practical experience in helping learners and teachers to find tools that extend and enhance their capabilities. He believes that:

"Learning is socially and technologically mediated from the outset, and is therefore necessarily shaped by the constraints and affordances of the epistemographical environment within which it occurs. Technology therefore matters. Technological choices have a critical influence upon learning outcomes. Students and teachers who are able to consistently make good choices are far more likely to succeed."

Robert's practice as a learning technologist helps individuals to make appropriate technology choices, based upon personal needs, abilities and intellectual approaches. The rapid expansion in the range of available tools, driven by the development of new web technologies, has multiplied available options. The role of the learning technologist as a guide is more important than ever. Robert helps people to exploit the potential for positive change by making the right technological choices, and by developing deep competencies as self-reflective learners/researchers.

As E-learning Advisor to the Arts Faculty at Warwick, Robert has provided a popular and wide-reaching service, enabling students and teachers to achieve excellence in their own work. He provides consultations, coaching and lectures tailored precisely and thoughtfully to the needs of individuals. Having established an e-learning office within the Faculty, he is a constant and always supportive presence, open to all members of the Faculty. This has been extended with the establishment of the Arts Faculty E-Squad, a team of students supporting staff. Skills and ideas for the use of technology are cascaded out across the Faculty, through the E-Squad, to thousands of staff and students, thus incrementally developing a network of digital natives.

Alongside the many immediate day-to-day engagements resulting from his role, Robert has developed a critical approach to understanding and designing new technologies. He is creating an 'evaluation framework', and beginning to share his methodology and findings through journal articles and conference presentations. He plans to develop this work more formally, as an advisory body reporting upon the impact of new technologies on knowledge creation and dissemination.