PSYCHOLOGY AND ELT – A DIFFERENT USE OF TECHNOLOGY

PSYCHOLOGY AND ELT - A DIFFERENT USE OF TECHNOLOGY

Welcome to our latest guest blog post on innovation and technology.

This time our guest is Nick Michelioudakis. Nick is based in Athens. He’s a teacher, teacher-trainer and presenter for TESOL Greece. He specialises in Psychology & ELT as well as Comedy & ELT.

This time we’ll take a humorous, yet deep look at the role technology plays in our lives. Through humour we are led into new insights about learning and education. There are multiple perspectives at play here because of Nick’s special interest in both psychology and comedy. He has unique ways of transforming his fascination with psychology and humour into fresh insights that make teachers think.

It’s not every day that we get to laugh and think at the same time. It’s also refreshing to look at education through scientific case studies that force us to see everything with new eyes.

 

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Over to Nick:

The latest gadget:

 

Image credit: Joana Cocarelli

Imagine a device that can do all kinds of things. One that can run all kinds of apps; one that can keep track of your day stats, help you navigate, pay your bills, get in touch with friends – even one that allows you to send someone a drawing or your own heartbeat. Question: have we perhaps gone too far in pursuit of technological sophistication? Comedian Jack Douglas certainly seems to think so…

 

An amazing discovery:

So this is the first moral:

Sometimes we are so ‘blinded by the beauty of our weapons’ that we seem to forget that these new devices are supposed to be a means to an end. Surprisingly however there are times when technology can indeed be useful not because of what it can do, but because it can be the catalyst to a remarkable psychological change.

In a fantastic study, researchers got together some top athletes and asked them to get on stationary bikes and pedal as fast as they could for the equivalent of four km. While they were pedaling away, their performance was being recorded. Later, the athletes were asked to do the same thing, while at the same time watching an avatar of themselves cycling. The avatar was supposed to be themselves and its speed was supposed to be the speed at which they had pedaled in the earlier trial. Now here is the amazing bit: the researchers had lied to the athletes! Unbeknownst to the subjects, the researchers had speeded up the avatars. And yet incredibly, the athletes had no difficulty keeping up with what they thought was themselves! As the neurologist R. Bannister put it ‘It’s the brain, not the heart or lungs that is the critical organ’. Brilliant! (Levitt & Dubner 2014, p. 63)

So this is the second moral:

If we believe we have already managed to do something, we are far more likely to do it successfully a ‘second’ time. Setting aside ethical issues for the moment, the implications of this for teaching are immense. Perhaps if we were to tell our students that an independent assessor gave their IELTS mock interview a mark of 7 out of 9, they may well get the 6.5 they need to clinch the conditional offer the University has made them. And here is another thing: if they do manage to do it the second time round, there is no harm in revealing the initial deception; their subsequent (real) success will serve them fine in the future!

Nor is this the only benefit such digital representations can yield; scientists have done considerable research on the potential benefits of people operating through avatars in virtual environments like Second Life (see for instance Wiseman 2012 – p. 324). If people see representations of themselves acting in a certain way, they are likely to act in the same way in real life as well! Once again the benefits of technology are indirect; people benefit not because of what technology itself can do, but because of the psychological advantages of seeing ‘themselves’ performing certain tasks. More on this in another post.

A revolutionary technology:

The above point notwithstanding, I do believe that technology can be great. Let nobody say I’m a Luddite; I would like to prove to all and sundry what a great tech-lover I am by sharing this little clip. It’s about a revolutionary new gadget – so intuitive, it almost feels familiar. It’s an ‘on-line, real-time, random access storage device’. Otherwise known as a book. Not a digital book, not an e-book – a bookbook.  Enjoy.

References:

§ Levitt, S. & Dubner, S. “Think Like a Freak” Allen Lane 2014

§ Stone, M. R, Thomas, K., Wilkinson, M, Jones, A.M., Clair Gibson, A.St., & Thompson, K.G. (2012) “Effects of Deception on Exercise Performance: Implications for Determinants of Fatigue in Humans” Medicing & Science in Sports & Exercise 33, No 3.

§ Wiseman, R. “Rip it Up” Macmillan 2012

Special thanks to Nick for this humorous article mixed with interesting substance & food for thought:)

This is his second guest post for WiziQ.

The first one was a challenge based on the question of why😉

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About Nick Michelioudakis:

Nick Michelioudakis (B. Econ., Dip. RSA, MSc [TEFL]) is an Academic Consultant with LEH (the representatives of the Pearson PTE G Exams in Greece). In his years of active involvement in the field of ELT he has worked as a teacher, examiner and trainer for both teachers and Oral Examiners. His love of comedy led him to start the ‘Comedy for ELT’ project on YouTube. He has written numerous articles on Methodology, while others from the ‘Psychology and ELT’ series have appeared in many countries. He likes to think of himself as a ‘front-line teacher’ and is interested in one-to-one teaching and student motivation as well as Social and Evolutionary Psychology. When he is not struggling with students, he likes to spend his time in a swimming pool or playing chess. For articles or handouts of his, you can visit his site at www.michelioudakis.org.


is an online English teacher, writer and blogger who facilitates professional development online. She uses brain-friendly techniques to help students and teachers around the world. She designs educational materials, develops courses, writes resource papers and publishes ebooks. Her work is the result of much research into the psychology of learning, as well as hands-on experience with multi-media technology.

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