1 Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (SPAIN)
2 Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona / Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: EDULEARN14 Proceedings
Publication year: 2014
Page: 1316 (abstract only)
ISBN: 978-84-617-0557-3
ISSN: 2340-1117
Conference name: 6th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 7-9 July, 2014
Location: Barcelona, Spain
The benefits of the task-based approach as a pedagogical practice in foreign language instruction are widely documented by teachers and researchers alike. However, studies on human-computer interaction in a task-based learning environment are still scarce. Using Breen’s terminology (1989) tasks can be seen as workplans, processes or outcomes, yet, from a socioconstructivist perspective tasks can only be understood as processes because their construction is only observable by tracing the actions learners embark on to carry them out. Thus, tasks cannot be understood as a means to pose learners with a series of cognitive and linguistic challenges. Instead, tasks should be examined as social activities shaped by how participants interpret the tasks objectives, by the context in which learners conduct the task and by the structure of talk-in-interaction during the task execution (Gajo, 2001; Masats, 2008).

The aim of this paper is to analyse task-based interaction in human-computer communication. The data from our study comes from 'LanCook: The European Digital Kitchen', a project of the Joint Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union (European Commission, 519076-LLP-1-2011-1-UK-KAZ-KAZMP) developed to design, implement and analyse task-based language learning in digital kitchens. In the project, pairs of foreign language learners are asked to interact to cook a recipe in a real kitchen. The instructions on the cooking steps they must follow are provided by a digital tablet, which in turn controls the motion sensors attached to the utensils and ingredients needed for each recipe. The teacher withdraws after instructing the learners on how to use the tablet, thus the learners manage the interaction themselves, which is mediated by how they interact with the software. Learners can decide, for example, if they want to ask for help (oral replay of the instruction with emphasis, images or subtitled videos) after listening to the audio-recorded instructions issued from the tablet, which also provides them with appropriate feedback.

Here we will analyse task-based interaction as conducted by six pairs of adult learners of Spanish as a foreign language. The cooking sessions were recorded on video, transcribed and analysed within the framework of Conversational Analysis (CA for SLA). As in any other task-based proposal the pedagogical and interactional focus is on the accomplishment of the task rather than on the language used (Seedhouse, 1999, 2004). Yet, as language learning is a social activity, we will examine how learners structure their talk-in-interaction, how they interact with the software, how their discourse is mediated by the task instructions, how they interpret and conduct the cooking task, how they activate and put at play their linguistic resources and repertoires to negotiate meaning and to produce the recipe and, finally, how the task mediates between the knowledge the students already possess and new knowledge.

It is our view that by providing an intertwined analysis of how learners interact among themselves and with the digital kitchen to conduct a real task we could make a useful contribution to broadening the scope of how to understand task-based interaction and language learning. Our findings, thus, can be used to come to the grips on how to design challenging and meaningful pedagogical tasks.
Task-based interaction, human-computer interaction, language learning, Spanish, conversational analysis.