D. Masats1, M. Juanhuix2, J. Albines1

1Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (SPAIN)
2Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona / Universitat Internacional de Catalunya (SPAIN)
In the field of foreign language learning, practitioners and researchers today agree upon the many advantages of both task-based instruction and technology enhance learning. The number of studies considering the relationship between these two language learning approaches are also increasing. Yet, in spite of the fact that technology is a broad concept, most of the literature focus on the use in the classroom of Web 2.0 technologies and practical applications of mobile learning. Little is said on how computer-mediated interaction reshapes tasks as pedagogical constructs and restyles task-based interaction, especially in those learning environments in which learners are asked to carry out non-linguistic tasks in a foreign language.

In task-based instruction a task is an activity which requires learners to use language, with emphasis on meaning to attain an objective (Bygate, Skehan & Swain, 2001:11). In our research, pairs of adult learners of Catalan and Spanish as a foreign language are set with the objective to elaborate a typical Catalan or Spanish dish following the instructions of a digital kitchen. That is, learners are faced with the challenge of understanding and performing cooking instructions displayed orally -or in the form of a video with subtitles if they ask for help- on a digital tablet which controls the motion sensors attached to the ingredients and utensils used. The software, designed using Java, was developed by the University of Newcastle and tested by the universities participating in a Joint Lifelong Learning Programme of the European Union, namely 'Lancook: The European Digital Kitchen' (reference number 519076–LLP-1-2011-1UK-KAZ-KAZMP).

In the present paper we want to explore how learners’ interaction with their partner and with the tablet shapes the task learners are constructing and how the actions they perform to fulfil the task objective (cooking a dish) trigger their linguistic resources and helps them build new knowledge in the target language. We use CA procedures to analyse learners’ discourse and to characterise task-based interaction in this particular milieu. We first focus on the task as a workplan to understand how the software expects learners to conduct the task and then we examine how learners actually use it (task as process). We will see that in many cases students treat the interactive kitchen as another participant in the cooking task, specially when they ask for help. Learners negotiate whether they want to press the help button and when, but it is important to notice that the activation of the help button in the table serves as a means to determine not only which steps need to be demonstrated through a still image or a video but also which language forms are to be learnt. In this particular context, the task is not judged to be successful depending on linguistic criteria but on whether the learners manage to cook an edible dish or not. This is particular important because technology provides a context in which language learning takes place while learners are engaged in a meaningful and real non-linguistic social task. Thus, it is our objective to contribute to expand the concepts of task-based instruction and technology enhanced learning in the field of second/foreign language acquisition.