LINGUIST List 28.5324

Fri Dec 15 2017

Review: Applied Linguistics; Language Acquisition: Seedhouse (2017)

Editor for this issue: Clare Harshey <>

Date: 23-Aug-2017
From: Bruna Sommer <>
Subject: Task-Based Language Learning in a Real-World Digital Environment
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Book announced at

EDITOR: Paul Seedhouse
TITLE: Task-Based Language Learning in a Real-World Digital Environment
SUBTITLE: The European Digital Kitchen
SERIES TITLE: Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly The Continuum International Publishing Group)
YEAR: 2017

REVIEWER: Bruna Sommer, University of Arizona

REVIEWS EDITOR: Helen Aristar-Dry


Due to its innovative implementation of a digital kitchen that affords foreign language learning through a task-based approach, the book ''Task-based Language Learning in a Real-world Digital Environment: The European Digital Kitchen'' is a valuable addition to the series designed by Bloomsbury to account for Advances in Digital Language Learning and Teaching. Paul Seedhouse is both the editor and the author of many chapters of the book, which is dedicated to describing and explaining the development, implementation and research which resulted from learning practices in the European Digital Kitchen. The author is right in pointing out that the ''real-world, pervasive digital environment'' (p. 3) created by the EDK is an original endeavor in technology-mediated task-based language teaching (TBLT) since the context consists of learners performing a multimodal task by cooking a dish while learning both language and culture in a kitchen equipped with sensors, and photo and video tools. Although the volume describes projects developed successfully with European Languages, a chapter on the Korean Digital Kitchen demonstrates the potential to expand the framework to other languages. So far, the system has been adapted for seven languages and used in five countries. To explain the stages of the project’s development, the book is consistently organized into four parts: Background, Design, Implementation and Conclusions.

In Chapter 1, which stands for the ''Introduction'', the author Paul Seedhouse explains the core argument of the book. By relying on the assumption that technology changes rapidly, the well-written article delineates principles of a model that can be implemented in different settings depending on the task students are required to accomplish. This assumption aims to account for new tasks that might become relevant in the future; thus the project's principles seek to avoid obsolescence of the European Digital Kitchen’s endeavor. The chapter is concluded by a general outline of the book's structure along with an explanation of how each chapter contributes to the book’s purpose.

Chapter 2, entitled ''Locating the EDK in Its Research Context'', is written by Sandra Morales. The chapter connects Communicative Language Teaching (CLT), TBLT, Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL) for SLA in teaching and learning through a thorough and situated theoretical review of pedagogical principles linked to these approaches. The chapter clearly articulates how the EDK draws its model heavily from TBLT, with special attention to the connections established on Table 2.1 on page 24. Likewise, the concepts of multimodal CALL play a crucial role, since it locates EDK as a mixed-context multimodal design and points to a new field of studies. The project also claims to contribute to fulfilling the gap of technology-mediated TBLT research, although it does not draw from previous studies on the topic to state the gap. Nonetheless, the extensive explanation of theories underlying the project’s design and implementation poses this chapter as essential for an applied-linguist audience interested in technology-mediated instruction and research.

The second part of the book is entitled ''Design'' and is devoted to explain the pedagogical and technological design of the project as well as discuss the interaction between human and system.

In Chapter 3, ''The Pedagogical Design of the Digital Kitchen'', Paul Seedhouse describes the project as innovative since it proposes that learning takes place not in the classroom but in a real kitchen setting. The naturalistic approach of a digital kitchen ''engages the sense of smell and taste as well, delivering a vivid, kinesic language learning experience'' (p. 47). As a core aspect of the TBLT approach, the manner each of the three-stage learning stages as operationalized in the kitchen is examined. First, the pre-task prepares the learner for carrying out the actual cooking through activating existing language knowledge and providing new vocabulary required to perform the task. The during-task phase is the moment when learners use the L2 to complete the culinary task, while the post-task reflects on the during-task performance. Elements of conversation analysis (CA) illustrate how activities are carried out by the students in each task phase. This theoretical framework enables micro-analysis of student interaction, which is valuable to help the reader understand what is expected from learners as well as how their positioning towards their peers and the system actually take place. Data revealed that incidental focus-on-form occurred although students were highly concentrated in their cooking performance.

Chapter 4 is entitled ''The Technology behind the European Digital Kitchen for Language Learning'' and is also written by Paul Seedhouse. The chapter focuses on materials design to outline how the technology is integrated into the kitchen environment. The most technical chapter of the book answers practical questions about the sensor-based technology that affords learning in the kitchen, thus benefitting mostly materials designers. Most importantly, instructional design expertise seems imperative for the successful implementation of the system, since there has to be a clear and well-organized plan of the order of actions the sensors are supposed to detect for the correct accomplishment of the task cycle. Special attention is given to the “authoring tool”, a user-friendly interface designed to assist instructors and curricula designers in creating their own tasks

Chapter 5 is called ''The Human Viewpoint and the System's Viewpoint'' and was written by Natacha Niemants and Gabrielle Pallotti. The fifth is the last chapter dedicated to the Design portion of the book. Drawing from transcriptions made with the software ELAN, the complexity of human-computer interaction data is analyzed with Conversation Analysis (CA) as the guiding theoretical framework. The chapter shows how the multimodal aspect of data produced by sensor logs and cooking sessions in the video recordings affects decisions regarding data transcription. Reflections on the status of the system as a participant of the interaction are also presented. The excerpts of interactions of humans and system analyzed through CA's framework aid the readers to have a better idea of benefits and limitations of the system, e.g. help is conditioned by pre-programmed stages, which might not coincide with students' needs. The arguments draw from transcription conventions developed by CA to problematize why, how and what to transcribe in multimodal data such as that from the Italian Digital Kitchen discussed in the chapter. One of the most interesting aspects was related to levels of transcription and its implications for research, e.g. the decision to include sensor logs or not, since it generates an emic perspective of the system's functioning. The pictures provided are key to make readers understand how ELAN and the levels of multimodal transcription work, however, the small size and the relatively low-quality of pictures, including its black-and-white color pattern, jeopardize reading and interpretation.

The third part of the book presents studies on the Implementation of the EDK project in different settings.

Chapter 6 is entitled ''Assessing and Promoting Language Development in an Interactive Learning Environment'', and was written by Jana Roos, Nina Reshöft, Lea Hartung and Johanna Bubwinkel. Their study examines both vocabulary learning and listening comprehension as central skills developed by the EDK. Transcriptions from interactions of students learning German through cooking English and German dishes exemplify how they dealt with new topic-related vocabulary. Also, the chapter evaluates students' listening comprehension levels according to descriptors developed by LanCook and the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This study is an important addition to the book since it addresses assessment and shows how EDK can be adapted to different levels of linguistic competence. While interpreting proficiency levels in the light of CEFR facilitates rating receptive skills of participants, this association has the potential to clarify how the degree of help provided to students scaffolds task stages for different proficiency levels. This aspect could have been explored in more depth.

Chapter 7 is named ''Cooking, Interaction and Learning: The Finnish Digital Kitchen as a Language Learning Environment'' and its authors are Salla Kurhila and Lari Kotilainen. The chapter contributes to the book by pinpointing the learner's central role in autonomous learning in a pervasive digital environment. The authors argue that specific mechanisms carried out by students promote their learning of Finnish, such as repetitions and negotiation in peer interaction. This is one of my favorite chapters, since it aims to show how learners ''add a 'linguistic layer' onto the performance of physical actions (p. 176) when they orient to specific words or grammatical items as learning topics

Chapter 8, entitled '''The More I Cook, the More I Learn': Tracing Ava's Learning Itinerary through Her Participation in Four Cooking Sessions'', is written by the authors Dolors Masats, Marta Juanhuix and Javier Albines. Their chapter details different manners in which Ava, a French learner of Catalan and Spanish in Barcelona, interacts with the system and with different partners. The case study's narrative draws on interesting passages to illustrate how Ava’s learning process is constituted of both an individual stance and a social practice. An intriguing example is how she ratifies the system as a participant depending on how effective the given instructions are. The chapter seeks to demonstrate how inextricable language and culture learning are in this environment.

In Chapter 9, ''Vocabulary Learning in a Real-World Digital Environment'', the authors Gabrielle Pallotti, Natacha Niemants and Paul Seedhouse report on vocabulary gains measured by two studies. The first study found statistically significant evidences of vocabulary gains after a cooking session in the English Digital Kitchen. As the delayed post-test presented an even higher rate than the post-test, questionnaires were added to the research design as a means to investigate other possible influences that could have contributed to vocabulary retention, such as their experiences in the second language setting outside the classroom. The second study did not reach statistically significant measures, but also demonstrated vocabulary knowledge gains as evidenced by the scores of individual words of the Italian Digital Kitchen. According to the authors, these results might be affected by the difference in research design: the IDK did not conduct delayed post tests, had students cook two different dishes, and tested a two-set counterbalanced group of words. Illustrating vocabulary measurement by these two different protocols appeared complementary and useful to understand how different approaches to teaching vocabulary in a digital pervasive environment can be effective.

Chapter 10 ''Sight and Touch in Vocabulary Learning: The Korean Digital Kitchen'' is written by Jaeuk Park and Paul Seedhouse. With research questions built from the previous chapter's project, the study investigates the effects of sight and touch in vocabulary learning in the Korean Digital Kitchen. The chapter does not follow strictly the other chapters’ organization, since it presents a longer introduction with recapitulation of previous findings. The explanation of mixed methods and quasi-experimental design principles was valuable, but too extensive, since the previous chapters presented more situated literature reviews. Resulting tests turned out to be statistically significant for both reception and production of vocabulary gain by students manipulating objects in the KDK in comparison with students manipulating pictures of objects in a regular classroom setting. Episodes analyzed through CA conventions shed light on differences happening in both environments. Students’ perceptions were a happy addition to the overall set of data, which contributed to a different perspective on experiential learning and the role of physically manipulating the objects.

Chapter 11 concludes the book as ''Conclusions and Future Developments'' and is also written by Paul Seedhouse. The author acknowledges important points that were present in my mind throughout the book, especially the high cost and time required to install and maintain this sort of technology. Nonetheless, Seedhouse pinpoints the fact that the framework presents a methodological model for pervasive environments research, thus suggesting possible future projects. In this sense, framing the EDK as a pilot model that can be replicated in other real-world learning situations is in accordance with the rationale of the book. The chapter does a good job in revisiting the main concepts and summarizing the main points of each chapter. Finally, the holistic nature of EDK's design and assessment is clear due to the organized outline provided.


Overall, the volume represents a valuable addition to project- and task-based research scholarship in digital settings. Research on the role of multimodality in foreign language instruction has looked at both synchronous and asynchronous CMC, the effects of tools such as webcams, and the use of digital games, digital storytelling and video-conferences as spaces in which learning can occur. However, research on pervasive digital environments has not been extensive. In this way, the EDK demonstrates that research on pervasive environments has certainly found a niche that can positively afford language learning. If TBLT influences students to forget they are performing a task for learning purposes (Ellis, 2003), the EDK project's rationale seems to fulfill its role successfully. The way the sensors are set up and provide interactional opportunities for the learners, both with other learners and the system, seems to be in accordance with what Chapelle defines as language learning potential. For the author, the technology can be used to not only provide linguistic support and feedback, but also employ language examples that afford comprehension, production, and ultimately learning (Chapelle, 2014). Focus on form seems to occur incidentally while students are involved in reaching the final task goal.

The fact that the research-oriented chapters with empirical data analysis can be read separately is positive, since it opens possibilities to reach researchers with varied interests in a more straightforward manner. This structure is consistent with the book’s rationale since it provides an overview for those interested in designing and implementing similar environments. Nonetheless, the organization makes extensive reading necessary for an audience interested in the EDK design and implementation specifically, which can become repetitive since concepts are reiterated in every chapter to solidify the theoretical construct. Consequently, the first chapters foster curiosity, since key concepts of the project, such as how the tasks are implemented and how the technology affords interaction, are explained in further chapters. Nonetheless, connecting the concepts in every chapter strengthens the project as an innovation in Chapelle's (2014) terms: the complexity of the innovator's role consists of demonstrating a solid understanding of theories to advance learning rather than just testing new technologies in the classroom.

Although the chapters responded to a vast array of research questions raised by the digital kitchen as a pervasive environment, e.g. vocabulary learning and assessment, I still feel that a chapter analyzing the development intercultural competence would have strengthened the book. Even though culture is embedded in the linguistic practice of culinary activities, a more methodologically oriented chapter could unveil how the tasks afford the development of (inter)cultural awareness. Additionally, more context on how the digital kitchen lessons were integrated into a language curriculum would shed light on curriculum design perspectives, thus presenting a more pedagogically-oriented contribution to EDK's implementation.

Need for improvements was noted in the images. Despite the well-designed diagrams, they could be presented in larger formats; in some cases they are difficult to read due to small fonts or tight layouts for the provided amount of information. Some pictures could have a better quality to assure an easier interpretation of the action scenes in the kitchen as well.

Graduate students and researchers with background in applied linguistics interested in implementing projects in pervasive digital environments are certainly benefited by this book. The authors claim it is a useful model for application in different environments in the future, and the model seems consistent since it is heavily grounded in TBLT. Due to its innovative design and careful implementation research agenda, the volume offers insightful ideas and perspectives to those interested in using real spaces to afford foreign language learning. For this reason, the book contributes to carry CALL and technology-mediated TBLT forward.


Chapelle, C. A. 2014. Afterword: Technology-mediated TBLT and the evolving role of the innovator. Technology-mediated TBLT: Researching technology and tasks, 323-334.

Ellis, R. 2003. Task-based language learning and teaching. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Bruna Sommer is currently a PhD student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching at the University of Arizona, Tucson, Arizona, United States. She is also a Graduate Associate in Teaching of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at the same university. Her main research interests comprise corpus and genre-based approaches to additional language learning and teaching, and materials and curriculum design.

Page Updated: 15-Dec-2017