Tasks and Technology in
Language Learning:
Elective Affinities and
Lourdes Ortega
University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa
3rd International Task-Based Language Teaching
Conference. Lancaster, September 13-16, 2009
Thanks to the organizers:
Martin Bygate
Judit Kormos
Andrea Révész
Virginia Samuda
Powerpoint can be downloaded from my
I am not a techy…
more like a technophobe…
In fact…
(Ortega, 1997, 2009; Ortega & Zyzik, 2008)
Euphoric discourse
Idyllic images
Temperance & empirical
qualification needed…
But we do live in a digital
Internet surfing
Web page viewing,
maintaining, creating
Instant messaging
Gadgets, e.g., iphones:
with Internet, email,
ShortMessageService, recording,
voice control, photo
making, video making,
and many applicationservers
“Coming of age with the Internet”
McMillan & Morrison (2006)
I use it all the time, and I believe that my life
would be very different without it. I would not
be able to look up the things that I wanted to
without calling to get a brochure, going to the
library, or ordering a book or catalog. My phone
bills would be extremely high, and I would not
talk to my mom as much. I really do not see what
people did before the internet was invented .
… Information & Communication
Technologies have changed:
 the nature of everyday communication
 the educational contexts afforded to
our students
 opportunities for L2 learning
Tasks and Technology
 Doughty & Long (2003)
 Skehan (2003)
Technology and Tasks
 Chapelle (2003)
 Reinders & White (in press)
My interest and focus
for today?
… affordances harnessed for
L2 learners to support:
Language (Chapelle, 2003)
“Culture” (Belz & Thorne, 2006)
Digital literacies (Warschauer, 2006)
Identities (Lam, 2000)
The social and humanistic (but not
technocratic) value of educational
(Friesen & Feenberg, 2007)
The social, educational, and pragmatic
(but not vulgar utilitarian) value of tasks
in L2 learning
(Norris, 2009; Samuda & Bygate, 2008; Van den Branden, 2006)
Tasks and New Technologies
present many (realized and potential)
“elective affinities”
Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809)
certain chemicals
attract each other and
bond into a novel
~~ ~~ “human chemistry” ~~ ~~
Eduard & Charlotte
The Captain & Ottilie
René Magritte‘s
Elective Affinities (1933)
Paolo Taviani
(1996) Le affinità elettive
(Isabelle Huppert as Carlotta)
between tasks & technology
Two affinities
Affinity 1: Affordances
… LLT and TBLT most unique
Some examples
J. & K. Collentine (K. Collentine, 2009)
M. González-Lloret (2003, 2007)
Tight theorization of these five affordances
would benefit LLT and TBLT in the future
Affinity 2: Theoretical base
… to do things with
… to do things
words supported
with words…
by communication
… in order to learn an
additional language
“doing things with words”
Emphasis on DOING language…
Emphasis on learning BY DOING…
Emphasis on DOING language
Obvious theoretical links of
TBLTwith use-oriented
theories of SLA
 Peter Skehan
Processing Trade-off Hypothesis
 Peter Robinson
Cognition Hypothesis
Language learned
Language used
Interaction in SLA
Language learned
Language used
L2 learning
Task complexity
LLT work at TBLT 2009:
Maria-Elena Solares-Altamirano
Yu-Chuan Joni Chao
Ann Keller-Lally
Shannon Sauro
Nik Aloesnita Nik Mohd Alwi & Rebecca Adams
Yuksei & Yu
Cross-fertilization in a certain
But we also have TBLT–expanding
theories, or broader use-oriented
SLA theories…
Systemic-Functional Linguistic theory
Mohan (1986, 1992)
Byrnes (2006)
CA-for-SLA and other discoursebased theories of L2 learning
John Hellermann (2008)
Simona Pekarek-Doehler
(& Ziegler 2007)
Are they “incommensurable or
complementary” …?
(Tuesday, 2:00pm)
Sociocultural theoretical
influences on LLT are
particularly rich
Open University group:
Robin Goodfellow, Marie-Nöelle Lamy, Regine Hampel
also in Europe:
Andreas Müller-Hartmann, James Simpson,
Gabriela Adela Gánem Gutiérrez
In the US:
Carla Meskill
Mark Warschauer
Steven Thorne
Reversed engineered influence?
Emphasis on learning by DOING
In TBLT, educational philosophies
of experiential learning
Explicit acknowledgement:
 John Dewey
Norris (2009), Samuda &
(1938) Experience and Education
Bygate (2008), Van den
Branden et al., 2009)
Obvious and sustained
theoretical links of
LLTwith experiential
learning theories from ICT
and Ed Tech
 David & Alice Kolb’s ELT
Experiential Learning Theory
Another reversed engineered
experiential learning theories
Ed Tech
Two Affinities
1: Affordances
2: Theoretical base
between tasks & technology
A happy encounter
An inexplicable disencounter
A happy encounter:
CMC & TB interaction research
Negotiation for Meaning in TB LLT
Jill Pellettieri
Bob Blake
Bryan Smith
M. González-Lloret (2003)
(Ortega, 2009)
Negative impact on noticing?
Fundamental similarities NfM does happen in
CMC as in F-t-F
Fundamental differences
 disrupted turn adjacency  split negotiation
routines (Smith, 2003), non-contingent recasts
(Lai & Zhao, 2006), delayed uptake (Smith, 2005)
 lean medium  more explicit marking of
communicative trouble (Fernández-García &
Martínez Arbelaiz, 2003)
Positive impact on noticing?
(Ortega, 2009)
How much NfM?
1 or 2 episodes .................................. +30% of all turns
per session/dyad
Task as a source of such huge variability?
Attention to form in TB LLT:
Dyadic CMC
Bryan Smith
Chun Lai
(Lai & Zhao, 2006; Lai et al., 2008)
Iwasaki & Oliver (2003)
Shannon Sauro (2009)
Attention to form in TB LLT:
Teacher/tutor-mediated CMC
Shawn Loewen, Rosemary Erlam, et al.
(Loewen & Erlam, 2006; Loewen & Reissner, 2009)
(Ortega, 2009)
Fundamental similarities re. negative feedback
Recasts overwhelmingly preferred to more explicit
Uptake results inconclusive
Some (tentative) differences 
Amounts of negative feedback are more often than
not reported lower on CMC than F-t-F (although
there is high variability across studies)
CMC factors may damp noticing: non-contingent,
incorporated recasts (Lai et al., 2008)
Insufficient accumulated
evidence, so many more
questions than answers
Neglected role of tasks
Strangely, many pending
questions may involve task
but no seeming effort at
studying tasks per se
An inexplicable disencounter:
Where is CAF in TB CMC?
Research on “complexity/richness” of
L2 practice in CMC (Ortega, 1997)
Educational benefits  CMC may be an equalizer
of participation
But no precise application of
SLA benefits  egalitarian participation may
bring about higher productivity and more
(Housen & Kuiken,
SLA fears  accuracy
may suffer
or TB cognitive frameworks
e.g., Zsuzsanna I. Abrams, Olaf Böhlke, David Coniam,
Fitze, Mark
Ann Keller-Lally,
Lina Lee, Susana Sotillo, Rafael Salaberry, Ilona
However, a definite concern with
accuracy & CMC for L2
Might task design matter
after all?
2 semesters
8 weeks
49 sessions
120 sessions
Enza Tudini,
3,687 turns
10,644 turns
University of South Australia
61 NfM (9%)
232 NfM (10%)
1.2 NfM/session
1.9 NfM/session
Tudini (2003)
Tudini (2007)
Task design...
Tudini (2003)
Tudini (2007)
“Students were simply
asked to chat with NS
with a view to evaluating
the live chat as a possible
teaching and learning
tool” (p. 148).
•required to submit their best 6
sessions for evaluation
•assignment = 10% of course
•encouraged explicitly to seek
assistance from the L1 chatters
•given a list of cross-cultural
topics to use during the chat
CMC task design does matter
Negotiate-over-lexis-first principle
countered with post-task stakes?
(Skehan & Foster, 1997)
Just instructions may help “foreground
a focus on language form”…
Paige Ware & Rob O’Dowd (2008)
asynchronous feedback on form LREs for
“partnering” vs. “tutoring” e-conditions
Maybe things will begin to
Ann Keller-Lally
Shannon Sauro
jig-saw vs. decision- Syntactic complexity
making vs. opinion lexical richness
Nik Aloesnita Nik
Mohd Alwi &
Rebecca Adams
Karina Collentine (2009, LL&T)
interrupted & uninterrupted reasoning & interaction cycles
Encounter or disencounter?
neglected dimension
“… the large majority of studies of
CMC […] deal with task design only
tangentially and teachers frequently
transfer tasks used in face-to-face
settings to online environments
without adapting them to the new
(Regine Hampel, 2006, p. 106)
Bryan Smith
Jig-saw task
Each student has 3
different pictures –
(a) Describe all 6 to
sequence them into a
“bus trip” story;
(b) End with
discussion of public
transportation in the
US and your countries.
Decision-making task
Jointly decide on 4 gifts for 4
members of home stay family
in the US
(a) Each student has specific
parameters and 4 gift
suggestions, all of which must
be negotiated into consensus;
(b) End with discussion of giftgiving customs in your
Smith (2003, 2005): Seeded target words
Blake (2000):
Find an apartment in Madrid
by sharing Web ads and
personal preferences (see
URL). Summarize the results
using TEXTPAD.
info-gap with
Blake (2000)
Share the activities from two
different personal calendars:
Antonio Banderas and
Madonna. Identify the
events done in common by
the two people. Then
develop a story written in
the past about those
common activities.
Smith (2003):
Each student has 3 different
pictures Describe all 6 and
sequence them into a “bus
trip” story; discuss public
transportation in the US and
your countries.
Vandergriff (2006):
Blake (2000):
Freiermuth & Jarrell (2006):
Plan out three ways to spend a
The moral dilemma of the Find an apartment in Madrid 500,000 yen gift certificate and
by sharing Web ads and decide which way is better and
Alligator River Story (used
personal preferences (see
originally by Gee, 1989)
URL). Summarize the results
using TEXTPAD.
Sauro (2009):
Freiermuth (2001)
Write each other on one of
Discuss which of 4 cities in the
US would be ideal for opening
a new business (with
info-gap with
two themes (Swedish culture
or global warming) and use
bank of related words,
including 10 abstract nouns
Fitze (2006):
Dekhinet (2008):
Sachs & Suh (2007):
Browse through a website with
many links about
Read L1 story, retell in L2
Scottish culture and discuss with sequenced pictures &
them with your chat pal. lexical help (to NS chat pal)
Discussion of essay topics
prior to writing (e.g.,
professional sporting)
from tasks to projects…?
Appel & Gilabert (2002)
Task-based e-mail tandem exchange
e.g, (4-week task):
A night out in Barcelona/Dublin
GOAL: route and budget for a night out on a trip
to Barcelona or Dublin
Discussed places where young people go out in their own
e-mailed tandem partners with options and description of
their usual routine on a weekend night
Decided on what places they would like to go to on the
hypothetical night out in Barcelona or Dublin, drew a budget
for the night
scanned entrance tickets, leaflets, etc for the venues and
shared them on webpage
OUTCOME: presentation of their final planned
night out
Appel & Gilabert (2006)
Task-based email exchanges probably
afford more language productivity and
affective engagement than conversational
email exchanges
Leahy (2004)
Task-based email-mediated role-play
BA European business students (L2
German), 3 to 4 weeks:
GOAL: develop a marketing strategy for how
to introduce a product to a new market
5 f-t-f dyads communicating through email
each dyad took on different roles in charge of
different elements of the whole task/goal
Internet used as a source for task data
OUTCOME: presentation of results by dyads
orally, per individual in written summary
Dyad 1:
UK company
“Christmas pudding”
Develop marketing strategy
Dyads 3, 4, 5:
Research assistants to
German marketing company
Dyads 1 & 2
Consultant to Dyad 1
3-Similar products on WWW
4-Market conditions
5-Cultural & economic problem shooting
Dyad 2:
new questions:
Pedagogy: What are the consequences of
changing from tasks to projects?
Research: How do we investigate
projects from TBLT perspectives?
Reinders & White (in press)
What’s needed to
understand and inform the
Interactionist as well as
design ofsociocultural
theories +
tasks in multimodal
ICT & CMC theories of
environments? medium
Theoretical pluralism
So, maybe
an improvised encounter thus
far… but one with a future
An imminent encounter:
Cognitivist preference for
control & structure, but…
less structured, more inquiry-based
task space encourages learners to
exercise agency and enact identities,
to do learning from sociocultural and
social semiotic perspectives that
address the “whole” learner
(Marie-Nöelle Lamy, 2007)
Lamy & Goodfellow’s Simuligne project
(group competition)
 Imagine, design, and create a French city with
the necessary attributes to host a residential
 Create self-character for the city and describe
community role
 Invent history and anthem of city
 Visit all cities and vote to choose recipient of
city award
Levy & Kennedy (2004)
Task-based NetMeetingmediated web creation
Levy & Kennedy (2004)
4 Australian students (L2 Italian):
GOAL (chosen by participants): produce
web pages for the Italian Studies site of
these students’ university
Useful to students (in Australia) visiting
Bologna and Perugia for a certain period of
With “live” material (audio & video)
collected from informants in cities
conferencing software
 e.g., NetMeeting, with text/audio chat,
graphics, & desktop sharing
 jointly browsing of the same on-screen
material (e.g., websites) while talking
 jointly creating documents & alternating
the control of the application
Kiernan & Aizawa (2004)
Task-based mobile phone
Kiernan & Aizawa (2004)
Narrative & invitation tasks done via:
(a) F-t-f, (b) PC email, (c) mobile phone email
Less language produced via mobile phone
email (using thumb pad), but
Similar approach to task
And most motivating: Most students wanted
to experience the mobile phone email condition
Importance of social
context for technologies
 Only 4 of 54 Japanese college participants did not
own a mobile phone with email
 Almost all 50 owners used mobile phone daily and
primarily for texting and emailing
 Many Japanese college students know how to use the
mobile thumb pad to text but not a PC keyboard
 In Japan & Europe, speaking on mobile phones is
expensive, texting is cheap (the opposite is true in the
“Part of the difficulty in drawing conclusions
within CMC research is that results are often
based on tasks or laboratory experiments that do
not easily generalize to the real world”
(Luppicini, 2007, p. 174)
Alternative, more “real-world”:
Open social spaces, gaming, immersive
The look to the future:
Open social spaces, gaming,
immersive environments
James Gee
Marc Prensky
In LLT too
D. Zheng (Zheng et al. 2009)
for Action
Douglas Coleman (2002)
from tasks to projects…
to virtual worlds…?
How tractable for existing TBLT
here-and-now vs. there-and-then
time-less & space-less “Always On”
(Baron, 2008)
“From Always-On to Always-There”
(de Lange, 2009)
Gaming, simulations, & other
immersive new technologies
tasks & technology
What does the future hold?
René Magritte‘s
Elective Affinities (1933)
trapped within
(blescarmona, 2009)
TBLT research
and LLT research
communities break away from
superficial barriers?…
tasks and technology?
Thank You
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Photo credits:
Magritte’s photo from: http://www.hss.adelaide.edu.au/philosophy/inconsistent-images/magritte/
Goethe’s photo from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Wolfgang_von_Goethe
Please cite as:
Ortega, L. (2009). Tasks and Technology in Language
Learning: Elective Affinities and (Dis)encounters. Plenary
delivered at the 3rd International Task-Based Language
Teaching Conference. Lancaster, September 13-16.
Copyright © Lourdes Ortega, 2009

Please cite as: - University of Hawaii System