This page discusses the French Kitchen in collaboration with Newcastle College and CILT.

The French Digital Kitchen is an EPSRC Digital Economy funded project part of the “Research in the Wild: Getting research out there” programme. Starting in June 2010 and lasting for 18 months, Prof Paul Seedhouse (ECLS) and Prof Patrick Olivier (Computing Science)  lead the project which aims to develop the next generation of technology applied to language teaching, namely the use of digital sensors together with a Task-Based Learning approach.

The research team for the French Digital Kitchen include researchers working across computing science and education disciplines:

Professor Paul Seedhouse, Professor Patrick Olivier, Dr Anne Preston, Dan Jackson, Dr Thomas Ploetz, Dr Madeline Balaam and Phil Heslop
The French Digital Kitchen was chosen as an EPSRC case-study, information on this can be found by watching the following audio-visual slideshow:

Specifically, the project involved constructing digital kitchens that speak to the users in French. (watch a clip of users in action here).
Through a system of sensing, tracking and prompting, the kitchens give users step-by-step instructions on how to prepare French cuisine. Sensors are attached to all equipment and ingredients so that each time an item is correctly or incorrectly moved, participants can be given appropriate verbal feedback. Users learn targeted grammar and vocabulary items by doing the task and do a test on those items on a digital screen at end of cooking. Participants are equipped with a headset and microphone and can request a repetition or a translation of what the kitchen is saying to them. This project adapts the technology of Newcastle’s existing Ambient Kitchen to the field of language learning. This gallery features photos of the kitchen.
The project is a collaboration between iLab:Learn, Newcastle University’s new centre of excellence in technology-enhanced education, and SiDE, the RCUK Digital Economy Research Hub on “Social Inclusion through the Digital Economy” based at Newcastle University. The prototype of the digital kitchen was developed in one of Newcastle College’s large training kitchens by trialling it with students studying Catering and French (view a clip here) . The research team recorded and analysed student interaction whilst cooking fed into materials and software design.
A number of problems are addressed by this project: the universal problem of classroom language teaching, namely that students are rehearsing the language, rather than actually using the language to carry out actions, and the difficulty of bringing the foreign culture to life in the classroom. With the kitchen, learners will be able to learn aspects of the language whilst performing a meaningful real-world task and will simultaneously experience the cultural aspect of learning to cook a French dish. The project offers the opportunity of taking the excellent research-based pedagogical principles and procedures developed by Task-Based Language Teaching over the years out of the classroom and into use in real-world applications. Find out more about the Task-Based Learning design here.

In terms of the broader social context, the pedagogical design of the situated language learning system is intended to create a transferable, interdisciplinary model of task-based, situated learning which can be applied to many different technological settings and many different skill and knowledge sets. A significant challenge for the UK is how to employ the available digital technology to upgrade the skills of its workforce in a rapidly changing world.
Outline of the project deliverables:
The first objective was to design the tasks which would be implemented in the kitchen and to build a digital kitchen in our premises at the iLab:Learn housed in King George VI’s building, ECLS
A number of pilot experiments took place over the summer of 2011 at Cuture Lab and in one of the kitchens in the School of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development at Newcastle University. This has enabled the team to test and improve the tasks designed for simple recipes ranging from the croque-monsieur to the herb-omelette or the pear clafouti.
The second iterative phase of the project involved the Catering and French departments at Newcastle College using a preliminary version of the Digital Kitchen. The final version of French Digital Kitchen programme for the materials enabled the team to run the recordings automatically and simulate the action of the sensors manually by pressing buttons that represent the virtual sensors. Trails involved recording two students cooking together, one of them being a student of French and the other a catering student in the hope that the students would learn targeted grammar and vocabulary items by doing the task. Further, it was hoped that the interaction between a linguist and a chef would result in some fruitful knowledge transfer.
Finally, a brand new digital kitchen was built in iLab:Learn. It is fully furnished and is equipped with four screens, one of which is a touch screen .These will be used to display the instructions for our recipes as well as videos and pictures.

picture of kitchen in ilab
An important part of the project was not only to observe how learners behaved in the kitchen to improve the initial design but also get feedback from a whole range of people involved in language learning. At a local level, the team held a number of demonstrations and workshops for teachers, language advisors, teacher trainees and language students in Newcastle. Events like these culminated in a national event in London at the French Institute where representatives from the French Embassy, language teachers, educational technologists and those leading the promotion of languages in the UK used a portable version the kitchen and offered their opinions and insights. The information gained from these types of activities has been invaluable to the project’s development and further drives the teams’ aim to promote language learning through new technologies.
There has been considerable interest from international to local media. In October 2011, BBC Look North’s Peter Harris took a turn in the kitchen which was shown at the lunchtime and evening news programmes and in December 2011, Professor Seedhouse featured in an article ‘My Bright Idea’ in the Observer newspaper. The project even made it on to the pages of the international media in November when Portuguese national, Correio Braziliense, covered the kitchen for a story in their technology section.
Although the French Digital kitchen project has drawn to close, the team hope that the project, particularly through its impact work and collaborations, has stimulated others’ interests in how they might go about integrating cooking and French or other languages as well as using technological applications and adapting task-based learning approaches.
The impact work of the French Digital Kitchen was recognised in Europe in June 2012 when the team were informed that they had won an EU Language Label for 2012. The award recognises good language education initiatives and spreads good practice across Europe. The judges looked specifically for innovation and sustainability aspects that went beyond merely demonstrating good practice.
The team are now working on a 3 year long project funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme to build a new version of the kitchen and materials in 6 other languages: Finnish, Catalan, German, Spanish, Italian and English. This new project is called LanCook which is short for ‘Learning languages, cultures and cuisines in digital interactive kitchens’.
As part of that project, a portable version of the Digital Kitchen is now being developed, together with a planned set of teaching materials.
For more information contact Paul Seedhouse

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