The Differential uses of “Okay” in Computer-Based Task Activities

By Patricia Frenz-Belkin and Elizabeth Meddeb.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper discusses the use of the token “okay” in teaching and learning interactions, in which it serves multiple purposes depending upon the context. In our research, we examined different types of institutional talk between expert tutors and novice tutees working at the computer with an accounting software and between a researcher and a student participant enrolling in voice recognition dictation software unfamiliar to her.

To record the interactions, one or two analog camcorders on a tripod were used; they were positioned in a way so that the participants as well as the computer screen would be captured on the tape. Screen shots were obtained to facilitate the data analysis. In addition, the researchers took notes during the interactions to capture the characteristics of the situation and the environment in which the interactions occurred. . The selection of sequences of the interactions for the present study was focused on the occurrence of the token “okay” and its differential usages by the participants. The chosen segments were then transcribed in detail. The transcripts were then analyzed using the methodologies developed by conversation analysts.

In the institutional talk surrounding the computer in which the tutee or study participant was learning the use of a software program, the tutors and the researcher both asked for confirmation and the tutees and the study participant gave that confirmation using “okay” with either a rising or falling intonation respectively. The token “okay” was also used to close an activity and/or move on to a new one.

This study hopes to contribute to the growing body of research on the role of meta-comments in different computer-based teaching and learning interactions. In the case of both the tutor/tutee interactions and the researcher/participant interaction, “okay” served to further the learning of the software.

Keywords: Discourse Analysis, Human-Computer Interaction, Teaching and Learning

The International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 5, Issue 11, pp.203-212. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 581.760KB).

Dr. Patricia Frenz-Belkin

Assistant Professor, Department of Language & Cognition, Hostos Community College, The City University of New York, New York, NY, USA

Patricia Frenz-Belkin is an assistant professor of English as a Second Language at Hostos Community College at City University of New York. Her research focus is language and social interaction.

Dr. Elizabeth Meddeb

Assistant Professor, Foreign Languages/ESL/Humanities, The City University of New York, Jamaica, NY, USA

Elizabeth Meddeb is Assistant Professor of English as a Second Language and Humanities at York College of the City University of New York. She also serves as the the Coordinator of Writing in the Disciplines at York. She teaches advanced composition courses to non-native speakers of English, as well as courses in linguistics and in the humanities. Her research interests include the interaction between technology and language use. She is currently working on a research grant that investigates how speech recognition dictation technology shapes both spoken and written language use for non-native speakers of English. This study is an outgrowth of her dissertation research at Columbia University and her professional experience at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center.

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