Disinhibition in a CSCL Environment

Why do adults find it difficult to learn foreign languages? In the research literature, there are a number of hypotheses. Studies on the use of the Internet for learning, however, suggest that a hypothesis that has been largely ignored for the past two decades might have increased validity. The language ego permeability hypothesis argues that adults have difficulty learning foreign languages, because they are reluctant to give up control over selfpresentation. Giving up this control is necessary to learning a new language (Guiora, 1972). In this paper, we present empirical data from two studies that confirm the findings of other researchers in this field, and support the language ego permeability hypothesis. Both of these studies involved students conversing in IRC Francais, a textbased chat environment for language learning. We observed that students in the text environment participate in class nearly an order of magnitude more often than they do with the same teacher in a face-to-face setting. This confirms work by Beauvois, Kelm, Kern and others. In a new analysis, we examine the nature of private communication in parallel to the public chat forum. The majority of these comments between students take place in the foreign language rather than the shared native language. We conclude with some suggestions of how the medium contributes to these changes and some implications of these findings for CSCL environments in other media and other domains.


James M. Hudson, Amy Bruckman


Hudson, James and Amy Bruckman (2002). "Disinhibition in a CSCL Environment." Short talk, Proceedings of CSCL 2002, Boulder, CO, January 2002. Long version in electronic proceedings. (53% overall paper acceptance rate.)


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