“Each concept calls for a leap of the imagination.”
Isabelle Stengers


[Listening for things we don’t know how to listen for]


The Learning Gene

Listening for things we don’t know how to listen for. The Learning Gene is a podcast, blog and resource for anyone who wants to learn more about how to teach, analyze and create audio-essays.  It’s for students who want to learn more about the craft of audio, and it’s for educators who want to bring audio into the classroom. 

The Learning Gene is a project in Experimental Humanities. It doesn’t look to “experts” as authorities on knowledge or truth, as if expertise is unattached from the immersive, collaborative and open-ended practices of knowledge-seeking.  Instead, The Learning Gene places its hope in the promise that “the unknowable is unknown.”  Join us as we explore the unknowable limits of what we can (and cannot) learn about nature, science, classrooms and “learning” itself.

How to use this site

Under “Voices“, listen to the audio-work of students.  Look through a curated set of podcast episodes that are especially teachable.  And learn how to dive into the DIY-world of audio-creation.

Under “Episodes,” listen to The Learning Gene podcast episodes.  Each episode has its own show notes (with references & suggested resources) and transcripts.

Under “Blog,” participate in our ongoing investigation of audio as a resource for critical and creative inquiry.    Find us here on Facebook.

The philosophy behind the project

Here’s the thing about teaching:  it absolutely depends upon the creative and open interplay with students.  (Some philosophers say that teachers are only “teachers” when students grant them this identity).  But when scientists or philosophers study the nature of learning, they often point to expertise or to specific mechanisms (like learning genes) as the key factor in teaching.  This turns students into objects of teaching, instead of essential collaborators. The Learning Gene investigates these kinds of phenomena in order to solicit alternative accounts of teaching and learning.  And it does so by bringing audio directly into the classroom.  We’re in search of sonic feedback loops!

The Learning Gene takes its cues from this statement by Ira Glass: “Radio is a peculiarly didactic medium.”  Ira is being sincere here:  radio (or audio more broadly) holds great promise as a form of pedagogy.  Along these lines, The Learning Gene offers a range of audio essays, podcast episodes, blog posts and interviews that seek to teach—to explore, analyze and reflect on important subjects related to feminism, philosophy, critical theory, science, “race” and racializing violence, gender and the relationality of identity, existentialism, the very nature of abstraction, and other timely topics.

Ira’s statement can be taken another way, though:  if radio is peculiarly didactic, then audio is an untapped protagonist in the dramas of teaching and learning.  The Learning Gene investigates this possibility by mic-ing up academic activities.  Shared under a creative commons license, The Learning Gene is an open educational resource that records, archives and shares the soundscapes of learning.