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In this first Academic Technology in Action video interview, Amherst College Professor Jeffers Engelhardt and student Alexia Lapadat ’26 discuss their respective experiences teaching and learning with Professor Engelhardt’s Listening, Hearing, and the Human course. Susan May, IT Accessibility Specialist from Academic Technology Services, has facilitated this discussion.
Professor Engelhardt has designed his course Listening, Hearing, and the Human to offer an inclusive entry point to the Music curriculum. Rooted in the Liberal Arts framework, he takes an anthropological approach to help students gain insight into how sound is transmitted and perceived through human anatomy, experience, and culture while exploring what that means for understanding the real. The course emphasizes intellectual exchange between faculty, students, and peers, bringing in the relevant work of other Amherst faculty in Art and Biology. It employs methods of interdisciplinary thought, pairing humanistic inquiry with wide-ranging topics. Technology is used to analyze and manipulate sound, learn about captioning and audio description, and investigate perception.
The course uses the academic technology resources available in the Five College consortium learning environment with a class visit to the UMass Amherst anechoic chamber and an opportunity to meet with its custodian, Professor Richard Freyman. Engagement with the anechoic chamber provides an alternative understanding of sound and perception by removing almost entirely the presence of echoes, creating an embodied learning experience for the students. In another example, students practice a research methodology technique of sound walks that employ deep listening practices. With this method of observation and reflection, they may attain more profound insights into the relationships between listening, sound, the acoustic landscape, and perception, along with an appreciation for how all sound is inherently relational.