un helvétisme que je ne savais pas connaître

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Mon beau-frère s’intéresse beaucoup aux langues. Moi aussi, d’une manière générale, mais lui, il se fonce dans une langue quelconque quand l’envie lui prend. C’est donc comme ça qu’il sait lire un peu en français, en espagnol, en turc, en néerlandais, et ainsi de suite. Si je n’ai pas la largeur de ses compétences linguistiques, j’ai quand-même une meilleure connaissance du français que lui, et il lui arrive donc de me poser des questions sur le français.

the weakness of the Bible as an argument for an expanded canon

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A week and a half ago, I wrote a post arguing that the Bible is actually more of a weak point than the Book of Mormon for fundamentalist, literalist attitudes toward Latter-day Saint scripture. That post—like this one—was inspired by an Introduction to Scripture class that I’m currently taking through Community of Christ’s Temple School. The first lesson did a lot of work to play up the Bible as the main scriptural foundation of Community of Christ and is doing some respectful but firm downplaying of the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants.

text for recent Beyond the Walls sermon

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Last Sunday, I gave a sermon on the Temptation of Jesus for a Beyond the Walls service by the Toronto Congregation of Community of Christ. The whole service was great, and I was happy to make my small contribution to it. It’s been recorded and archived here: As I did the last time that I gave a sermon, though, I wanted to share the text I preached from:

the Bible—not the Book of Mormon—as weak point of Mormon apologetics

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Almost a year ago now, Stephen C. at the Mormon blog Times and Seasons wrote a post asking what might be an “extinction-level event” for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There’s a lot of interesting speculation in the post, but the passage that I copied down at the time was this one: Of course, the truly fatal circumstance is if the President of the Church stopped believing in the truth claims.

an 'enmediated' God

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Mormon theology doesn’t really do incarnation. Latter-day Saints believe in an embodied God and that (nearly) all humans will be resurrected to perfect bodies after this life and inevitable death. Latter-day Saints are also not Trinitarian and see Jesus and God the Father as more distinct than most Christian traditions do. Between those two beliefs, Jesus’s taking on a mortal body is not really a big deal—it’s kind of par for the course for any human, whether or not they are the Savior of the world.

on Scrabble, French, and what it means to learn

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In the summer of 2015, New Zealander Nigel Richards won the French-language world Scrabble championships despite not speaking a word of French. I heard this story on a Radio Télévision Suisse news show repackaged as a podcast (probably Le 12h30, but I can’t remember exactly) and wrote myself a note that if I ever got a chance to teach a class on games and learning, I would use this story in it.

assessment statements in my Spring 2024 graduate syllabus

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I ended the Fall 2023 semester with a lot of anxiety and frustration about grades, and there was enough of both that I wound up making a lot of changes to a graduate class that I was sure I was going to keep mostly the same from last year. Not all of these changes were assessment-related (I replaced a lot of readings and shuffled content around some), but I also more-or-less threw out the assessment structure that I’ve been using since 2019 to replace it with something minimalist and closely tied to the course’s learning objectives.

another upcoming sermon for Toronto Congregation of Community of Christ

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Last July, I gave my first sermon for a Community of Christ congregation, preaching on the Parable of the Samaritan. I guess I didn’t do too badly, because their pastor reached out in December to ask me to give another sermon this month. On January 21st, I’ll be preaching on Matthew 4:1-11, covering the Temptation of Jesus. This has been a fun passage to revisit and see with new eyes. I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say just yet, but I’ve got plenty of notes and ideas and am looking forward to nailing things down over the next week and a half.

media I consumed in 2023

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My dad has been logging the books he reads since he was a teenager, and I’ve always wanted to try something like that out. I gave it a go in 2022 with a notebook, but I quickly realized I wanted to journal that information, too. Since I journal in Day One, that meant logging reading digitally, so at the end of 2022, I started building some Siri Shortcuts for blogging about books.

publication copyright and reprinting consent

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Ben has been one of my best students over the past 5.5 years. He was a non-traditional student who flunked out of UK decades ago, went on to be a successful small business owner elsewhere in the country, and then leapt at the chance to come back to UK through an online degree completion program. As part of that program, he took one of the classes I was teaching at the time, which counted toward general education credit.

on the arbitrary nature of grades

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As often happens at the end of a semester, I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about grades: What they mean, what purpose they serve, and how to best assign them. In thinking about this, I’m also thinking about a comment that a number of my colleagues put on each class syllabus: something to the effect of “I don’t give grades, you earn them.” These colleagues are gifted teachers whose examples I strive to follow, and I appreciate the sentiment behind their statement, but it’s also always struck me as oversimplifying what it means to grade.

frustration with institutional research analytics

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Over the summer, I blogged about some concern that I had about a new research portal that my employer had just rolled out. Based on the gentle nudges to update our profiles we’ve been receiving since the platform’s launch, I’m guessing that faculty have not been as keen on the platform as the university is. One of those nudges came this week, and in the spirit of good faith cooperation, I spent some time going through the platform and updating my profile.

Bethlehem in the Nativity and in the West Bank

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Earlier this year, I read Guy Delisle’s excellent comic Chroniques de Jérusalem twice in the course of two months. I began by finally checking out the English translation from a local library to give it a try (I like Delisle, but I’d had trouble getting into this particular comic in the past). Then, as I was getting into it, my brother-in-law texted me from New York to say he was stopping by a local French bookstore and ask if I wanted anything.

Leo Tolstoy on Black Friday

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This morning, a Michigander friend of mine texted to wish me a Happy Thanksgiving. Her husband and their roommate work at Walmart, and so I asked her whether they had to work today. It took my friend a few hours to respond, but I already knew the answer—as long as I’ve known them, they’ve both had to work on and around most major holidays. Their Thanksgiving has traditionally been on Thursday morning or Wednesday evening to make sure that they have some time to celebrate as a family before they get called in to work to get things ready for the capitalist rush that will come on Black Friday—and increasingly, on Thursday night.

songs that should be hymns but aren't (yet?)

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Over the summer, I wrote about a favorite Community of Christ hymn. Without repeating the entire post here, one of my favorite things about it is that it was never written as a hymn. Rather, it was a song written by a folk song as a call for peace that got adopted into the Community of Christ hymnbook in 2013. I thought about these details last weekend as I was listening to Ici-bas, a favorite song by French Canadian folk rock band Les cowboys fringants—I figured that this song would make for a pretty good hymn, too, even if it probably has a bit more swearing than your typical hymn.

Siri Shortcuts for updating Habitica from Apple Watch

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Back in July, I shared that I’d figured out how to use the Habitica API to create a Siri Shortcut for updating Habitica from my Apple Watch. A few weeks ago, Hypothesis user cormacauty left a comment on that post asking for more information about how I’d done that. This post is a (belated) response to that, in the form of sharing the Siri Shortcuts that I wrote. Part of the reason that it took so long for me to get to this is because I needed to duplicate and edit the Shortcuts to strip out my API key—I’m happy to share my work but don’t want other people to be able to make changes to my account for me.

new publication: Deep assumptions and data ethics in educational technology

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When I learned that Stephanie Moore and Tonia Dousay were editing a volume on ethics in educational technology, I jumped at the chance to write something on data ethics. Stephanie and Tonia’s book is now published on Royce Kimmons’s open access EdTechBooks platform as Applied Ethics for Instructional Design and Technology, and my chapter is available alongside six others on other subjects related to ethics and educational technology. Here’s a link to the online version, and I have a PDF archived on my website.

in praise of 'dad friends'

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I have a “dad friend” I see most afternoons as we’re waiting for our kiddos to get out of school. He walks his kid home every day, and I either walk home or bike home with kiddo (a lot of walking recently because weather and a broken bike have been getting in our way). So, we hang out where all the walking parents hang out and chat for a few minutes before heading home.

Two-Face, DezNat, and Lavina Fielding Anderson—mission compatriots

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When I took a job at the University of Kentucky, a former professor (and boss) of mine at BYU told me to look up a specific French professor on campus, whom she’d also taught (and supervised) some time earlier. I ran into him several months later at a stake conference (this was, obviously, when I was still attending Latter-day Saint meetings), and we bonded over what it was like to work under our boss.

tenure-track positions in library and information science, information communication technology, and instructional communication at UKSIS

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I’m happy to share that we’re hiring this year in all three of the areas in our multidisciplinary unit. I’m including the official announcement below, and I’d be happy to talk to anyone who has questions or interest in the positions! The University of Kentucky’s School of Information Science invites applications for three positions at the rank of tenure-track assistant professor. The anticipated start date is August 16, 2024. Qualification and Responsibilities: Candidates are expected to hold an earned Ph.

Society for the Scientific Study of Religion/Mormon Social Science Association slides from this week

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A few hours after presenting at AECT on Thursday morning, I hopped on a plane to Salt Lake City, so that I could attend the 2023 conference of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion—especially the sessions associated with the Mormon Social Science Association. I’m giving three presentations today and wanted to include my slides here for anyone else who’s interested: I’d be happy to talk more about any of these!

AECT slides from this week

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On Thursday morning, I presented some work I’ve been doing with Dan Krutka at a session of the Association of Educational Communications and Technology. Here’s the title and abstract of our presentation: Teachers on Far-Right Social Media: The Dark Side of Affinity Spaces for Informal Learning We present the results of our studying a teachers’ group on a far-right social media platform. The identity of the platform and the persistence of far-right agenda setting overwhelmed any educational intentions of the group, which therefore had little to offer teachers looking to improve their craft.

pre-conference updates to my online presence

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This week, I’m attending two different research conferences (well, I only barely attended the first one, to be honest). The leadup to these conferences has involved some changes to my web presence, just in case people actually check my website when I put it on my slides. Overall, I’m happy with the changes that I’ve made, so I thought I’d take advantage of my free Delta in-flight wi-fi to blog about some of the changes I’ve made and why.

attending a conference 'among my own kind'

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One paper that I read and reread as I was starting to get into Twitter research was Anatoliy Gruzd, Barry Wellman, and Yuri Takhteyev’s “Imagining Twitter as an Imagined Community,” published in a 2011 issue of American Behavioral Scientist. I thought of this paper again yesterday; more specifically, I thought about the anecdote that the article begins with: Barry and Beverly Wellman moved to Toronto more than 40 years ago.

underrated radio and Public Service Broadcasting

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to listen to more internet radio, getting back into the great NPR quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and generally thinking about how underrated radio is as a medium. This morning, a chance comment from a familiy member had me checking the website for Public Service Broadcasting, a strange and wonderful “found audio” band that I count among my favorites. Thanks to checking that website, I learned that PSB has a new album out based on their appearance last month at the BBC Proms celebrating BBC Radio’s 100th anniversary.

whose voices does ClassDojo prioritize?

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This morning, I read an excellent piece by Lam Thuy Vo at The Markup expressing concern about how services like Amazon’s Ring cameras can distort police priorities and perpetuate bias. Here’s a good summary passage: As a reporter, I’ve always been interested in systems that disadvantage some people—when it comes to policing, they are often Black or Latino—while prioritizing the wishes of a smaller, much more powerful subset—often affluent White folks.

Alma the priesthood counter-example

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Last Sunday, I attended a Latter-day Saint Elders Quorum meeting for the first time since March of 2020, when I taught Elders Quorum on the last Sunday before Latter-day Saint services shut down because of COVID. I had enjoyed most of the sacrament meeting (I took issue with some parts of some talks, but I have to admit that I miss the size, songs, and sense of community of Latter-day Saint services), but Elders Quorum turned out to be kind of a disappointment.

upcoming research talk on DezNat for Bainbridge Latter-day Saint fireside series

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A couple of months ago, Peggy Fletcher Stack of the Salt Lake Tribune mentioned the work that Amy Chapman and I have been doing on the far-right-influenced DezNat movement. Shortly after Peggy’s article was published, someone who coordinates an unofficial series of Latter-day Saint-related firesides reached out to us about speaking to their group about our research on the DezNat movement. Before accepting, we made it clear that our work isn’t devotional, neither of us are practicing Latter-day Saints, and our work could be understood as critical of cultural and institutional Mormonism; however, the fireside organizers said that they were used to getting into controversial topics related to Mormonism and that our work was welcome with them.

the missionary with the expired visa

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Over the past few years, I’ve been slowly digitizing a bunch of analog letters, keepsakes, and other things that I think are worth keeping a copy of in the Day One journaling app (and, more importantly, in a PDF export from Day One). My current project is copying over a bunch of old emails that I sent friends during the two years I served as a Latter-day Saint missionary, and in the email I was copying this morning, I wrote about a time when I was working as the legal secretary for the mission and had to do an audit of our legal documents because:

Novák, Orbán, and Ballard: the far right and Mormon boundary maintenance

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Next month, I’m flying to Salt Lake City to attend the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion to present some of my work about social media, religion, and the far right. I’ll be presenting on three different projects at SSSR—this was biting off more than I could chew, but since two of them connect with Mormonism, Salt Lake suggested the possibility of a larger-than-usual audience for that work, so there you go.

new publication: ClassDojo and student conflation of educational technologies

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Last year, Daniela DiGiacomo, Sarah Barriage, and I published an article on student and principal perceptions of ClassDojo. Our findings weren’t entirely what we expected, even if they weren’t a huge surprise. In short, students and practitioners don’t always share the concerns about edtech platforms (like ClassDojo) that are gaining steam in the critical educational technology literature. I don’t say this to shame edtech users for not thinking the way that we ivory tower types do—rather, it speaks to a long-recognized tension between theoretical and conceptual concerns held by academics vs.

Esther is an ironic heroine for conservative Christians

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I’m pretty sure I remember exactly where I was when I realized that Esther 100% slept with the king before he chose her as his queen. I was sitting in a top-floor office in one of two villas on Chemin William Barbey in Chambésy, Switzerland. I lived on the bottom floor of the villa with some other office staff of the Switzerland Geneva Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and this office was where I did my religious studies every morning before heading out into a larger office where I helped with legal, vehicle, and other assorted logistical issues for the mission.

Pete, mint brownies, and two competing visions of Mormonism

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Pete and Sarah were mainstays of my Mormon experience growing up. Their oldest—a famously rowdy boy with several rowdy younger brothers—was present on the Sunday when I was introduced in children’s classes as a newcomer to the congregation. When I outgrew children’s classes and made my way to youth Sunday School, Pete was our teacher for a while—the kind of teacher who tried to suppress a giggle (and usually unsuccessfully) whenever the word “ass” (especially “dumb ass”) appeared in the KJV.

Leo Tolstoy and Nephi

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One of the more awkward passages in the Book of Mormon (at least from an ecumenical perspective—there’s much worse in there) is in I Nephi 3:220-222, where an angel has this to say with Nephi, the current narrator of the book: “Behold, there are save two churches only: the one is the church of the Lamb of God and the other is the church of the devil. Wherefore, whoso belongeth not to the church of the Lamb of God belongeth to that great church, which is the mother of abominations; and she is the whore of all the earth.

is the Mistborn Adventure Game the ethics TTRPG I've been looking for?

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Twice this month already I’ve written about whether and how to try to play according to one’s values in games. Both posts have been inspired by Lotus Dimension, a TTRPG that explicitly encourages finding nonviolent solutions to in-game problems. In my first post, I expressed interest in the game because it “allow[s] and encourage[s] other paths to vidtory.” In my second, though, I wondered whether that were good enough: “Is ethical behavior in a game because the system of the game rewards that behavior truly ethical?

more unfinished thoughts on games and living one's values

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A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about buying a copy of Lotus Dimension, an indie TTRPG that encourages players to find non-violent solutions to problems. I haven’t made my way through the whole rulebook yet—I’ve been busy, and frankly, it’s a bit dense. It’s a bit crunchier than I would have expected from an indie TTRPG focused on an interesting premise, and I’m frankly not sure if it will live up to my initial excitement.