There are so many exciting things about scripture apps from their multimedia experiences that allow even those who are illiterate to “read” scripture, to being able to distribute to anybody in the world, to being able to use them in environments where a printed Bible cannot go. But when we talk about Scripture App Builder (SAB), it is often limited to a final publication of a story, book, or Bible.
One of the things that we can overlook is the ability to publish an updated app for free and as often as we want. Some Bible translation projects have waited until the full New Testament is finished before they publish a single verse. Others wait until a full Book is finished. Why? Because it costs so much to print and distribute.
What if a scripture app was part of the review process? There is no limitation on when or how often you create a scripture app. If you have only translated the first verse of the first chapter of Matthew, you can create an app and pass it around! When it is time to have a community review, instead of printing hundreds of pages to pass out to reviewers, you could pass out an app that reviewers could use. This even allows you to use reviewers in another part of the country, or another part of the world.
An important part of the review process is not just reading the words, but also hearing them. We can get stuck on having a professional recording being done by Faith Comes By Hearing or another organization. A program called “HearThis” has been developed specifically for quick recording of Paratext portions. One of the translators can use a headset to record themselves reading the text to be reviewed. This is a good check on how well the text flows when being read if the translator stumbles while trying to record. There is an export option from HearThis so that the audio can more easily be used with Scripture App Builder’s highlight feature (I have not personally tested the export so do now know how well it works). Reviewers can then use the app to not only listen to the text but even share it in listening groups.
Because the text has not been fully reviewed and consultant checked, there are some limitations that need to be imposed on distribution. There are two options built in SAB that can help. First is the ability to cause an app to expire on a certain date or a certain number of days after it is installed. Once it is expired, a message can be displayed telling the user how to get an updated version. Second, the app can be locked to certain phones. This can be done by locking it to specific IMEI codes (phone serial numbers), or by generating access codes based off IMEI codes.
Distribution of the reviewers’ app can be done using many of the same methods that are used for publishing an app. MicroSD cards can be sent out that the reviewers return when they are finished, the app can be passed phone to phone via Bluetooth, or the app can be placed somewhere online that the reviewers can download.
Having an app helps us get the text and even audio out to the reviewers, but we still need feedback. At the moment, there is unfortunately nothing built into the app that helps. How you get feedback is going to depend on your situation, but here are some ideas to consider:
- Many translation projects hold a reviewers’ workshop where they gather people together to read and hear the text and then give suggestions. The main difference would be that instead of waiting for reviewers to gather, or sending out printed materials ahead of time, the app can be distributed ahead of time.
- Some projects have a person who goes from village to village with scripture portions to read to groups of people and then ask them questions to gauge comprehension. If the text is recorded and playable in an app, that person can also be watching how people react to the text while it is being heard. With the app, it is easier to go back and re-listen to a section or verse than with an mp3 player. This process also gets the communities used to the idea that final Bible publication will be available via an app.
- If the reviewers are widely distributed and internet is easily accessible, the review could be done via an online community like Facebook or WhatsApp. This may not be ideal for all review sessions, but would allow input from a wider range of people.
- Scripture App Builder is a great platform for this because of its history and wide use, but I am excited that there will hopefully soon be a version of Paratext that will work on Android devices that even supports Send/Receive. There may be some situations where this new “Paratext Lite” works best, and some places where SAB works best.
As somebody who supports Scripture App Builder for users around the world, I get to hear a lot of stories about how effective scripture apps have been in getting the Word to so many people. But it does not have to just be a platform for final publications, it can be an integral part of the review process and bring along some of those same disruptive concepts.
How would this work in your context? Do you have some reviewers that have not been able to participate because of their location?