By Marty Lange
If you are teaching people to build apps, whether they are Scripture apps, Scripture-based apps, or local language materials, you might want to consider a two-step approach to training.
In September of 2018, I tried an experiment. Rather than spending a week training twelve people how to build apps using Reading App Builder (RAB), I spent three days with one group of people training them how to use Bloom to create content for apps in their language. Then I spent two days working with a smaller group of people, teaching them how to compile apps in RAB that were created in Bloom. The results of this approach are still coming in, but the initial results have been positive.
After teaching many RAB workshops, I observed that a significant number of the trainees (perhaps 50% or more) did not build any apps after the workshop. When I talked to a few of them, they told me they didn’t have a chance to put their learning into practice right away, and when they finally sat down to make an app, they had forgotten how to use the program.
I noted that we were trying to force too much information into the students; we did not give them enough time to put their learning into practice so they would be able to remember it. I considered simplifying the training and removing components like synchronized audio. However, this is one of the key features the students want to use in the apps they build.
After discovering the capabilities of Bloom in 2018, and learning that it can almost seamlessly pass content to RAB, I began considering how to break the training into two parts: content creation and app building. I wanted to make it easier for indigenous people to focus on creating content for apps without having to learn the technical details of RAB. But I also wanted to train some people to use RAB to compile the apps that were created in Bloom in order to make it possible to distribute stand-alone apps via Google Play, Bluetooth, or microSD cards.
When I was asked to give an app-building workshop in Guatemala in September, 2018, I decided to experiment with the idea of teaching separate Bloom and RAB workshops. I worked at gaining a functional competency using Bloom, built several apps in RAB using Bloom books as source files, and laid out a basic training plan. When I discovered that someone had developed a comprehensive training manual for Bloom in Spanish, I got a copy and reviewed it. Finally, I created the modules of the workshop and laid out the sequence I would teach using the Learning That Lasts methodology.
A prerequisite of the Bloom training was that people only attend if they were interested in learning how to build apps. The purpose was not to learn how to create paper books, but apps. Each student was asked to bring at least two stories to turn into apps. All students were also responsible to bring their own laptop.
Bloom is simple to install. Because of the excellent documentation, running a Bloom workshop is easy. An added bonus is its technical support team that responds quickly to any issues encountered while the workshop is running.
After installing Bloom on each student’s computer, we walked through the creation of two books to introduce them to the features of Bloom. I brought several headset microphones so they could learn how to use the recording feature built into Bloom.
Upon completing each assignment, they were required to transfer it to their phone so it could be viewed using Bloom Reader. This was when they began to see the potential of what Bloom could do.
Once they had completed both assignments, they were to create Bloom projects using the stories they had brought with them. When they started working on their own materials, their excitement grew. One of the students called his wife in their village and had her install Bloom Reader on her phone. He then sent her the Bloom books he was creating in the workshop via WhatsApp. She would then give him some feedback and make suggestions to make it better. Some of the students started asking if they could print paper books of their projects! I explained to them that the purpose of the workshop was to create apps, but if they wanted to learn how to publish paper books, there was lots of documentation that could help them. I gave each one a copy of the full Bloom user’s manual so they could dig deeper into Bloom when the workshop was over.
Each student went home from the workshop with at least two unique stories they created in Bloom that could be read or listened to with the Bloom Reader app on their Android phones. They were all very excited about the possibilities.
I spent the next day working with three students, teaching them how to import Bloom projects into RAB and create Android apps from them. The prerequisite for attending this second workshop was a high level of computer literacy and knowledge. This allowed us to move quickly through the training. Frequently, one student would look at the RAB interface and begin explaining it to the others even before I could start speaking! I had them build several Android apps from the files we got from the previous trainees. After a few builds, they felt comfortable with the process.
I was very pleased with the end result. The content creators who learned Bloom were free to create content and not get bogged down in the details required in RAB. Those who learned RAB were equipped to help any of the Bloom students create and publish their content as Android apps—producing some useful apps.
Since the workshop nine months ago, I have been in contact with a few of the students. Many of them have chosen to only publish their Bloom projects to Bloom Reader, encouraging people to install Bloom Reader on their phones to access the content. One of them is a school teacher and is using Bloom with his students to create unique content in their language to share with others who have installed Bloom Reader on their phones.
Now instead of producing neither books nor apps, we are seeing both books and apps produced. I have decided to follow this model from now on because of the difference I observed in the students’ productions at the end of the workshop.