I’ve been thinking over the last few days about the implications of the ActivInspire launch for users of other boards. And I think it’s pretty big news for everyone who uses an interactive whiteboard.
The launch of the Personal Edition of ActivInspire is quite a major thing and is an interesting development by Promethean to open up their resource library to everyone, something I’ve always felt that they wanted to protect for their boards only.
I have always been a big fan of both Smart Notebook and ActivStudio/Primary. I am less of a fan of the software that runs on other interactive whiteboards. They just don’t have the useability that I am looking for. I have also found that these the makers of these boards have not really invested in developing banks of resources for their users. Try looking for a Hitachi flipchart anywhere online and you’ll see what I mean.
The solution for users of these boards was either to struggle on with the software provided with your board or purchase a third party piece of software such as RM Easiteach. The third option was to use Smart Notebook or ActivSoftware in breach of the user licence – which is not something you should really be doing.
Now it should be possible for the user of any interactive whiteboard to download and run ActivInspire Personal Edition on their board legally. This gives them the basic whiteboard tools, plus more importantly access to open and use all of the Promethean flipcharts available on Promethean Planet, and on other websites (such as mine).
ActivInspire also opens (and converts) Smart Notebook files (for now). So whiteboard users running ActivInspire can pretty much get access to the majority of IWB files available on the Internet. For example on my site I have files I produced only as Smart – those files can now be used by any ActivInspire user. How long it will be before Smart releases a update patch that stops Promethean from opening their files, only time will tell. I hope they don’t – I’d like to see resources made more open for teachers, not locked into proprietary formats.
For teachers in schools that have mixed platforms, and I have been in many, it can be a real problem to have materials you have written to use on the Smartboard in your classroom only to find the room you are now timetabled in has a Promethean board – or a Hitachi board etc. Schools could now put the personal version on all computers to give teachers a common platform which they could use if they wish.
It’s worth making clear that the Personal Edition of ActivInspire is a cut down version. It does not have all the tools that the full version has. You can see a comparison chart here. It does not have design mode, or desktop annotation, or screen recorder. There’s no handwriting recognition, or dice tools or on-screen keyboards. But these are often tools people can do without. And if you do llike the software the school can purchase the full version of the ActivInspire anyway.
So it’s an interesting move. There’s no reason now why every school computer connected to an IWB can’t be running ActivInspire – and the teachers can be using Smart and Promethean flipcharts on every board.
So what’s in it for Promethean? Schools could now buy cheap boards, and run their software? I guess the first thing is that if they can get teachers used to a common format they may be more inclined to buy Promethean boards in the future. It’s also a good way of making the Promethean brand more prominent. Promethean can also make money from selling the full version of ActivInspire to these schools.
I think the important thing is that the whiteboard is almost becoming commonplace in schools. Most schools have made their choice about smart or promethean (or Hitachi, or Cleverboard etc) and the market is getting saturated. But the next step is the “extras” that come with the boards – voting kits, visualisers, tablets etc. If a Hitachi school has standardised themselves on ActivInspire then they are more likely to purchase Promethean accessories since they just work within ActivInspire. This is the next big market – and Promethean look like they are getting themselves in at the start of the game. This is not a bad thing. It will be interesting to see how this develops.
What will be interesting is seeing how many schools take up the Promethean software. I have been in schools recently that are still using ActivPrimary version 2. They haven’t even upgraded to v3 yet. How long before they take up the new version? Will schools that don’t have Promethean boards realise they are legally allowed to use this new ActivInspire software? Will Smartboard schools install it as an additional piece of software?
I do need to stress, I am a neutral in all this. I am happy to plug and promote Smart or Promethean (or others) when I think they are doing good stuff. I do not work for Promethean. The above is my opinion only. But I do think this release could be a very good thing for users of all interactive whiteboards.
So….. what do you think?
Update May 2010: Looks like the terms and conditions around the use of this personal version have been changed quietly by Promethean. You now need to apply for a Teacher Consent Licence to use this software elsewhere. More details here.