It’s interesting to see that Becta are trying to revive their drive to get a common whiteboard format. You can see the call for consultation here.
I seem to remember them trying this a few years back with the launch of the National Whiteboard Network, but they couldn’t get the ‘Big 2’ of Smart and Promethean to agree to share. I get the impression that Promethean see their resources as their big selling point and so don’t want users of other boards to be able to just load them up. Which is a shame.
I really feel for teachers who work in schools that have bought both boards and have to plan what classroom they are doing their lesson in so that they can make the flipchart or notebook file in the corresponding format. You can see why so many fall back on using powerpoint.
Personally, I am waiting on the day that Microsoft realise that they only need to add a few tweaks to the way PowerPoint actually works to turn it into proper Interactive Whiteboard software. The ability to work on slides while in “presentation” mode with images, capture etc and it would be something to rival ActivStudio and SmartNotebook. But for now it’s not there yet.
I’m also interested to see what comes of the Open Source IWB software project although it seems to be very much in the planning stages just yet.
Some generic software would also help those users of boards that, quite frankly, have awful software such as the Hitachi / Cambridge boards. I have had to train on these and the software is very unfriendly, and trying to do anything that you can do really quickly on Smart/Promethean is a real trial. Even just trying to type some text and move it took several trips into the menu system. You have to spend a lot of time customising the toolstrips. Something generic that is written with an actual clue about what users want to do would really benefit the users of these boards.
My only concerns about the common standard is that a) RM is leading it and I don’t really think they can be trusted to be impartial. I can just see them trying to level the playing field away from Smart and Promethean and into their favour instead and b) at the end of the day I can’t see Smart and Promethean agreeing to work on a joint standard just like last time. Especially since these are worldwide markets and Becta is just a UK agency.
I guess only time will tell as to what happens here.