Easiteach Next Generation is the latest version of the whiteboard software from RM/Lightbox. Now I’ll nail my colours to the mast early. I am a Smart and Promethean person. I have also loved their software equally above anything else I’ve used out there. Mimio, Ebeam and Starboard software just didn’t have the features and ease-of-use that the big two have had since their very early days. One piece of software that I had mixed feeling about was RM Easiteach. In some places it was very nice, but in others it still lacked the tools of Smart & Promethean. I remember writing a (sadly defunct) training package that featured all three, and there were many things Smart and Promethean software could do that Easiteach couldn’t.
I was interested then to hear of a new version of Easiteach that is on its way. And even luckier to be sent an early trial version to take a look at. It looks a little slicker than the older version I last looked at a few years ago now. The trial version I had is still under development, so didn’t have every feature in place.
Menus are reasonably clear, with coloured icons placed at the bottom of the screen for younger students (or shorter teachers!) to reach. Object manipulation on the page is simple, with large clear anchor points around each object.
Tools such as handwriting and shape recognition are still there. A feature that the others don’t do yet is Text to Speech, which is nice. Although not sure how useful most schools will find it.
A new feature is the Widget Bank. Flash items that run on the page such as calculator, clock, periodic table, protractor, picture reveal, dice, random item generator, navigator and more. There are currently 20+ widgets available in the bank with more to be added with each new release. Moving and resizing these on the page is simpler than Smart Notebook.
The localised and searchable media bank within Easiteach will comprise over 4,500 curriculum-based resources including over 70 videos.
Users are able to record sound and video directly on to a page. Using the media bank you can also capture images, record sounds and record videos using external hardware, such as microphones or digital cameras, and add them to your page and then also add them to your personal media bank.
Tools that I couldnt find include Desktop Capture – which I still think is a massive omission, as well as desktop annotation. Desktop capture should be there though. I found I couldn’t even copy and paste an image from the web and paste it in, or even drag it in. There’s no reason for such a fundamental omission. I could save images to a folder, then import or import from scanner or camera into my image bank then putting onto the page, but thats not the same and is a little too cumbersome.
Screenshade and Spotlight tool are also things that any self-respecting IWB software should have. No idea why these are missing. Hopefully they’ll be in the final version. There’s a whole “special effects” icon that as yet does nothing, but says coming soon.. so hope they’re on there.
Easiteach works on all brands of interactive whiteboards – as long as you buy a licence. The ability to import and export Easiteach documents as the common IWB file format “.iwb files” should also mean that in theory you can share and use resources created on other software packages – should Smart and Promethean adopt the .iwb format too.
On the whole I like it, but for now I’ll be sticking with Smart and Promethean. If I was stuck in a school with Hitachi boards, and wanted to buy something that I could legally use on the board then I’d consider Easiteach. I’m not happy about some of the basics that are still missing, but hopefully they’ll be there in the finished version. It’s always hard getting an opinion from a not-quite-complete version. Once the finished product is done I’ll take another look.
You can download a 30 day trial of the software here: http://www.easiteach.com/eng/trial/ so go and take a look and see what you think!