IWB – Cross Platform Functionality getting closer…

For some schools, it’s been a decade since they first purchased an Interactive Whiteboard.  As the academic years have rolled by, they may have found themselves in a position where those with the purse strings have chosen to purchase different types of hardware as the budget changed during the IWB roll-out.  So now, many of us are finding that we have two or even three types of hardware in our schools. Of course, each of these different types of IWB come with their own propitiatory software. Some of us are happy to develop resources more than once in more than one type of software whislt others enjoy the limited freedom provided my the two major brands (Promethean and Smart) to convert files from one piece of software to another.    Of course there’s also Hitachi’s software, InterWrite and Easiteach  and a whole abundance of file types that can not be converted across platform.

Now teachers are beginning to realise that having one software platform running across all of the different hardware brands  has its benefits.  Unfortunately, this realisation has arrived at the same time that the biggest names (SMART and Promethean) have tightened up their licensing rules and it is no longer easy (or possible in some cases) to run a different brand’s software package on its rival’s hardware.

One of the solutions that schools turn to in this instance is Easiteach as it has always been the exception to the rule.  Owned by  RM rather than by a hardware manufacturer, it has always branded itself as an independent creature.  It’s licensing costs are actually very reasonable and you can run it on any piece of hardware without fear of breaking any licensing agreement.  What with the new improved version (Next Generation) having been released, I am getting more and more queries about the software sent to me via the chat applet on this site. It’s clear that many schools are turning to it as an alternative to complex licensing issues.  This, in my opinion, is only going to increase with the growing popularity of hardware like the Epson Interactive Projector – which is deliberately sold without software here in Australia, so that schools can make decisions about software for themselves.

So far, it has only been the big players who have allowed cross platform importation of files.  It is possible to “import” a Smart Notebook file in to Activ Inspire and SMART have allowed some limited cross platform functionality by allowing Promethean users to import .flp files.  These were the file types that Promethan used before changing to “.flipchart” with the roll out of Inspire.  It is not possible to import an Inspire “.flipchart” file into Notebook at the moment.  It is also not possible to open an Hitatchi, Interwrite or Easiteach file inside these platforms. Teachers who are struggling to keep their workload down are foiled again and have re-create resources for each platform.

Common File Format “.iwb” is more than just a ‘British thing’

Common File Format in Notebook and ETNG

Common File Format in Notebook and ETNG

This issue of cross compatibility is something that BECTA has been concerned about for a long time.  They have campaigned for the software developers of these popular products to allow all resources to be saved in a cross platform format.  They approached British company RM to ask them for their help to create the CFF (Common File Format) – file extension “.iwb”. Some teachers, who are aware of this, call this a “British” thing.  Although, it’s inception was in Britain – spurred on by BECTA – it is indeed something a little more ‘magical’ than a British thing!

Of course, as it was created with RM, Easiteach Next Generation has the ability to export  and import files with this common format.  This should mean that, in theory, if you have Easiteach Next Generation (ETNG) and you want to share a file with someone with different IWB software you can use the “E” menu to save the file in the Common File Format of “.iwb” – Regardless of which country you are in 😉

Up until recently, however, many of the big names hadn’t really paid attention to this.  Meaning that the “.iwb” files could only be opened in a limited number of software packages.  Promethean still have not added this functionality to their software.  However, in the new release (Notebook 10.7) Smart have now added this feature.  You  can now both open and export a resource in this way.  I am sure, as a result, that Promethean can’t be far off the same.  Once they take on board this new file format there really will be nothing stopping you from getting full functionality between all of the major brand names.

Can I open Smart Notebook files in Inspire?  Can I open Inspire Files in Notebook? Can I open a Smart Notebook file in Easiteach? Can I open an Inspire flip chart into Easiteach?

As for whether you can actually open a Promethean or SMART file directly in Easiteach Next Gen.  The answer to that is a definite “no”.   It is not possible to import or open either a “.notebook”, “.xbk”, “.flp” or “.flipchart” in the software.   With Notebook 10.7 you could import the file into an ” .iwb” (the Common Format File) and then import it into Easiteach without a problem.  With Activ Inspire, that isn’t possible yet I’m afraid.  I’ll let you know as soon as I know that that will change.

Comments

  • Brennan Peyton
    Reply

    As Panasonic in Europe we bundle easiteach with our interactive boards. We are increasingly finding that governments require an open solution that recognises and rewards creative content and solutions. The .IWB format allows educators to select the best hardware for their needs without being tied to an “exclusive” software platform either in the form of Easieach or other third party software.

    Until there is open and equal interoperatability we will as an industry fail to attract the best of content from the educational publishers who are reluctant to tie themselves to any one brand or standard. In limiting ourselves in this way we stifle creativity and innovation which the interactive learning environment should encourage.

    We are are a hardware manufacturer believe that our hardware offers unique solutions. In a different part of our business we manufacture TV products, we don’t say or control the content in this Market and by having open standards and competition we now have a world wide Market when many people buy a TV confident in the knowledge that they can watch the content of their choice.

    We firmly believe the IWB Market should follow this business model.

  • admin
    Reply

    I have contacted Promethean via their support forums and have been told that they will be

    “…raising this issue to our escalations team, so that it may be requested as a feature in a later version of our software”.

    Excellent!

    Thank you for your comment Brennan. You have made some excellent points which I whole heartedly agree with 🙂

  • M
    Reply

    Great article!

    So .iwb files can be opened and exported in SMART. Is it seamless (ie, is all the functionality still there)? I have had a lot of trouble importing/exporting non-native file formats in SMART and Promethean and am hoping that .iwb files better.

  • Selena Woodward
    Reply

    I’ve had a good go at converting Notebook and Easiteach Next Gen files into the CFF format. I’ve also had a look at what happens when you open them again – in terms of the functionality.

    It seems that Easiteach is much better at remembering images/video/flash content than Notebook is.

    Formatting goes a bit wobbly in both.

    Smart pulls across images into it’s attachments section but doesn’t show them properly.

    I recorded and narrated the process. You can have a look here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gD8V0E-SU9g
    (I’ve only just uploaded it – 1:30pm Adelaide) so it may need to process)