New standard makes whiteboard content more accessible

“With a free download, educators will have the ability to drag and drop, annotate, and make many other changes to the material as well. It’s also assistive technology-friendly and has the ability to change size and color,” he said.

Although IWB vendors who sell to schools in the U.K. are committed to including the CFF standard in their software, it will not be available immediately because developers go through a “software cycle,” Ellis said. The CFF should be included in vendors’ next software cycle.

However, some developers are already including the new common format in their software.

According to Kate Wallace, vice president of strategic partnerships for RM Education’s United States division, RM has made steps to include the CFF in the next generation of RM Easiteach.

Another IWB vendor, PolyVision, which uses RM Easiteach and Qwizdom as its content providers, is software agnostic, meaning customers can choose what software they run on the IWB.

“The power of information is the ability to share that information,” said Peter Hildebrandt, director of global product management, research, and development for PolyVision. “We encourage our partner companies to adopt a CFF, since we believe it’s a natural step in technological progress.”

TeamBoard’s Draw 5.5 software currently supports the BECTA CFF as well—and TeamBoard says it is the first commercially available IWB software to do so.

Making the case for CFF

BECTA and RM cited pressure from the government and IWB users, as well as their mission to ensure that education technology is as useful as possible for educators and students, as the reasons for the project’s success in the U.K.

However, with no government equivalent to BECTA in the United States, vendors and educators are wondering if adoption of the CFF in the U.S. might take longer.

The delay, some say, is because two of the largest IWB providers in the U.S.—SMART and Promethean—sell their boards with proprietary content.

“The key to getting the likes of Promethean and SMART on board [in the U.K.] was to get the standard ratified internationally, and hence ensure that a requirement for the standard became a feature of [the school bidding process],” explained Wallace.

“Here in the U.S., I have not come across the equivalent of a BECTA-type organization, and I think this will be one of the challenges to getting it rolled out. SMART and Promethean, of course, signed up in Europe, but what governing body can we rely on here to rally the providers and get them to adhere?”

Meris Stansbury

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