New standard makes whiteboard content more accessible

According to Wallace, the next generation of CFF-enabled RM Easiteach will be released in the U.S. this spring and will be the first platform to embrace CFF in the U.S.

However, Wallace said, “we need all whiteboard software providers to comply in order for school districts to benefit from sharing resources in the truest sense, as well as reduce training overheads. The biggest advantage of CFF is that it aims to retain as much interactive functionality of each resource that is exported/imported.”

Wallace said RM Easiteach has always been platform agnostic and designed for any interactive whiteboard or slate, but the CFF will “open the floodgates to free the flowing of information between interactive software platforms.”

Promethean was noncommittal when asked whether it would support CFF in the U.S., and SMART Technologies declined to comment for this story.

Although the U.S. does not have a direct equivalent of BECTA, Joshua Marks, chief technology officer for Curriki—an online educational community whose web site offers free, open K-12 instructional materials—said there are some organizations in place to help make a push for CFF in America.

The Schools Interoperability Framework (SIF), which aids in data sharing among K-12 institutions, could help push for adoption of CFF in the U.S., he said. So could the IMS Global Learning Consortium, which has developed a common set of standards that will allow any kind of digital learning content to be used with any type of learning management system, student information system, or web portal.

“Standards are helpful in enabling multiple types of collections of diverse materials, and we encourage open standards that are non-proprietary,” Marks said.

In theory, he said, U.S. adoption of the CFF could occur in one of three ways:

  1. It could be government-mandated, in the same way the National Television System Committee (NTSC) developed the broadcast standard.
  2. It could be industry-initiated: IWB vendors could agree to partner on a CFF for the U.S. schools market.
  3. A dominant entity or vendor could commit to supporting CFF in the U.S., forcing other IWB vendors and entities to follow along as a result of market pressure.

“I’d say probably the easiest way to go would be through a government mandate,” said Marks, “just because different companies have diverse needs, and this could lead to very complex standards.”

Another way, however, could simply be pressure from educators on IWB vendors to adhere to a CFF.

After all, “the greatest benefit will be to educators,” said Eileen Shihadeh-Shald, vice president of marketing for eInstruction. “The creation of a CFF for all interactive whiteboard content will enable educators to develop and share interactive content with their colleagues, across their institutions, and even across borders without having to worry about which brand of hardware they chose.”

Shihadeh-Shald said eInstruction would be in favor of such an opportunity in the U.S. and would seek to help drive it.

Meris Stansbury

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