Monday, October 4, 2010

Interactive whiteboards

Melanie Hughes asked if I knew of any open source software for interactive whiteboards. I didn't, so thought I'd dig around a little bit to see what was out there.  The answer would be appear to be something between not much and nothing.

There are some tools you don't have to pay for, but nothing available that gives you access to the source code.  The exercise has also reminded me how many people still seem to correlate open source software as software you don't have to pay for, as opposed to software you can get involved with improving.

Roland Gesthuizen suggested we should respond by asking what teachers are trying to achieve with the software, and that perhaps there are other means to the end.

Luke outlined his frustration with proprietary IWB software locked to a particular type of screen.

Australian IWB vendor 2Touch claims to provide software that works with a range of software, but it's not open source, and only free of charge if you buy one of their boards. Promethean has recently changed it's software license to allow their applications to be used on any brand of board.

The European Union have asked the industry to come up with a standard format for the documents created by their various software applications, so that's a start. However it seems there is a gap in the education market for a truly "Free as in Freedom" Libre open source application that allows people to harness the interactivity of these devices.

So, I'm sorry Melanie, but I've not been able to find anything, but I'll keep a look out and let you know if I hear of anything promising.

In the meantime - it would be really useful to get a list of the 'must have' features of interactive whiteboard software - then it might be possible to build a solution based on those features.  eg.
  • Handwriting recognition.
  • On screen keyboard
  • Annotations
  • What else?
Some of those features are available for open source platforms - but if the drivers for the boards aren't open, developers have no way of modifying that software for specific hardware features of the board.

Open Source Schools has a long thread about the IWB software issues. If you haven't perused that yet, it's a good place to catch a glimpse of the challenges we're facing.

Dunno how up to date this list is, but it's a list of Linux applications and drivers useful for TabletPCs which might be worth exploring as tools for using with IWBs

The Wiimote-whiteboard project certainly got close to disrupting the closed source IWB party, but I don't really know how much impact it had.

It did inspire smoothboard, which unfortunately isn't free or open source.

and Uwe Schmidt implemented a cross-platform version in Java.

And I have to include Rusty's Pong Hero hack with open source software just to show what can be knocked together when the code is free and the hardware can be made from rubber bands and chewing gum. Well, maybe not quite.

... and Interactive Projectors have hit the market...

Becta commissioned a project to create a common file format so educators could share the work they create for IWBS 

A teacher in the UK outlined his frustration with the range of software and drivers for IWBS, none of which were remotely compatible - which prompted this interesting thread in the moodle forums

Do you have some resources I could add here? Leave a comment.


  1. If your twitter friend is looking for free presentation software, you can direct her to promethean, which releases theirs for free.

    I use eToys for my presentation software. It's got a learning curve, but once mastered it's a great piece of work.

  2. Thanks for the feedback Aaron.

    Promethean's software might be available for free, but it's not open source as far as I'm aware.

    eToys on the other hand is definitely open source - could you describe how you use it as presentation software?

  3. Great summary of the current debate Donna. You are right to point out that open source doesnt mean that it is free, just that users are free to adapt, inspect and modify to their needs.

  4. Stumbled across this article abstract...
    "Integrating GeoGebra into IWB-equipped teaching environments"

    Geogebra is open source mathematics software for learning and teaching

    I can't access the full article - but it might be useful.

    Lavicza, Z. & Papp-Varga, Z. (2010). Integrating GeoGebra into IWB-equipped teaching environments: preliminary results. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 19(2), 245-252. doi:10.1080/1475939X.2010.491235

  5. It's not quite open source, but at least it's an open format: the BECTA commissioned format you link is (or soon will be) usable by any IWB (at least if they want to keep a place in the UK market). I think there was an OSS viewer application for that format too.


What do you think?