As promised last week, this week I am going to finish up this two part series about online interactive whiteboards by taking a brief look at ImaginationCubed and a slightly more in depth look at Dabbleboard (these were the most impressive of the four offerings I checked out last week, and Dabbleboard is the more robust of the two).
This free tool from GE is somewhat limited in comparison to the more complete Dabbleboard application, but it is entirely free, it seems to work well, and it has some useful features and functionality.
Drawing/Editing Tools: There are six basic editing tools – a pen (which has some cool ‘styles' like blobs and random spikes); shapes (circles, squares, etc); a “stamper” (a smiley face, a man, a woman, a cloud, etc.); a line drawing tool; a text tool; and a background color and pattern editor.
Inviting others to interact: This is accomplished quite easily using the “Invite a Friend” tool, which allows you to send an email to someone to invite them to participate. In my testing, I emailed an invite to someone, who then immediately accessed the drawing I was working with a easily co-edited it with me.
Saving files: You can save files that you have created by emailing a link, which when clicked on, opens the file and “replays” it, and then lets you continue editing it. I do not know how long these files stay available on the system – I saw nothing there that informed me of that. It seems that there is no ‘account' associated with your work – just a long, unique URL (I did open an emailed link that was a week old and the file was still there).
Replay: The “Replay” function quickly replays everything that was done to create the drawing up to its current point. This was a nice little function that I did not see on the other sites I examined.
Help: While I did not see a help function, the overall application functionality was very straightforward and I was able to understand how to use the tools without any help.
One clear drawback of this application is the lack of ability to import documents or images.
Overall, ImaginationCubed is a straightforward whiteboard sharing tool, and might prove rather useful in a classroom setting.
Dabbleboard is a more extensive tool set than ImaginationCubed, with more functionality to explore. Dabbleboard provides free access, with a generous set of functionality, as well as paid “Pro” programs.*
*[Priced for 5 levels of “Pro” licensing, from Individual at $8/mo. to 100 users for $200/mo. Licensing provides secure encrypted access, permissions controls, design customizability, priority support, and the ability to store a private library of drawings.]
Drawing/Editing Tools: One pretty cool and unique function Dabbleboard has is an intelligent “shape shorthand”, which interprets partially drawn shapes and creates a perfected version of the shape your drawing was implying. This makes it easy to quickly create great looking squares, rectangles, diamonds, ovals, circles, and other shapes or lines (this is illustrated nicely in this ‘tour' video). For example, if you draw the lines shown on the left below, the application will create the diamond on the right:
Dabbleboard has plenty more to offer for drawing and editing, including the ability to insert documents or images, draw freehand, a text tool, and personal and public libraries of drawings (and a group library under the paid programs). One other nice feature is the ability to create multi-page whiteboard areas (rather than having to always create a new document to start another drawing).
Inviting others to interact: Dabbleboard's Share and Chat panel provides a host of functionality for inviting others to participate in your session in a variety of ways. The URL for the whiteboard page you are currently working on is displayed there, you can email a link to invite someone to collaborate, you can embed the page as an image or widget on another page (on your own site, for example), and there is Chat functionality available. In my testing, I used the email a link (invitation) function, used the Chat function to communicate with the other participant after they connected, and we easily mutually edited a document and had no problem seeing each other's work.
Saving files: You can save any drawing you create as a “Library” item, which gives you great capabilities by enabling you to create and use a library of images. There is also a public library of images available (although they are mostly just other peoples random drawings). You can also save files on your own machine/media, but only in PNG format (requiring a compatible advanced graphics programs to read and edit). An easy way for most users to save their files for future editing is to simply save them in the Personal Library on Dabbleboard.
Help: In addition to a Help page, there is a User Forum, and a Contact page.
If you'd like to learn a little more about Dabbleboard, this 4 minute video overview is a great introduction: dabbleboard.com/tour. For a shorter overview, scan the “Top 10 reasons you should use Dabbleboard” below the video on the tour page.
In closing, Dabbleboard appears equipped to provide a highly functional environment for online whiteboard-style collaboration in the classroom, and the free version is probably entirely adequate for this use. ImaginationCubed also has some useful functionality and is very easy to access and share. I think both of these tools are worth trying in the classroom if you have an application that fits (and naturally I would love to hear back about your experiences if you do). Of course, any reader who has used these or other online tools, free or paid, we'd really appreciate your insights as well, so please comment. Thanks!