Microsoft at Bett 2013: Digital Exercise Book

Guest post from Gerald Haigh. Gerald writes regularly for the Microsoft series of education blogs. 

Continuing my hot pursuit of early Windows 8 adopters, I had an interesting conversation the other morning with David Rogers, Geography Curriculum Leader and Professional Tutor at Priory School in West Sussex. David is a Microsoft Innovative Teacher, and it’s easy to see why, because not only is he full of ideas, but he also has the knack of switching on mental lightbulbs in the mind of the person – in this case me – to whom he’s talking.

Our chat was about the use of Windows 8 tablets in school, because David’s been trialling six of them, from Asus, Acer and Fujitsu, with some of his students.

The experience has clearly opened up some intriguing possibilities for him. At the heart of his thinking is the key feature, which is that a Windows 8 tablet presents users with their familiar Microsoft software together with the possibility of easy collaboration and communication between and among students and teacher.


What really lit up my lightbulb, though, was the way David could see this opening up the possibility of a genuine digital exercise book.

‘You can see it working, if they all have a W8 tablet – using OneNote and SkyDrive, teacher giving feedback by annotating work, and recording their voice. Comments could go to one student, or all of the tablets if necessary. I think of GCSE projects, for example, and the ability in OneNote to drag in videos or diagrams.’

Annotation and the addition of comments and short notes on pieces of work by a teacher or a student is particularly easy, says David, when it’s possible to use a stylus.

‘I’d underestimated the importance of the stylus, but the students were off and running with it for handwriting recognition.’

So, ponder on all that, and then imagine an exercise book that --

  • Doesn’t have to be handed in, at a stroke removing all the familiar logistical and transport issues that come with handling sets of books
  • Offers an on-demand, anytime/anywhere open channel between teacher and student without the need to wait until the work is complete
  • Provides access to further advice from the teacher, including voice or video
  • Can be used for work in pairs, groups or the whole class
  • Preserves a complete record of the work even when the device is dropped into the swimming pool, left on the bus, or eaten by the dog (good luck with that one, Rover)

That’s what’s possible right now with the Office suite, SkyDrive, OneNote, touchscreen and stylus, all together in a neat tablet. It looks like a winner to me.

If you are keen to hear more about the concept of the digital exercise book, David Rogers will be presenting twice daily on the Microsoft stand at Bett 2013. The full schedule is available via the Microsoft at Bett 2013 website.

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