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Microsoft Works with Educators

Microsoft Works with Educators And Open Source to Support Free Knowledge Sharing Wiki

New open source extension for Microsoft Word delivers support for MediaWiki file format so users can upload documents directly into Wiki repositories.

Microsoft, working alongside the Open Education Resource (OER) Foundation at Otago Polytechnic and the Ministry of Education, has produced a new, open source extension for Microsoft Word that allows documents to be saved in a Wiki-friendly format called MediaWiki, as used by the popular online encyclopedia, Wikipedia.

The new extension will help educators collaborate to build new open educational resources. OER Foundation Director, Dr Wayne Mackintosh, says, “By building MediaWiki support into Microsoft Office, teachers will be able to quickly and easily share their learning materials via online repositories such as Wikipedia and WikiEducator. For educational institutions that adopt OER approaches to providing resources and text books, it means they can significantly lower the barrier of cost when it comes to providing students with the tools and information they need to gain an education.”

MediaWiki has gained strong support from the Ministry of Education who share the OER Foundation’s vision for the education sector.

“We are delighted to see the innovation of an open source add-on to the Microsoft Office toolset. This will enable NZ teachers and students to more easily engage in Wiki-style educational discussions and share educational resources,” says Leanne Gibson, Chief Information Officer

Otago Polytechnic hosts the Head Office for the Foundation, which is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that provides leadership, international networking and support for educators and educational institutions to achieve their objectives through Open Education. WikiEducator is a flagship initiative of the OER Foundation that strives to make learning materials free for students around the world, particularly in under-developed countries where conventional education systems often prove unaffordable.

Microsoft has funded development of new functionality for Word in order to provide educators around the world with a low cost way of producing and sharing educational content using Wiki-based tools.

Microsoft New Zealand’s Platform Strategy Manager, Andrew Gordon, says the company is committed to working with the open source community to develop learning materials that benefit students and teachers alike.

“Microsoft has a strong link to education through our ongoing Citizenship initiatives such as the Imagine Cup, the world’s largest student technology competition, so MediaWiki was a natural fit for us as was the decision to release the source code under an Open Source license and allow it to be shared by the community. Given that Microsoft Word is used so extensively throughout the world’s educational institutions, we at Microsoft are keen and very proud to be able do our bit to make high quality educational resources available to everyone, regardless of their situation.”

The MediaWiki File Filter is simple enough that it can be installed quickly and easily by non-technical users. In addition, the code used to develop the MediaWiki File Filter has been released under an open source license, which means the software can be re-used freely as the basis for Microsoft Office support for other MediaWiki file formats. It also provides a reference for anyone who has a need to publish information from Microsoft Office. The MediaWiki File Filter for Word will work with any version of Microsoft Office software from 2007 onwards, including the recently released Office 2010.

Peter Harrison, Vice President of the New Zealand Open Source Society commends the release, saying “The Internet provides humanity with a unequalled opportunity to leverage our communication technology to educate people across the globe. Through collaborative technologies such as Wiki people can work together to create rich common resources that are open to all. By enabling users to export their content from Word into MediaWiki Microsoft are encouraging the availability of a far wider range of educational resources online. ”

Otago Polytechnic is a world leader in Open Education and is the first New Zealand tertiary education institution to sign the Cape Town Open Education Declaration. It is the first tertiary education institution in the world to approve and implement an intellectual property policy that uses the Creative Commons Attribution license by default, and is committed to education for sustainability as embodied in their strategic plan.

Additional resources and information regarding the WikiEducator project are available at the
WikiEducator website: http://wikieducator.org.

For more information about Microsoft Office 2010 products for New Zealand Students and educators please visit the following website, www.microsoft.com/studentNZ, or ask your software supplier about academic pricing.

ENDS

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