Thomas Homer-Dixon, in his work The Ingenuity Gap, poses the question, “Can we solve the problems of the future?” We live in a time characterized by rapid and escalating rates of change, a shrinking of the “world stage”, and concomitant increases in complexity. Earlier this decade, the 2001 Canada Yearbook noted: “ … progress rides an electronic expressway of automation, information and instant communication. Advances in technology, the increased globalization of markets and the emergence of liberal trading regimes arefundamentally changing the way Canadians conduct their business” (Statistics Canada, 2001, updated 2003). Environmental concerns - as represented by global warming, the problem of dealing with waste management or the current debate over the Kyoto Accord - are significant issues for ensuring long-term sustainability. Health care in general, and in particular the potential for pandemics, is of increasing concern. There is an alarming potential for increased social unrest, which inevitably arises when the gaps between the “haves” and the “have-nots” widens, and when the structure of opportunity restricts potential to an elite subset of society. The scale of daily movement of money between countries has direct implication for domestic economic policy; it is no longer possible to take a “local” stand and not be affected by global developments. Diversity and multiculturalism are no longer ideals; they are realities of everyday life. These and a host of other critical global issues have a direct impact on how individuals conceive of the future and of their place in that future.
Education stands at the threshold of fundamental change; new technologies, historically introduced as add-ons to educational practice, possess the potential for creating radical shifts in virtually all forms of knowledge creation and dissemination. Just as the printing press vastly expanded the range of people who had access to information, communication technologies today have had a massive multiplier effect on information access. Knowledge is no longer the privileged domain of an elite few, nor is it exclusively created in restricted circles. Wikipedia has grown to become the world’s largest dictionary, and it did so through the cooperative contributions of millions of people around the world. Young people today engage in the learning process in fundamentally different ways than ever before. And, new learners are not just young learners; an emphasis on life-long learning means that people of all ages, cultures and backgrounds are entering and re-entering educational settings throughout their lifespan. The people that we prepare to take on roles of educators and researchers in the educational research enterprise need to learn how to become difference makers in society. They will need to be skilled in preparing learners for unknown futures.
The Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University has a proud history of responding to the challenges of education. Here, you will experience a stimulating array of programs designed to meet the professional and personal learning needs of students. Here, you will see a commitment to serving the needs of the various communities we serve, while maintaining high standards of academic quality. Here, you will find a rich and varied research culture, and have the opportunity to work with world-class researchers exploring the full spectrum of educational issues. And, here you will experience an opportunity to learn, to grow and to belong.
I am very excited to have joined a group of truly exceptional colleagues who are dedicated to helping people develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes for discovering and shaping their preferred futures. I invite you to have a look around, to learn more about what we are all about, and to join us in shaping the future of education.
Dean, Faculty of Education