There is a lot of hype around at present with respect to the new millennium. Y2K, as the techno-inspired language refers to it, is big news and big business. Issues like the Y2K bug captured the collective imagination not only of those charged with finding a solution to the problem but also of those lay people who were concerned that there would still be something in their bank account as the year 99 clicked over to the year 00. The opening year of the twenty-first century may be significant from the perspective of possible problems with the technologies that are dependent on messages programmed on computer chips, but it will probably be rather unremarkable for teacher education. Although there is little doubt that teacher education in most western countries has been changing, the changes have been more the result of a changing context than of a particular calendar event.
According to Giddens ( 1991), 'The "world" in which we now live is in some profound respects . . . quite distinct from that inhabited by human beings in previous periods of history' (p5). One way or another, we need to understand what these 'profound respects' might be and to begin to contemplate the extent to which our current ways of thinking about education in general and teacher education in particular are appropriate to the beginning of the twenty-first century.
Social commentators have given many labels to the present period of history. For some it is the information age; for others it is post-modernity, late modernity, high modernity or even the age of uncertainty. In this chapter I use the term 'new times' to label this contemporary period.
Importantly, it is not just the 'times that are a' changin". According to educational researchers such as Green and Bigum ( 1993) and Smith, Curtain and Newman ( 1996), kids also are changing. Indeed, many of these 'new kids' are now student teachers in our universities (see Sacks, 1996). I take seriously the point made by Smith et al. ( 1996) that a siege mentality (in this case regarding teacher education) is not an appropriate response to the impact of 'new times'