Expand Your Bandwidth

In their chapter dedicated to Perceptual Learning, the authors offer some good advice under the apprenticeship pattern “Expand Your Bandwidth”. This pattern stood out to me because the main focus is on improving the learning process itself, not just skill building exercises.

The situation which the authors describe for us is an analogy which says that we as apprentices spend gain our knowledge by “drinking steadily through a straw”, and the fact that “there are seasons in an apprenticeship when one must drink from the fire hose of information”. This spoke to me because the fire hose metaphor is definitely how I feel. While it is important to take your time and learn the necessary development skills to their fullest extent, there are times in which we as apprentices need to open the flood gates of information and learn new skills and technologies as fast as humanly possible.

The reason why this pattern is called “Expand Your Bandwidth” is because that is the solution the authors provide for applying this pattern. They recommend a number of platforms such as a Google blog aggregator, following organizations on Twitter, as well as joining a technical conference whenever possible. I appreciate this advice, because it definitely makes sense to me to utilize the internet as much as possible as a vehicle for exposing us to as much information as possible, allowing us to accelerate our learning.

One important distinction or warning that the authors provide us budding apprentices is to not only know how to improve our volume and velocity of learning but to also know when to turn that off, and begin drinking from the proverbial straw again. While it is integral to be able to learn a vast amount of information efficiently, it is equally important to know when to slow down and focus more deeply on a smaller volume of data, allowing necessary skill development to accelerate as opposed to a broader learning approach.

This pattern definitely made an impression on me, and I will have to start applying that by taking up the authors advice to join a community or forum. Personally, I think I will begin by learning about contemporary industry related statistics provided by popular software development sites like stack overflow, etc.

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