Staying Open to New Ideas

After a few years of using mainly one language to accomplish programming assignments, I will certainly admit to becoming complacent with Java. If I was asked to write pseudocode, my mind immediately begins object orientation and even begins running through some of the Java syntax. While this can be helpful, as I feel my ability to think in Java means that I may be well on my way to becoming bilingual, there are also many drawbacks to complacency.

Applying this Java-like thinking to problems in other languages or under other frameworks is where problems may arise. Rather than being open to discovering and developing new skills, the existing knowledge becomes a hindrance to learning. Attempting to apply existing knowledge to problems of a different sort or in a different language may slow progress, and make learning even more difficult and frustrating.

The solution offered by Hoover and Oshineye in Apprenticeship Patterns is to put on The White Belt and allow oneself to be ignorant by putting aside accumulated knowledge and experience, leaving no choice but to learn the way through trial, error and reflection. Treating new learning opportunities in this way allows for more deeper understanding and helps to create more smooth communications with members of the existing community.

I recently decided to expand my software development experience by studying JavaScript. While I feel confident that I have stumbled over the most difficult learning hurdles at this point, I wish that I had read this apprenticeship pattern before my attempt. I feel that I had a difficult time initially overcoming how fundamentally different JavaScript is, and often found myself grasping for the comfort of Java. It wasn’t until I took a step back from what I was doing that I realized I needed to open my mind to fully understand and appreciate JavaScript for what it was rather than how it was different from or similar to Java. The example that Apprenticeship Patterns uses, a lottery program written in three languages (Java, Io and J) is especially telling of this fact.

While I would have previously described myself as open minded and always willing to learn, I believe that The White Belt pattern has helped me see a more valuable way to approach new learning. I will certainly be using the ideas of Hoover and Oshineye the next time I attempt to learn a new programming paradigm.

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