Teaching Parallel Computing to Freshmen
[johnson:freshmen]Donald Johnson, David Kotz, and Fillia Makedon. Teaching Parallel Computing to Freshmen. Proceedings of the Conference on Parallel Computing for Undergraduates, 7 pages. Edited by Chris Nevison. Colgate University, Colgate University, June 1994. ©Copyright Colgate University.
Parallelism is the future of computing and computer science and should therefore be at the heart of the CS curriculum. Instead of continuing along the evolutionary path by introducing parallel computation “top down” (first in special junior-senior level courses), we are taking a radical approach and introducing parallelism at the earliest possible stages of instruction. Specifically, we are developing a completely new freshman-level course on data structures that integrates parallel computation naturally, and retains the emphasis on laboratory instruction. This will help to steer our curriculum as expeditiously as possible toward parallel computing.
Our approach is novel in three distinct and essential ways. First, we will teach parallel computing to freshmen in a course designed from beginning to end to do so. Second, we will motivate the course with examples from scientific computation. Third, we use multimedia and visualization as instructional aids. We have two primary objectives: to begin a reform of our undergraduate curriculum with an laboratory-based freshman course on parallel computation, and to produce tools and methodologies that improve student understanding of the basic principles of parallel computing.
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