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James Reinders

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Next lesson: parallel programming for high schoolers

July 16, 2009

Question: should teaching programming and teaching parallel programming be separate and distinct?

I don't think so.

We've always had many elements to teach when we teach programming - data structures, algorithms, databases, parsing, scheduling, etc. Parallelism is yet-another item to throw on the list of things to teach as part of programming.

We've progressed from the introduction of multicore processors in some computers,  to nearly all near systems having multicore processors.

However, as I've pointed out a few times, parallel programming remains an advanced topic in graduate school studies and notably absent from too many university undergraduate courses.  Yes - we are making progress, and Intel's academic program is a major contributor to helping professors with material, ideas and sharing with like-minded professors.  But, it feels like we can do more.

Actions speak louder than words.

Next week, I'll be at Brooklyn Technical High School helping teach parallelism to top notch high school students and some of their high school teachers. The learning will be both directions as I expect to learn plenty myself.

I plan to write some follow-ups based on the experiences as they happen. For now, I will acknowledge and thank Randy Asher + Brooklyn Technical High School, Jeff Birnbaum + Bank of America, IBM (a 48-core system!!!), Blade Network Technologies and Intel for underwriting this effort and having the faith that 'parallel programming is fundamental.'

I'll also do an interview and discuss the experience afterwards with the Intel program 'Teach Parallel' and before that you can catch Jeff and Randy on July 21 talking about our plans.

I'm already getting questions about doing this for more high schools. For me, I'm going to stay focused on the first and see what we can do, and what we can learn.

Wish us luck! 

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