Hello Emily,
It depends on what is being tested, but I agree in general.
My rationale for agreement is:
- It is important to assess whether a student can utilize what they have learned to a non-test environment. I would hope that a student would know how to use the "right tool" outside the classroom.
- A student will be able to get insight on whether they are getting the problem right during the test. This is a learning opportunity and allows the student to do self-assessment.
- The test problems can be more open-ended: students could achieve higher scores with deeper or more "aesthetic" answers. This translates into real world assessment.
- The student will have the exam returned to them as a notebook and will be able to compare it to a prototype "instructor's answer". It will be a living document for the student.
- The burden of the mechanics of doing a problem by hand and worrying about mistakes is shifted towards a burden of understanding applying the concept being tested.
- This is similar to historical arguments about whether students should use sliderules, use calculators, use graphing calculators, etc. All objections to progress tend to evaporate as the tools become more mainstream.
- Testing with access to Mathematica will create good coders. Coding is an element of technological literacy.
- Testing with Mathematica will encourage students to use Mathematica on their homeworks. Homework is where learning takes place; exams are where assessment takes place.
However, there are some issues that have to be thought through carefully.
- Real world testing has elements of thinking on one's feet: most initial impressions of professional colleagues involves ability to converse rapidly and clearly. This may be lost.
- I can imagine that Mathematica could be useful on a history exam, or even in some essays. One should be careful to distinguish "allowed to", "encourage to", and "required to". However, it will be difficult to grade exams if students have an option to use mathematica on any exam or not.
- One would need to think carefully about how to handle crashes or other external technology failures in an exam environment.
- While I am enthusiastic about Mathematica, I would be uncomfortable requiring Mathematica without allowing access to similar tools.
There are likely to be an objection associated with cost and licensing. However, I think this is a red herring. Calculators and subsequently PCs, laptops, etc, evolved from a luxury to
de rigeur in most educational environments. Let's hope that society would provide modern tools to those who can't afford them.
Pardon the longish answer!