Student response systems (SRS) have become a common classroom technology, whether as a dedicated device or Internet-based, and an option that I have used for several years. However, laser pointers are also an interesting, though less commonly used /discussed, SRS option [1, 2]. Rather than an indirect system of displaying questions and gathering the student responses through server-based technologies, laser pointers support students (even in large classes) directly pointing at their answer among those presented. While finding that the use of laser pointers provides some interesting new interactions, this case study implies they do lack one strong benefit; a positive impact on attendance and the benefits that improved class attendance can bring to students.
I had taught a large-lecture course, introductory programming course, taken primarily by CS/CE majors, but open to non/potential majors as well, for many years without any SRS before moving to using "clickers" and then to laser pointers. The switch to using laser pointers was done in order to personally explore how the classroom experience might be altered by replacing clickers with them. Questions of pedagogy and practicality both arose. What does the use of laser pointers allow that the typical clicker system does not and what clicker abilities are lost when using laser pointers? What is gained or lost? While laser pointers could prove to be more flexible in terms of dynamic interaction and flow, might students not engage as much due to the removal of the accountability and tracking that clicker systems support?