Smartphone app helps bring focus to classrooms

David Saveanu

Staff Writer

A smartphone app called Pocket Points has recently been gaining attention among college students.

Pocket Points is an app developed in 2014 to help students stay off their phones during class by awarding them points they can cash in at local businesses in exchange for discounts and free items and services.

Mitch Gardner and Rob Richardson developed the app. The idea struck the developers, when sitting in class and seeing their classmates with their heads bowed down, paying attention to their devices instead of the lesson.

“I knew there had to be some sort of incentive to get kids to put their phones away,” Richardson said.

Users must first create an account. After creating the account, the app asks permission to use the user’s location, so that it can track when students are on campus or off of campus. The app also asks for students’ school information, but this will change depending on the campus. Then, while the app is running in the background, it measures the amount of time students’ screens remain locked; the more the student has their phone locked, the more points they earn.

The website for Pocket Points welcomes new businesses to join their large group and makes it easily accessible to both internet and local businesses.

Over the course of a week, the average user rate at Parkland was 9.2 students a day according to the app. Tuesdays are double points, and accordingly the number of users is much higher in comparison to other days.

Of 16 students in the Champaign-Urbana area that were surveyed  about the app, 50 percent have the app but use it “not often.”

25 percent said they use it “1-2 times a week,” and 25 percent said they use it “all the time,” or “3-4 times a week.”

The surveyed students were asked if they’ve made use of the incentives awarded by the app, by using their Pocket Points; two-thirds said that they have. It seemed that students would often forget to use pocket points, even if they enjoyed the idea of the app.

Some students said that they feel that Pocket Points hasn’t proven effective at helping them pay attention in class, listing reasons like still being able to utilize laptops that keep them equally distracted. Along with this, students shared that the rewards are “not that great of an incentive.”

Other students said they’ve found it effective for studying outside of the classroom because it kept them off of social media.

There were also students who said the incentives are what “they actually want.”

“I think it encourages students to stay off their phones during class,” one anonymous user said. “In larger classroom settings it’s so easy to use your phone with no consequence, thus making it that much easier to spend the majority of class on social media sites. I think Pocket Points was incentive for me to not get consumed with my phone and to pay attention. It made me realize I was reaching for my phone out of habit and a lot more than I needed to be.”

A majority of the students shared that they loved the “free food” they can get with their points.

The app has also proven to be beneficial to local businesses, bringing traffic from both frequent customers and new customers, who come in to cash their points, the app’s website says.

For more information on Pocket Points, visit their website at pocketpoints.com or search for it in the App Store or the Google Play store.