• 02.09.15

This App Rewards Students For Not Looking At Their Phone During Class

Every 20 minutes they’re not on their phone while at school, they earn points to redeem at local stores and restaurants. And teachers are loving it.

This App Rewards Students For Not Looking At Their Phone During Class
[Top photo: Anna Jurkovska via Shutterstock]

Teachers hate it when students look at their phones during class. So, it’s no surprise to hear of their support for Pocket Points, a new app that rewards students for keeping their phones locked. It could make teachers’ lives easier, too.


To use the app, students sign up and open it as they enter class. The app confirms they’re in an academic building and students start earning points–one for every 20 minutes they don’t look at the phone. They can then redeem the rewards at participating stores and restaurants.

Two juniors at California State University, Chico launched the Pocket Points app about four months ago. It’s already in use at six colleges and five high schools. About 100 businesses, including Pita Pit, Coldstone Creamery, and lot of pizza and bagel shops, are on-board. The colleges using it include Penn State University, University of Arizona, University of Michigan, and San Diego State.

“It’s a win-win-win,” says one of the developers, computer science major Rob Richardson. “Students can increase their grades because they’re not using their phone when they shouldn’t be. Professors have been promoting and plugging it. They love that students are not on their phones. The businesses get more customers.”

The product-offers “cost” between five and 70 points. Typically, 25 points gets a free bagel or coffee. For example, the chain Carl’s Junior gives away free ice-cream sandwiches in one location.

Beyond expanding to more colleges and high schools, Richardson sees plenty of other opportunities. Teachers and professors could award students through the app, say for a good attendance record. Or, it could be adapted for other environments where phones are annoying, like restaurants.

“We’re not anti-technology,” says Richardson. “We’re exploring ways of keeping people off their phones when they don’t have to be on them. It’s not just the classrooms. That’s just the start.”

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.