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Brief Published: 9 Feb 2015

App Rewards Attention in Class

Pocket Points encourages students to disconnect

Student entrepreneurs from California State University in the US have developed an app that rewards students who ignore their smartphones during class.

Pocket Points recognises when users are on campus, and awards them points for every 20 minutes that they leave their phone locked while running the app. Points are exchangeable for free or discounted goods at partnered local businesses. For example, 15 points is equal to two free cookies.

The app's creators believe phone addiction is a pervasive problem on campus. "I look around in my class of 100 people, and I see half the kids with their heads down," co-founder Robert Richardson told US news website Action News Now.

The app currently has more than 3,000 users in two US universities – California State University (Chico campus) and Pennsylvania State University. The young developers are planning to expand their offering across the US to become a national voucher platform.

Most US consumers struggle to go more than two hours without checking their smartphones, according to a 2014 study by US tech firm Crucial. However, some commentators argue it is better to work with this always-on, tech-savvy attitude. Speakers at Re.Work's Future of Education conference, held in London in 2014, urged educators to embrace digital experiences in the classroom, rather than trying to block access to mobile technology. Read more in our event report.