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Staying off of your phone? There’s an app for that!

Alex Engel

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Spring 2014 – 18 year old high school senior Rob Richardson looked on as his classmates were sucked into the distracting, attention clutching glow of their iphones. He wondered how he can push kids to stay off of their cellphone, but give them incentive as well.

Now, in the fall of 2016, his game-changing app has helped to improve focus amongst high school and college students alike. His new concept, “Pocket Points” has been a recent success in the college setting, rewarding students for taking a break from their tech-savvy generation.

The idea of Pocket Points is to get kids off of their phones, and more involved in the classroom. The app rewards students for staying off of their mobile devices, and awards points according to the amount of time spent on their lock screens.

“We noticed how distracted students had become with their cell phones. As any entrepreneur, we were looking for a great solution to a big problem” Co-founder Mitch Gardner stated in our interview.

Oconomowoc High School recently introduced this app to their students, encouraging kids to gain points and win prizes throughout the school day. They are second only to the University of Madison to join the select two Wisconsin schools on the pocket points database.

The app seems to be gaining popularity amongst students, as they try to save up enough points for discounts on food, clothing, and other expenses that they would normally pay full price for. Restaurants like Taco Bell, Subway, Chocolate Factory, and even Oconomowoc’s own Cornerstone pub are taking part in the experience by offering special deals for the students.  

It seems like a no-brainer, get rewarded for paying attention in class, get better grades, and save money all at the same time, not to mention saving phone battery as well.

“I think that the mentality of it is that if you’re going to be stuck in class not being able to be on your phone then why not get free points for doing something that you have to do” OHS sophomore Sydney Evenson said. “It may not always keep kids off of their phones but it does make me feel better while I’m sitting in class and feeling more engaged knowing that I am earning more points for not looking at my phone.”

Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas are the only states that have more than 4 schools involved in the program, while states just like Maryland, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, South Carolina and West Virginia only have one school to call their own.

Students and teachers alike are noticing the change in attention related to cell phone use during the day. The app is working to undermine a national crisis in our society, and might just be enough to raise grades as well.

“As far as our expectations for success, we never thought about it too much. Our dreams were big, but we were so focused on the task at hand and taking it one step at a time“ Gardner says. “There have been a number of studies showing how cell phone use in class negatively impacts students grades. Pocket Points will continue to mitigate this issue”.

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