App encourages students to focus on school, not phone through local rewards

Phone apps have recently entered a new market that is aimed to help students pay attention instead of adding to the distractions that plague high school and college students. Pocket Points is an app that utilizes location services at Bryan High while locking a student’s phone to prevent usage. In exchange, the app rewards users with points to be used toward free or discounted items at online or local businesses.

Sophomore Benjamin Denena is at the top of the Bryan High leader board with 426 points and has experienced can benefit student learning the app offers.

“I’ve used Pocket Points around town,” Ben said. “I got some brownies from Hungry Howie’s and the app has also helped me stay off my phone and pay more attention during class.”

Students aren’t the only ones who benefit from the Pocket Points app, Bryan High teachers and faculty are fans of the new tool as well.

“I’ve used these pocket points around town,” English teacher Rebecca Daley said. “Coach Ruiz, Ms. Ask, and a handful of other teachers got together and used our pocket points to go to Painting with a Twist.”

The discounts are nice, but teachers see the true value of the app in the way it can impact student learning.

“I tell my students to put their phones away,” Daley said. “I have a motto, it’s ‘Hit play, and put it away’ for whenever they’re allowed to have their cell phones out and listen to music. They’re welcome to keep them locked and out of sight, which is not in their hands and not in their lap, Pocket Points helps with that.”

When students choose to stay off their phones, they develop good habits that will continue in college and throughout life careers. Teachers have seen how effective it can be with college students and hope the same will happen with high school students.

“A buddy of mine and his study group of other nursing students at A&M would spend about 4 or 5 hours a day on campus studying together and they would keep the app,” English teacher Roy Klein said. “During study times they would accumulate the points and at the end of the semester, around finals, they would go get food 2 or 3 times a week and all of them would eat lunch together for free, because they had so many points.”

Some students prioritize socializing over learning and earning free things which may be why some students choose not to use the app.

“Students wouldn’t use the app because they’re on Instagram on their phone or Snapchat,” Ben said. “But I think it’s a great way to earn free stuff.”

Teachers agree that for many students, the benefit of using the app outweighs the negatives aspects.

“It seems that perhaps the younger students use it less because they really don’t have as much purchasing power as the older students,” Klein said. “They typically don’t have jobs cars. Several of the discounts are buy one get one free, and if they don’t have the money to buy one, they can’t get one free.”

Klein thinks more high school students might utilize the app if the point options included more teen friendly items.

“I would love to see Jumping World offer something because they seem to be very novel ideas right now,” Klein said. “I’d like to see more entertainment offers. The movie theaters, the jumping places, more restaurants. I’d like to see some of those that are a little more like a Dairy Queen or a Taco Cabana or Chick-Fil-A offer in there because kids spend a ton of time at those places.”

In another effort to encourage students to use the Pocket Points app, Daley suggests the school as a whole get involved.

“If the school itself did an incentive program I think it would get more students involved,” Daley said. “Whoever the leader of the week, or the month is at school could earn some kind of reward at school on top of the points awarded by the app.”