Saturday, August 10, 2019

Pocket Points App Lets Students Earn Rewards And Save Money

As a former high school assistant principal, and current teacher, I can tell you that cell phones on school campuses are a pain in the butt!  It doesn't matter what type of school it is, private, charter, public, small or big, most students will struggle staying off their phone in class.  If students check their phones during a lesson, for whatever reason, they're not really "present" or in the moment learning all they can from their hardworking teacher.

I consider myself a fairly tech friendly teacher, and I allow my students to use their phones ONLY for instructional purposes that I design.  Still, there are teachers who don't allow them out in class at all!  Inevitably, all teachers no matter their style will become a disciplinarian, and lose precious instructional time enforcing cell phone policies and rules.

What about parents?  Well, they too hate having to deal with problems their teen child caused at school.  If cell phone abuse gets out of hand, many parents simply take the phone away, essentially crushing their child's entire world. HA!

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According to legend (the wikipedia page), in 2014 CEO and co-Founder Rob Richardson was sitting at the back of a large class one day while at Chico State University when he noticed several of his fellow students missing out on the lecture on account of their smartphones.  The light bulb went off in his head, and along with his frat brother, Mitch Gardner, they created an app that incentivizes students to stay off their phone while on campus and more!

Similar to Facebook, Pocket Point's initial audience or app user base were college students across the country.  Rob and Mitch figured students would be more willing to temporarily "lock" their phones if they could earn food rewards, e.g., a free pizza slice from the local restaurant.  So they sought business partnerships with brands and merchants willing to help students stay off their phones.

In turn, these businesses get additional traffic and sales by getting "in front of" (mobile advertising) their generation Z consumer.  But that's not all, Rob and Mitch figured they could also try to get professors to participate.  After all, some professors may spend most of their time talking to the board, but they have eyes in the back of their heads!  Surely they notice all the young eyes glued to screens.  They pitched the app: extra credit points for engagement.  What say ye?  The faculty's answer: No!  Professors ain't got time for that!  

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As they say, when one door closes another one opens up.  Rob and Mitch thought about all the high school students in America; they're even more addicted to their phones!  Classroom teachers across the country would probably be way more open to giving extra credit (or other classroom perks) on assignments if it resulted in more students being off their phones.  Rob and Mitch were right.  Think about respond better to rewards than punishments, and teachers themselves would rather be positive with their students versus negative.      

How does Pocket Points App Work?

Once you download the app on your phone for free, you get to select whether you're a student or teacher.  If you're a student, you then give Pocket Points permission to access your location and motion.  This is how the app determines if a student is in class or driving.  You also have to find your school from a list of schools in your area.  There are probably a few more steps, but this is how far I got with this option not being a student myself.  While the app is on, your phone is on lock mode, and you start earning points you can later redeem on the merchant gift page.  With teachers, you don't earn points.  Rather, you accumulate time off your phone and teachers determine how much of it earns you a particular reward.

The app works differently for teachers.  You start out by "Creating a Class" on the app.  You can set the title of the class, time, and date it is in session.  Then you create a reward.  This is where teachers get to be creative.  The reward doesn't have to always be extra credit.  You can reward your students a myriad number of ways (homework pass, extra bathroom pass for the semester, free McDonald's lunch, etc.).  Advanced settings let you fine tune the reward.  Finally, similar to Google Classroom, an invite code generated by the app lets you add students into any particular class.     

What Are The Reviews So Far?

If you go to the App store on an iPhone and look for the Pocket Points app, you will find that it has a 4.7 out of 5 rating with a total of 13,240 reviews.  That's pretty good.  After reading some of the negative reviews, it seems there was bug in the app at some point and students were upset (left bad reviews) because their points weren't being recognized or fully tallied.  Other glitches included the app not turning on properly at times.  Finally, some reviewers suggested a need for better deals, and more business partnerships.  All of these issues were seemingly handled by the Pocket Points customer service team.

Positive reviews, which were plenty, stated that the app helped just like advertised.  In other words, students were very thankful that they got food or apparel at a discount from local vendors.  Many of them became more aware of their phone addiction.  As a teacher, I was curious to see if any of the reviews were left by educators.  I couldn't find any within the first 30 or so ratings I glanced through.  But an email from the company provided several positive teacher testimonials.  The email also stated that in Spring 2019, "teachers kept students off the phone for 10 million hours of class time."  I find that to be very impressive!  Keep up the good work Pocket Points!

Well, thanks for being here and reading to the end.  For the record, I'm not being paid to write this review.  I read about the company online and thought it would be great to share what it's doing to help my favorite people: students and teachers.  Until next time!    

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