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Articles / Preparing for College / Ignore Phone in Class = Free Food!

Ignore Phone in Class = Free Food!

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Feb. 5, 2015

Sometimes I just have to ask, "What kind of world are we living in?" I asked myself this question yesterday when I came across this article: US colleges offer free food to students who ignore their phones in class. That's a stunning headline, in my view.

Okay, so we've come to the point in our Facebook-driven society where teachers, professors, and administrators have to bribe students to pay attention in class. As if Google Glass wasn't bad enough.

Here's the thrust of what's happening:

Thousands of college students in the United States are being bribed to ignore their phones during class with free food and store discounts. Students at colleges including Penn State and California State University, Chico, have downloaded an app called Pocket Points that tracks how long a smartphone is kept locked and gives out points accordingly. The app — first developed by a student at the Chico university — encourages students to earn points by ignoring their mobile devices, rewarding them with treats for paying attention to the classes they pay thousands of dollars for.

Check out those links for PSU's policy and for the app itself. For those of you who don't care to click on the PSU link, here's what's going on with that:

You could earn free food or discounts on Penn State gear just by staying off your phone while you're in class.

Emily Turner, a sophomore Penn State student, helped develop an app called Pocket Points that rewards its users for keeping their phones away during class time.

The app recognizes when your phone is in a classroom on campus. In order to start earning points, all you need to do is open the app at the start of class and then lock your phone. You will accumulate points for as long as your phone stays locked.

Once you rack up enough points, you can use them for discounts and rewards at businesses downtown, including D.P. Dough, Rotelli, Bradley's Cheesesteaks and Hoagies, Dwellings Boutique, the Student Bookstore, and more. For example, 10 points gets you a 15 percent discount off any Penn State apparel at the Student Bookstore, or 15 points could get you two free cookies at Pita Pit. Turner said more downtown businesses are in the process of being added to the app in the near future.

It takes about 20 minutes to earn one point, but there is potential to gather points faster. The more students who are using it on campus at the same time, the faster the points add up.

Pocket Points was first developed by one of Turner's friends, who goes to California State University, Chico, which is apparently a school that actually exists. After the app took off, Turner's friend approached her to help develop the app for Penn State. According to Turner, Pocket Points already has about 1,000 downloads in Happy Valley.

The app is only developed for these two campuses right now, but is set to launch at other schools around the country soon. You can download the app here.

Here's the scoop on the app:

About Pocket Points

Pocket Points is a new mobile application that gives students rewards for not using their phones during class. Simply open up the application, lock your phone, and start gaining points. Points are then used to get awesome discounts at local businesses in store!

- Go to class

- Earn points for not using your phone

- Use points to get deals near you

I started a thread about this topic on the College Confidential discussion forum. There were some interesting comments. Here are a few:

- Please send the complete list. It looks like I'll have some last-minute applications to send in.

- I'd love this. I never go on my phone in class - I actually intentionally sit right in the front so I'm not tempted to, so the app would work wonders for me. I'd be able to generate free food without much effort.

- What's next? Free ice cream if they do their homework?

- Couldn't you just keep it locked all night and then get free food for nothing?

- You could, but you'd have to live in the classroom. The app uses GPS technology to make sure you're actually within a defined region where classrooms are.

- I would think that the non-dischargable debt so many students are taking on would be incentive enough to actually make something out of your education but I guess it isn't.

- I find it sad that something like this even needs to exist. I very rarely even touch my phone in class. I'll occasionally slip it out of my pocket to check the time, but that's about it. People are too attached to their devices. I'm pretty sure we're all capable of going a whole hour and a half without checking Facebook...lol

- All this being said, I don't see why it's a problem if you use your smartphone wisely.

In my classes I'll often use it to look something up for a professor or translate something in French class, and if something important is happening in my life, I'll have it out so I can reply to texts when necessary. I don't think this kind of usage is inappropriate at all and I think I should have perfectly liberty to do so without feeling bad about it.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I wouldn't like to trade this kind of freedom for free food.


I've mentioned before in past articles about noticing the students who walk across campus on a typical day. What do you see? Young men and women completely disassociated from their environment, listening to their iPods, checking their Facebook pages, and sending text messages. This behavior carries over into the classroom, where professors have to deal with a sea of students who would rather squint at an iPhone than make eye contact with the person trying to trade them some wisdom for their massive tuition dollars.

I always think of this story when I ponder all the "cell-phone zombies" I see on campus:

Watch Out! Texting While Walking Lands Teen in Trouble

On almost any busy street these days you'll find people enamored with their cell phones, happily tapping away at keys or peering at teeny tiny screens. Rarely are they looking straight ahead.

This apparently was the case when a Staten Island, N.Y., teen who was texting fell into a manhole while strolling with a friend last week.

Alexa Longueira was about to send a text message when she suddenly slipped under the sidewalk. ...

You can read all the uncomfortable details for yourself.

My admonition to all of you younger people who are so irrevocably attached to your phones: Look up! There's a beautiful world surrounding you, as well as teachers who want to educate you (not to mention those open manholes!).


Be sure to check out all my admissions-related articles on College Confidential.


Admit This

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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