Monday, February 24, 2020

Pocket Points - What to Expect and How to Make It Work

Phones are a problem.  It is hard to compete with social media and games.  Just look around at your next PD or faculty meeting and you'll see that students are not the only ones lured away from content by that glowy screen.

So what is a teacher to do?

Well, you could try smashing their phone in class.  Several videos exist of teachers doing this.  But unless you are only after YouTube clicks, that is likely to cause you more trouble than what it is worth.  Unless, of course, you teach in Central China and it is a school sponsored event:

You are seemingly limited to three options:

  1. Confiscate the phone - bad option as you are potentially liable for any damages to the phone that you actually caused or are accused of causing.  I sure, though, that your local school board will take your side against the angry parent who wants you to pay for the replacement of that new iPhone.
  2. Argue with the student about your cell phone policy - also a bad option as who wins in that scenario?  Maybe you will.  Maybe you'll just have administration tired of coming to your room to remove yet another kid who won't put his/her phone away.  And while you are fighting that battle?  Your other students are left not learning anything.
  3. Give up and let those who don't wish to learn fail - The best of the three, but try explaining that to your AP when he or she comes in to observe you.  This also is bad since kids who would try and focus are now seeing others get away with using their phones and it makes them more likely to pull out theirs.

However, there is always Option 4.


You have probably seen this app, but wasn't sure if it was worth using or not.  I gave it a shot last semester and liked it enough to do it again.

What it does:

Once the Pocket Points app has been loaded on a student's phone and your class code has been entered, then all the student does is pull up their phone and click the app icon.  No log in needed after the first go.  The phone immediately goes into lock mode, hiding the screen with a quite satisfying counter that shows the student's minutes racking up.

The student need not worry.  When the phone locks, it will unlock at any time the student wishes to unlock it.  So if Johnny locks the phone and then fifteen minutes later remembers he has to text momma, he can just unlock the phone with a click.  Of course, it will stop earning time until it is locked again.

Is it a miracle cure?

No.  However, if you do it right, you can see more success (more on that later in this post).  The students who are never on their phone get rewarded for doing what you want them to do, which is nice.  The students who hate to be off the phone will have a hard time buying into this.  But the reason why this is a great thing is that students who are in between tend to choose the rewards, thus really cutting down on the phone use overall in your class.

About 2/3 of my class use it, most of them fairly regularly.  That's not bad.

How hard is it to set up?
Not too hard.  The student downloads the app.  Then they put in their phone and email address.  Once they verify their email address, they will have to restart the app and it will look like they are repeating the process, but after they get their confirmation code again, it will ask them to find their school on the menu.  

Then it gets a little tricky.  The app looks like it is running, but the student has to click the apple icon at the bottom to enter your classroom code.  After that, it is just a matter of locking it.  

But Wait!  There's More!

Students who lock up their phone earn rewards not just in your classroom, but in the community as well.  Red Box movies, Papa John's Pizza, and other companies give students rewards and discounts for keeping their phone locked up for certain hours.  It also will give points to students whose phones are locked while they are driving.

How to Do It Right

You have to be willing to give out the rewards.  Every Friday I pull up the rewards page and dole out the goodies.  You need to do this regularly and you need to do this publicly.  Once kids start seeing other kids getting things, well, that is motivation in itself.

My rewards are set up in five hour increments.  At that setting, it is not too hard to earn a reward once a week, or at least once every two weeks.  Some of the things I give out:

  • A Divine Intervention (this is a homework pass)
  • Quiz bonus points
  • Team points (for a game we play in class)
  • +10 test bonus (you need quite a bit of points to get that one)
And other stuff.  Whatever you choose, make it something worth turning the phone off for.

I reset everything in the second quarter since it only goes up to 50 hours.

You also should have the Pocket Points rewards and classroom code available on the wall so that students can decide to participate later on.  The first semester I tried this, I only told the students to set up the app on the first day of school.  This semester I have it on the wall and I am having a much higher participation rate as students are convincing each other to give it a shot.  They like those rewards.

If you have tried this app in your classroom, I would love to hear how it is working for you!  Also, if you have a different phone management system, let me hear it!  

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