For some students, putting away their phones during class is an impossible task. Normally, schools develop rules and polices about cell phone use, and students happily ignore them. But at a couple of universities, the administration is trying something new: they're turning "don't check your phone during class" into a game.

Using an app called "Pocket Points," schools can track when students are in the classroom—and when they're using their phones. Students can earn points by using the app at the start of class time. The app will then track how long students keep their phones locked. The less they check their phones, the more points students get. And the more points students get, the more free food or discounts they can get at local stores. Every twenty minutes of phone lockdown earns students points, but that rate goes up the more students use the app at the same time.

Right now, the app is being used at California State University, Chico, as well as Penn State, according to one of the school's newspapers. And at least one thousand students have downloaded the app, which was developed by a sophomore student at Penn State.


I'm curious how this experiment turns out—I wouldn't be surprised if someone figured out how to game the system, so that they can just get a ton of free pizza or something. That's the thing about games: people like to optimize them, for maximum reward. For now, though, the app plan sounds promising.