Discover Studying Abroad

Professors Can Turn Off Your Phones Remotely

South Korean educators adopt the iSmartKeeper app, while US professors use Flipd to stop students from using their smartphones in class.
BY BrainGain Magazine Staff Writer |   30-07-2019

professors use Flipd to stop students from using their smartphones in class

Let's face it, your phone is a blessing and a curse. Behind its sleek glass front is a whole world of excitement. All your friends, the entirety of the Internet and OMG, a kitten video…If you haven’t the focus or self-discipline to keep the phone away when you’re trying to listen to a lecture, your professors have your back.

South Korea and the US may have different approaches, but it all boils down to educators fighting technology with technology.

The iSmartKeeper app

In South Korea they have developed an app called iSmartKeeper, that has the power to remotely control all devices when on campus. Teachers can choose to manage their students’ cell phone usage in several different ways.

With the app installed, teachers have the ability to lock phones down in one of six modes. They can choose to lock all of the phones in the school, allow only emergency calls, allow only phone calls, allow calls and SMS, or turn off specific apps. Using GPS geofencing technology, the app automatically takes control of phones as they enter the college grounds.

Meanwhile, the app of choice for US college professors is Flipd, which nudges students to spend less time on their phone — helping them to be present in the classroom.

Lorenz Neuwirth, a professor of biopsychology and neuropsychology at SUNY Old Westbury, in New York was tired of his students scrolling through their phones during class.

Flipd off

Neuwirth used his own money to pay for his students to download a new app called Flipd, which monitors the amount of time users spend on their phones. If students play with their phones during his classes, Neuwirth can now see and track it, and it affects their final grades.

Similar to Fitbit, the app can be used to set goals for how much time a user wants to spend off the phone, and then track the person’s minutes away from the screen.

Unlike other approaches to smartphone overuse that lock away phones or censure users for time spent online, Flipd rewards them for minutes spent offline. Success or failure notifications let them know if they have met their goals.

According to Flipd co-founder Alanna Harvey the app has over 500,000 users globally, including 60,000 in North America, and has been used at over 100 colleges across the United States.

In Professor Neuwirth’s class, 5% of a student’s final grade is docked if the student doesn’t use Flipd.

Kivanc Avrenli, a professor of analytics and statistics at Syracuse University, said he also had a hard time getting the attention of all his students before he started using the app.

“Even if you’re a stand-up comedian, even if you’re the most engaging teacher on earth, there would still be a few students who are constantly on their smartphones,” Avrenli told “The Washington Post.”

Now, 5% of their grade is based on attendance, and if he sees they have used phones in class, points are deducted.

Getting work done

“We can use mobile technology against distraction by mobile technology,” said Avrenli.

Although Avrenli met with some push back at first, he said it turned out way more successful than he thought.

“Students were excited to use it, especially when I explained to them why we were doing it, that [using phones in class] means they’re wasting their time, they’re wasting their money, and they get lost during lecture time," said Avrenli.

Now, he said, distraction by cellphones has completely gone away.

“They got to see that they can survive without checking their messages or emails during lecture time,” said the professor.

Apps like Flipd could serve as a valuable complement to tech giants’ screen-time monitoring tools.

Electronics in the classroom lead to lower test scores

A study finds that the intrusion of internet-enabled electronic devices (laptop, tablet and cell phone) has transformed the modern college lecture into a “divided attention task.”

"Many dedicated students think they can divide their attention in the classroom without harming their academic success – but we found an insidious effect on exam performance and final grades," said Arnold Glass, lead author of the study and professor of psychology at Rutgers University, New Brunswick in a statement.

"To help manage the use of devices in the classroom, teachers should explain to students the damaging effect of distractions on retention – not only on themselves, but for the whole class."




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