What is it?
Hold is an app aimed at students that discourages them from using their mobile phone. Hold works by presenting a timer on screen that awards points every 20 mins. If you do exit the app, you receive a warning, and then if you don’t go back the timer resets to zero and you have to start again. The points that you earn can be converted into real-world prizes, such as; Amazon vouchers, coffee shop vouchers, and cinema treats.
The app certainly caught our eye in the TEL office after the BBC published an interesting article about it.
Why use it?
Hold is clearly targeted at students who need a way to counter an addiction to using their phones, and is trying to help those students to focus on their lectures, reading or revision. It’s particularly popular in Norway where 40% of students are using Hold to help focus on learning and break their addiction.
Smart phones have changed how we interact with the world, they provide 24/7 social interaction that is now the norm for many of us, especially young people who have never known any different. Yet some experts are already highlighting how this new lifestyle may not be healthy, so perhaps any way to gain a little more control over our digital lives should be seen as a good thing.
If the amount of users of the app increases it could be a fantastic way to focus the attention of those students who are easily distracted both in and outside of the classroom.
We are living in a digital age, many academics are using phones and tablets as part of their teaching. It could be seen as sending a mixed message if you simultaneously ask students to put away their devices, as they prevent them from concentrating, and also ask them to use mobile technology to learn in class.
It is more than likely that the creators of this app, and those like it, are hoping to tackle the issues of those students who struggle to focus their time on learning. It is not meant to destabilise any attempts at implementing new and innovative teaching tools in the classroom.
Apps like Hold do however raise the wider issue of how much a university is expecting the student to provide their own device for learning interactions. Should more money be put into providing each student with a learning device? Where once it was expected the student brings a pen and paper, should that expectation now be that they have a tablet or PC/Chromebook that they use for their note taking and/or classroom interactions?