Benjamin Castleman

The 160-Character Solution

How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve Education

Johns Hopkins University Press 2015

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Teenagers live in their phones. As an educator you can try to pull them away or meet them where they are. The 160-Character Solution:...

Teenagers live in their phones. As an educator you can try to pull them away or meet them where they are. The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve Education (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2015) urges educators to meet teens on their must-have device.

Author Benjamin Castleman of the University of Virginia shows how text messaging combined with insights from behavioral science―more specifically the fields of behavioral economics and social psychology―can be leveraged to help students complete assignments, perform to their full potential on tests, and choose schools and colleges where they are well positioned for success.

In his own research, Castleman has studied how to use personalized text messages to reduce “summer melt,” in which up to 40 percent of high school graduates who have been accepted to college, mostly from underserved communities, fail to show up for the fall semester.

Behavioral strategies extend beyond texting and even beyond smartphone technology. By focusing on behavioral changes, Castleman demonstrates that small tweaks in how we ask questions, design applications, and tailor reminders can lead to better decision making and have remarkable impacts on student and school success. The 160-Character Solution makes a broader case for employing these behavioral strategies to improve educational outcomes from preschool all the way to college.


John Balz is Director of Strategy at VML, a full-service marketing agency with offices around the globe. He has spent his career applying behavioral science strategies in the marketing and advertising field through direct mail and email, display and .coms, mobile messaging, e-commerce and social media. You can follow on Twitter @Nudgeblog and contact him at [email protected].

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