Interview | Dusty Heuston: Waterford, Reading and the Third Source

Dr. Dustin Heuston founded the nonprofit Waterford Institute in 1976 to create educational software that would help manifest his passion and vision—to provide excellence and equity in education—for all children—via the power of interactive, personalized technology. While running the Spence School in NYC where students were receiving the highest quality education available, Dr. Heuston (“Dusty”) realized he wanted to find a way to provide high quality, effective instruction for all students anywhere. He saw that interactive, personalized technology was key in transforming the way we teach children early learning skills and that getting an early start in education is critical. In Dr. Heuston’s recently published book about the power of interactive technology in furthering early childhood education, The Third Source: A Message of Hope for Education, one can read how he came to understand and create curricula to leverage the exponential potential of technology. The book is available at thethirdsource.org.

Victor: What does the name Waterford Institute mean?

Dusty: I spend summers with my family in Waterford, Vermont. While there in 1976, I came up with the non-profit idea. I then named Waterford Institute after the town. Waterford Institute is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Victor: What is it? Who created it?

Dusty: Waterford Institute is a premier research facility and software pioneer located in Salt Lake City, Utah, with offices worldwide. As founding chairman, I created the non-profit Board of Trustees in New York City. The board was composed of business leaders, educators, entrepreneurs, civic leaders, investment bankers, and attorneys. Waterford Institute studies the research in the field, and then uses its resources to modify the potential of technology to serve children. It has been funded by private donations, foundations, government grants, and royalties from its products. Waterford Institute develops all of its own materials including text, books, music, graphics and animation, and programming software (at one point Waterford Institute even had to develop its own hardware). It is staffed with scholars from various disciplines, PhDs, research scientists, graphic artists, musicians, and programmers. The Institute also works with consultants who are leaders in their respective fields.

Victor: What does it do and what are some of the benefits?

Dusty: Waterford Institute is the world leader in developing adaptive curricula for children age 3 through 8. Whether for in-school learning or use in the comfort of one’s home, Waterford Institute has developed a suite of products to prepare and support children for early academic success. The Website www.waterford.org details all products and benefits, including the following five research-proven pioneers:

  • School (Pre-K – Grade 2) - Waterford Early Learning (Reading, Math, and Science): Waterford Early Reading Program provides a complete language arts program for preschool through second-grade students, covering crucial skills like phonemic awareness, phonics, text comprehension, vocabulary, print concepts, readiness skills, writing, and oral fluency. Waterford Early Math and Science™ provides preschool through second-grade students’ comprehensive instruction in the five major areas of early math: numbers and operation, geometry, algebra, measurement, and data analysis. The integrated science curriculum emphasizes exploration and the scientific method while teaching earth, life, and physical science.
  • Home (K – Grade 2) – Rusty and Rosy ReadingSM: Previously available only in schools Rusty and Rosy Reading is now available via DVD for the home. It provides an adaptive, sequenced core curriculum that teaches early reading skills utilizing cutting-edge technology. Components include more than 180 hours of instruction; over 4,000 activities; more than 185 digital books; over 185 animated songs; child and parent modules; the ability for parents to track progress online via progress evaluations; newsletters, worksheets, checklists, puppets, flashcards, and games.  Each child requires his or her own subscription for personalized learning.
  • Home (Pre-K) – UPSTART: A pioneering in-home pre-school instructional program for 4-year-olds that is funded by the Utah legislature. UPSTART has been extremely successful in teaching pre-literacy skills via three educational software programs, including delivery in the home, connectivity, and a proactive user support team. In its third year, UPSTART has provided its curricula 5 days a week to 1,300 families with 4-year-olds, with 96% of parents declaring their child is more ready to enter kindergarten after UPSTART.
  • Home & School (K – Grade 3) – Camp Consonant™: The world’s first multi-sensory tutoring program, Camp Consonant is designed to help children build basic literacy skills. Based on rigorous research in reading instruction, Camp Consonant is also fun and engaging, making it an effective tool for building strong, confident readers. One in five children will require remedial tutoring, and Camp Consonant meets the needs of these children, recognizing their achievements and keeping them involved and engaged. The curriculum is delivered through a Web-based learning system that not only enables remediation in school but extends it into the home.

Victor: How is it unique from other similar products or services and what companies do you see as in the same market?  

Dusty: The personalized learning path featured in each of Waterford Institute’s products is unique, allowing each child to have an individualized learning experience while using the software. Backed by 35 years of research and development, Waterford Institute products are engaging, child-friendly, easy-to-use, proven effective, aligned with Federal and State curricula, and used by millions of students around the world. We have spent over $145 million on our programs, and nobody else operates at this level. We have focused our efforts on developing enhanced software for the younger audience, to catch them early and to give them a strong start.

There really are no other companies in our category that specialize in starting children off properly. The world’s largest educational publication firm, Pearson, has chosen to distribute our product in the United States for their early education platform. Through 35 years of working with children, we have created the most comprehensive, effective, engaging, hands-on curricula available in the world today. It is scalable, individualized, fun, child-proven and cost-effective. If you read about our UPSTART program in Utah, you can see Waterford Institute will go to great lengths to ensure children have the power of education and technology at their fingertips—no matter how remote their home or circumstance. There really is no other educational software company with our depth and breadth of products nor history of award-winning success.

Victor: When was it developed? What is something interesting or relevant about its development history?

Dusty: Development on Waterford Early Learning program began in 1976. In total, we have reached millions of children around the world through 50,000 U.S. schools and in 9 countries—India, China, Israel, Romania, Rwanda, Senegal, Ghana, Kenya, and Taiwan. Here is the Waterford Institute timeline regarding its development history: http://www.thethirdsource.org/dustin-heuston/

In addition to software, Waterford Institute also produced the first education videodisc for McGraw-Hill, built the first Motorola 68,000-based computer, and spun off a for-profit corporation that used Waterford products (and raised $100 million in the process).

Victor: Where did it originate and where can you get it now?

Dusty: Information about the range of Waterford Institute products is available online at www.waterford.org including its new Waterford Assessments of Core Skills™ tool that helps tutors, teachers, and specialists discern the child’s particular needs. And for the home, Rusty and Rosy Reading is now available on DVD at www.rustyandrosy.com or via 1-877-299-7997. For 15 minutes a day, children can learn to read in the comfort of their home and parents can track their children’s progress via a parent module.

Victor: How much does it cost? What are the options?

Dusty: For the school products, the pricing is dependent upon numerous factors including district size, number of students, implementation plan, etc. Our consumer product, Rusty and Rosy Reading, is available online at www.rustyandrosy.com and at 1-877-299-7997. A 12-month subscription is $240.   

Victor: What are some examples of it in action?

Dusty: Millions of students have benefited from Waterford Early Learning with its reading, math, and science curricula. In 50,000 classrooms in the U.S. and in 9 countries globally, including Senegal, Rwanda, China, India, Taiwan, Romania, Israel, Ghana, and Kenya, we have multitudes of success stories.

In the United States, we have a unique relationship with Pearson. From the field of available educational software developers, Pearson chose to build their company around Waterford Institute software. They started with us, and have sold half-a-billion dollars’ worth of Waterford Institute software since then, in locations from the smallest U.S. districts to the largest cities. Waterford software is used by millions of children in nearly 50,000 classrooms across the nation every day.

And with our very exciting UPSTART program—funded by the state of Utah—we have seen fantastic success with pre-k children from low, mid, and high income families. The majority of participants in the UPSTART program finish at the Kindergarten-Advanced reading level, which means that they enter kindergarten reading at the same level as their peers who are entering first grade. The reason for this success is the individualized curriculum provided by the Waterford Institute software, and consistent phone and e-mail contact from the Waterford Institute support staff (providing the essential human element for young learners.)

UPSTART is currently available in Utah, but we would love to reach out to every state in the U.S. with this at-home, early education curriculum that really works in preparing kids for success in kindergarten and a lifetime of learning.

Victor: Who is it particularly tailored for?

Dusty: Waterford Institute products are tailored for the effective education of 3 through 8-year-old children, from pre-school through the 2nd grade.

Victor: What are some of your thoughts on education and technology? 

Dusty: “After centuries of thrashing about trying to improve our schools, educators are finally moving into position to introduce new technologies working at the speed of light that are capable of providing educational excellence and equity to all children on the globe almost overnight…” (from Dr. Heuston’s recent book, The Third Source, available on Amazon; also check out thethirdsource.org).

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Victor Rivero tells the story of 21st-century education transformation. He is the editor-in-chief of EdTech Digest, a magazine about education transformed through technology. He has written white papers, articles and features for schools, nonprofits and companies in the education marketplace. Write to: victor@VictorRivero.com

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