Monday, January 20, 2020

Online Pre-K Literacy Program UPSTART Powers Educational Success for At-Risk Children

The online pre-kindergarten (pre-K) literacy program called UPSTART created by seeks to blend the best aspects of learning science, mentoring relationships, and innovative technologies to form community, school, and in-home programs that deliver literacy excellence and equity for unserved and under-served four-year-old learners.

About half of America’s four-year-old children are not prepared to begin kindergarten when they turn five. In Philadelphia, for example, nearly two-thirds of children cannot read at grade level by the fourth grade, which is a challenge made worse by a shortage of affordable pre-K literacy programs. Children without access to pre-K education may enter school as many as two years behind and may never catch up with their classmates. Their parents have little or no affordable access to early education solutions to prepare their children for school. And their children therefore are at the greatest risk of multi-generational functional illiteracy that can adversely affect them for the rest of their lives.

The nonprofit in Salt Lake City, Utah, has created an evidence-tested, home-based, successful, online pre-K literacy program called UPSTART. UPSTART enables early education access to unserved and under-served families in their homes by providing parental support, technology, and internet connectivity, thereby ensuring equity and fairness for all four-year-olds, regardless of their socio-economic status. In Utah’s Washington County School District, for example, about half of its schools are Title I schools with students who faced significant achievement gaps and were unable to catch up with their peers. The district ran two early learning programs simultaneously to prepare their children for kindergarten. After a head-to-head comparison, the children who used software displayed greater gains in early literacy and were better prepared to enter kindergarten than students who did not use Waterford UPSTART.

Waterford UPSTART empowers parents because the program is voluntary and it increases parental choice, parental involvement, and parental control of their children’s learning. UPSTART supports families through personalized parental coaching, empowering parents as their children’s first educator in the home to prepare their children to arrive at school ready to learn. Parents help their children invest 15 minutes online for five days per week for nine months using exciting literacy programming. Waterford UPSTART children thereby enter kindergarten reading at nearly a first-grade level and outperform their peers on standardized tests at least through the fourth grade.

According to a New York Times story, most states have preschool choices — some public, some private, half day, full day, local and state run. But many families fall in between, earning too much to qualify for public programs while not being able to afford private ones, or living too far from the nearest site-based pre-K school, or living in states which do not yet provide publicly-financed pre-K education.

UPSTART has been pilot-tested in urban working-class families, low-income rural families, and non-English-speaking refugee families. The online UPSTART lessons are animated, funny, and interesting to children; they keep children’s attention as they learn. In one lesson, for example, children listen to a song and watch a video about how “gh” is silent in many English words. 

UPSTART is funded by state legislatures, private donations from programs like TED’s philanthropic arm called the Audacious Project, and grants from the federal Department of Education. was founded by Dr. Dustin Heuston, a pioneering educator who believed every child is entitled to lifelong learning success. Over the years, Dr. Heuston built a technology-based collaborative model of child, family, and educator engagement that delivers significant and lasting academic achievement gains. 

Blog Author James R. Holbrook is a retired clinical legal professor who is a board member of

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Happy New Year 2020!

In this first blog post of 2020, I’ll introduce myself and some changes coming to the Straube Foundation Education blog. 

I am Michele Straube.  I am recently retired as an environmental mediator and law school professor.  Meaning I have a background in teaching, albeit not online teaching.  I am currently a student working toward a certificate in teaching English as a second language.  The certificate program is virtually all online (even though the program is based at my local university), so I have personal experience as a student of online education.  I have great curiosity about the pedagogy of online education, especially how the benefits of in-class interactions can be replicated online. 

I am looking forward to taking over blog management.  I hope to share with you what I learn about my many open questions.  There will also be guest blog authors and re-posts from their blogs, focusing especially on the great variety of online education programs, their successes and challenges.

I’d love to hear what online education topics you, our readers, are interested in learning more about.  Email me your suggestions here, and we’ll see what we can do.

Until the next post, here are some online education resources to keep you learning:

·      Top 100 E-Learning Blogs, Websites & Influencers in 2020

Monday, December 30, 2019

New Year’s Resolution a la 1900:

Contributed by Werner Kappus, Apia, Samoa
This image was created in the year 1900 in France, showing how the author thought education would look like in the year 2000. It is part of a series of future technologies imagined, published in the form of cartoons which adorned cigaret and cigar boxes. Later, the images were available also as postcards. A full coverage of these are published here:   Enjoy! And let your imagination roam as to what kind of technologies will be doing 100 years from now …

Friday, December 20, 2019

Why put so much effort into learning?

That’s the problem:  There are individuals who don’t want to learn at all, or spend the time, or the effort to learn.  And if they absolutely have to, they’d like to do it the easy way, or the easiest way possible.  I guess that’s human nature, or at least some humans’ nature.  Yet the parents and the community are usually very anxious for their offspring getting a decent education.  In the case of grownups, also that they continue learning throughout their life, enhancing their capabilities to more fully benefit from their increased knowledge.  And deep down, even the most reluctant is then likely to undertake some effort of learning.

Therefore, IMHO, the very first task for parents, educators, and the community at large (through its representatives) is to convince everybody to get going and learn, and then keep on learning.  It’s the motivation of wanting to learn that needs to be instilled in its citizens, ALL its citizens.  That’s where many countries fall short, or are even opposed to bringing motivation to some reluctant masses.  Maybe, some day they may wake up to find that this is a duty they should be pursuing wholeheartedly.

OK.  Now when you have the subjects in the mood to put effort into learning, then, of course, that learning should be made as easy as possible, even as play rather than work.  And there are, of course, many ways which have been pursued throughout history.

Now, here is a method which was recently developed under the name “active learning” (also called “active instruction”) which, so far, consistently has produced best results. It involves chaperoning students in working  through problems and reasoning things out as an inherent part of the learning process.  That is in contrast to merely attending lectures.  Here you can learn more:

Which would be nothing new for Benjamin Franklin at his time, who said: “Tell me, and I forget.  Teach me, and I remember.  Involve me, and I learn”

Yet we are here 250+ years later, with technology on our hands which can greatly facilitate whatever learning process we are following.  For example, we can learn online instead of in classrooms, from anywhere, any time, at our convenience.  In other words, more of those learning-impeding habits and circumstances can be overcome easily, and learning can be more fun instead.  The way of getting there is what makes the difference: ONLINE.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

LEARN What, And How?

The dictionary definition of “learning” is to “gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught.”

OK.  To become a healthy, happy, useful person, there is a lot to be learned, which we normally do, one way or another, where some ways are easier than others.  

For example, if you were going to learn another language because you want to travel to that country, read its literature, talk with the people, being fluent in that language will be very useful.  It could become imperative if you wanted to take a job there or plan to live there for any length of time.

So, how do you go about acquiring that language?

Well, for most people that means going to school somewhere where they teach that language.  And then, like a toddler learning her mother’s language, slowly that language will be pounded into you in many which ways.  Depending on the proficiency of the school, over time, you’ll pick up the language, or at least a rudimentary version which will enable you to read and write, and communicate about simple things, hopefully increasing complexity and fluidity with time.

My first job in the USA was to serve as an interpreter under the U.S. State Department.  Most of my colleagues there were highly proficient and fluent in at least three languages.  And most of them were in the process of still adding another new language to their repertoire, studying in their spare time all the time.  One of the jokes making the rounds among us was that the best way to acquire another language was to get a “dictionary with ears” in that language.  In other words, get a girl- or boyfriend in that language, and then it will be easy to go on from there.

I don’t know how many took that advice (I can’t recall a single one) but rather slogged it out the conventional way.  Yet the logic is sound.  Anyone learns best on a one-to-one basis, one teacher one learner, no distraction or side-influences.  And foremost, the teacher must be an authentic and good one, like a dictionary for a language.  These are the two criteria, in my humble opinion, which the intended learner needs to get hold of first before learning can begin:
  1. A competent, well qualified, authentic knowledge source, possibly in the form of a teacher, although the source could very well be just data and historic evidence properly compiled and presented.
  2. A one-to-one teaching/learning relationship to that knowledge source.  No intermediaries in between, no diluters, distorters, politicizers.
Of course, this principle does not only apply to the learning of languages, but to ALL types of learning, be it in the fields of chemistry, astro-physics, behavioral science, what have you.

That’s all.  That, of course, is quite different from how the educational world around us is working today.   Nevertheless, there is always room for a better way.  So this is one better way:

 Authentic true knowledge source, and direct connection to it.  The will to learn, and off you are to acquiring whatever the knowledge or skill.

Now, as it so happens, ONLINE is an ideal format for this knowledge transfer to work, for it easily can come from a qualified source, and be direct in the transfer.

Yes, it is true.  All this will work only if there is a will to learn by the learner, not for someone being taught against his will.    But that’s a different subject we’ll deal with in another posting.

In the meantime, here are a couple of web sites for learning which work on this premise:

Learning can be fun!

Friday, November 29, 2019

Online Dancing, Why Not?

Yes, you can learn all your dance steps online, at home, in school, with your friends, anywhere.  YouTube makes it possible.  Here are just three examples of what you can get yourself into, if you are curious to learn …

(Please return to this page at 

after you are finished on YouTube, to see more dance samples and for the rest of the story.  Thank you.)

THAT exercise will keep you in shape, too.  You even won’t need a partner for doing it, although, of course, having others doing it with you will be a lot more fun.  But, maybe, Hip Hop is not what you had in mind for dancing.  So, here is an example at the opposite end of the dance spectrum, classical ballroom dancing,

Solo Waltz from the the 2018 Russian Championship:

Maybe, if rather conventional ballroom dancing is for you, so that you’ll be able to step on the dance floor at the next wedding party of your friend, or your own, why not start with

Slow Foxtrot, a Basic Lesson:

OK.  Now you got the picture.  Yet really this is only the very beginning.  The web is full with dance instruction videos for all types of dances.  Plus, of course, there is a wealth of DVDs out there giving you the same thing, like, for example, from Arthur Murray Dance Studios

where, if everything fails, you can go to and have an in person dance lesson for singles or couples.  However, ONLINE is a lot cheaper, or even cost free, and available way beyond Arthur Murray’s 270 studios worldwide.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Tango Your Way to Brain Health

from “Energize Your Brain” by BrainHQ Posit Science San Francisco:

Studies show that dancing reduces stress and improves mood—but also that it can improve cognitive function and reduce risk of dementia. One study compared dancing to biking, swimming, reading, doing crosswords, and playing golf, and found that of those activities, dancing was by far the best for the brain. Here are some ways you might incorporate dancing into your life:
1: Read this article from Stanford about how to make dancing as “intelligent” as possible. It will help you understand what types of dancing are best, and what you need to do to get the most brain benefits from dancing.
2: Sign up for a dance class, ideally one that’s partner-based. It can be a more advanced class for a type of dancing you already know, or a beginners’ class of a dance that’s new to you. Go to class and try your hardest while you’re there to learn the moves and respond to your partner’s moves.
3: Going to or hosting any parties? See if you can get the room dancing!
4: Dance at home! Get on YouTube or another video website and follow along with dancing tutorials, like this one for basic tango, this one for waltz, or this one for moonwalking. Keep practicing until you master a video, then move on to a new one.
Why is dancing good for the brain? 
Here’s a brief description of why dancing is especially good for the brain from Dr. Michael Merzenich: “Complex dances require you use multiple senses at the same time—sight, sound, and motion—coordinating your movements in time with the music and your partner’s steps, all while remembering a routine. That kind of multimodal activity gives your brain a great workout, in addition to the aerobic benefits of exercise.”
Reach BrainHQ at