AppCamp 2016 Agenda

  • Screen Shot 2016-02-14 at 9.21.49 PMPlease note: This page has been archived.

    The 7th Annual Dust or Magic “AppCamp” on the Design of Children’s Apps has concluded as of May 24, 2016.


    WHAT TO BRING: Relaxed, casual clothing (layers are best); arrive well-rested with charged gadgets.

    DEMOS: If you plan on doing a 5 minute demo, read this for suggestions on format and feedback.

    CHILDREN’S APPFEST IN SAN FRANCISCO:  A low cost meeting for publishers who can’t afford AppCamp. The meeting will take place on Saturday May 21, 2016 at the Co.lab in San Francisco. Tickets are $12 each, free for registered Dust or Magic AppCamp attendees; children are welcome (no cost for kids). Learn more about the Children’s AppFest.

    NO SELLING: As usual, Dust or Magic is self-funded with no affiliation with Apple, Google or sponsors. Participants turn off  “selling” and turn on “sharing.” A promotional materials table is provided for flyers, white papers or business cards. This is a free exchange area; no more than 50 copies will be needed.

    Screen Shot 2016-05-02 at 8.42.37 AM


    Sunday May 22, 2016

    1:00 Check in to your room (Phoebe Snow Social Hall)

    3:00 Check in to Dust or Magic (Fred Farr Forum)
    Find Barbara Chase to pick up your materials. It will contain your name tag, handouts and so on. Fred Farr Forum is Asilomar’s second biggest meeting space; locate in the wooded area of the Asilomar.

    5:00 Essential Topics for 2016

    We’ll set the stage for our next 36 hours together, so all the presenters can contextualize their talks. We’ll begin by naming the key trend setting apps; including lessons learned from the KAPi prize and the BolognaRagazzi Digital Award. These will include:

    • Art by Peter Reynolds

      Art by Peter Reynolds

      Should you update a classic or make a new app from scratch?  2016 has been the year when some classics have been drastically improved. Is it better to remodel or start from scratch with something new? Dan Russell-Pinson (Stack the States 2) and Pierre Abel (Montessori Numbers) will let us know what they think.

    • Who’s making money, and how?  Small app studios known for high quality work are struggling or are being gobbled up by larger groups. What’s the best career path for a small, smart designer?
    • VR and AR. The viewers are here and the platforms defined. What’s working? What are some common mistakes?
    • Apple Watch, Pro and TV. OK, OK… the Apple Watch isn’t for kids. But the concept of a device on a wrist certainly is, and there are lessons to be learned by this technology. What types of apps are best suited to which screen size and/or device? Where will these platforms be in the next 12 months?
    • Toys vs Apps. Reyne Rice will provide a 5 minute summary of the key trends from the world of toys.
    • How to properly sell an app to a kid. Besides the paid, free, freemium, paymium, and subscription models, what’s the best technique to promote new content to a young audience?
    • What does “Diversity in Apps” really mean? Who’s doing the best work and who needs to improve? How do you make an app balanced in terms of gender and ethnic content, without boiling out all the originality?
    • From Camping With Grandpa

      From Camping With Grandpa

      iOS 9.3/Education & Google Play news. Apple promises new features that will “make using iPad in schools easier and better for students and admins.” What are these features? How do you make them work? What’s new from Google Play?

    • State of the “non-iOS.” Are kids leaving fingerprints on Fingerprint? Has there been any progress for kids from Windows, Amazon, Google Play, Chrome or any of the gaming platforms?
    • Children’s App news.  Nominations with discussion for Magic and Dust of 2016 — Unity and other essential tools, examples of innovation and excellence; biggest train wrecks — what went wrong, why and how to learn from other people’s mistakes.
    • Hardware news. Larger tablets, wearables, watches and augmented reality (especially Oculus and Google cardboard). How interactive media is moving beyond the touch screen.
    6:00 PM Dinner & Visit to the Pacific Beach

    Welcome to AppCamp 7: A special place, a special time

    DorM2013 (19 of 57)

    8:00 Annual State of the Children’s App Panel  (Fred Farr)

    A review of 2016 with some of the best minds in the space.  The 2016 “State of the Children’s App” Panel will include Pierre Abel, Björn JeffereyDan Russell-PinsonAriella LehrerMark Schlichting, Valerie Touze, and Shazia Makhdumi.Screen Shot 2016-05-13 at 4.48.30 PM


    9:00 PM Dan Russell-Pinson. Enthusiasm + Knowledge = Success

    DorM2013 (24 of 57)The creator of Stack the States, looks back on his 9 year run of making games and shares his philosophy on the process.  This talk explores the personal traits that lead to success, how to define and achieve your goals and what qualities make a successful game.  He’ll also discuss the pitfalls of the creative process as well as how to find the right mindset to overcome them.

    [Don’t miss this rare talk by a pioneer.]



    Monday May 23, 2016

    7:00-8:15  am Breakfast Buffet (dining hall)
    8:30 Child Development 101
    Screen Shot 2015-05-07 at 5.30.46 AMMagic:  What lies at the heart of a “magical” engaging interactive media product? Child development theory. But don’t worry — this talk is short, sweet and to the point; and it’s based on the continually updated ibook Child Development 101 for the Designers of Children’s Interactive Media, by Warren Buckleitner (Dust or Magic participants get a free download code; and a hard copy is in your handout packet). 
    9:30 Designer Micro Jam

    Small groups will work together to explore emerging opportunities and upcoming challenges, from ROI (Return on Investment) to improving a play pattern.  With Daren Carstens and Barbara Chamberlin.

    10:15 Nice Touch — 60 second demos. An informal exploration with show and tell of some of the latest HCI “best practice” applied to multi-touch settings for children (and adults).

    Screen Shot 2016-04-15 at 11.48.19 PM10:30 A Special Visit From Maria Montessori and BF Skinner, fresh from their panel at last year’s NAEYC.  If you haven’t seen the famous video, here it is.

    This year, we’re fortunate to have two of the four panel participants — BF Skinner and Maria Montessori at AppCamp. You’ll be able to hear their thoughts on an any particular app, ask them your favorite theoretical question or pose for a selfie.

    1045: What would Montessori really say?
    After Montessori and Skinner have departed, you can here what Montessori would really say, from a former Montessori teacher — Valerie Touze of Edoki Acadamy. She’ll share five apps that get Maria’s approval; and five that wouldn’t  — and why.




    Mark Schlichting

    Mark Schlichting

    11:30 Mark Schlichting: What I learned from Writing a Book about Interactive Design

    “For many years, I’ve been working on a book on interactive design for children, and I’m coming to the end. Here are some important things that I’ve learned:  

    • How important applied learning theory is to creating great titles. (I started out totally on the intuitive side of the design, and now have vocabulary to describe it.)
    • To spot the Dust quickly. For example, at one point I was looking for games that supported Nurturing play, and so looked at a lot of pet and people “doctor” apps, and the first thing many of them did was make a kid spell the animals name before they could do anything, and then when the kid got it right – the PROGRAM did the nurturing thing never letting the kid do anything! 
    • How quickly the market changes: I started writing at the time when CD-ROMs were in decline and the internet was still dial-up. Then we saw (it seemed like) hundreds of virtual worlds (where are they now?), then mobile (back to the small screen), then touch. What’s next? 
    • But most importantly, the core elements of good interactive design for children apply consistently to all the media, and hold up over time if done correctly.” 

    12:00 Lunch


    Rex Ishibashi

    Rex Ishibashi

    1:00 App Case Study: Bringing Endless Learning Academy to the big screen, on Apple TV  with Rex Ishibashi of Originator. A conversation (finally) with the publisher of Endless Learning Academy. We’ll see it demonstrated on Apple TV.





    1:15 PM Q/A with Björn Jefferey

    Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 2.55.29 PM

    Björn Jeffery, Toca Boca

    Few people connect the dots of the children’s app space better than the leader of Toca Boca.  Come and find out what’s on his mind about the app market, the intersection of linear and interactive media, and learn how the Toca Socks have been selling. Homework: Watch Björn’s talk from last year, or this video from five years ago — Making a Magical Children’s App: The Toca Boca Approach


    Caroline Hu Flexer, Duck Duck Moose

    Caroline Hu Flexor, Duck Duck Moose

    2:15 Content Curation & Designing for Classrooms. Lessons from the WonderBox by Caroline Hu Flexer of Duck Duck Moose.

    “I’m share what we’ve learned about curating quality content, as well as building a platform for content delivery and communication.”

    2:45 Demos

    3:00 Kid Panel

    A conversation with the real experts about what they think is “dust” and “magic.” All children are welcome to join.

    Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 8.49.15 PM


    Shazia Makhdum, Google

    Shazia Makhdumi, Google Play

    4:00 Family Friendly Apps on Google Play with Shazia Makhdumi, Google (Shazia is in charge of business development for educational apps and games for Google Play). 

    “Google Play launched Designed for families a year ago to help developers get apps and games to parents.  I will share ideas on optimizing apps for families, and provide some of the latest updates on products and services available on Google Play.”

    5:00 Case studies in dust and magic. We’ll discuss the “dust” and the “magic” of a few relevant examples from the past 12 months.

    1. How could you make Toca Dance into a six star app?
    2. Boum! by Les inedieurs
    3. Cosmic Watch by Celestial Dynamics
    4. CHOMP! by Christoph Niemann
    5. Who is Dr. Panda? Why do kids like him?

     6:00-7:30 Dinner & Marshmallow Roast

    7:40 Group photo (optional)


    7:50 Marshmallow Roast, Beach

    Screen Shot 2016-03-20 at 9.02.49 PM

    Monday Evening

    8:30  “Legends of Children’s Software,” hosted by Ann McCormick

    Ann McCormick, Founder, The Learning Company

    Once upon a time, when floppy disks flopped, companies like Brøderbund, Voyager, Davidson and The Learning Company were the Toca Bocas of the day.

    There were other types of problems back then — like RAM & ROM, PCs vs Macs, SoundBlasters — not to mention that you had physically “burn” your code into spinning disk and ship it to your costumer in a “box” at “retail.” Walk down memory lane, and pick up some suggestions from old timers who have climbed the mountain before, and who know the view from the top. With Aleen Stein (Voyager),  Mark Schlichting (Brøderbund) and others.

    9:30 Discussion and demos

    10-12 PM  Free play


    Tuesday, May 24, 2015

    Room checkout by 10 AM.

    7:00-8:15 am Breakfast (Dining Hall)

    8:30 Critics Panel. Updated for 2016. An open invitation to published children’s app reviewers, to come and define what five stars looks like.

    • How to submit products for review
    • What do you do when you get a bad rating?
    • Nice touches — Concrete examples of noteworthy design techniques.

    Tamara Kaldor

    Tamara Kaldor of the TEC Center at the Erikson Institute

    9:00 Measuring Learning: Techniques and Strategies by Tamara Kaldor of the TEC Center at the Erikson Institute.

    “I think there are some great lessons around cues and materials developers can create to help teachers translate scores from apps into meaningful learning experiences. Parent engagement and empowering parents through data that makes sense is where we need to be headed. I’ll share the results of a recent TEC survey, and provide examples of apps that capture a child’s progress.”

    Children are asked to rate their own progress HangArt: Play Hangman, Draw Pictures, Tell Stories

    Children are asked to rate their own progress in HangArt: Play Hangman, Draw Pictures, Tell Stories

    10:00 Dust or Magic TED-Style talks

    1. Jeannine  Herron: Teaching the Brain to Learn to Read.

    2. Tico Ballagas:  The research behind Kindoma.

    11:00  Review

    laserpintersLet’s think back on the past 36 hours for the key lessons for the rest of 2016, and beyond.


    12:30 Lunch


    1:30 DepartureScreen Shot 2016-03-20 at 9.04.14 PM


    Join the conversation! Visit the registration form.


    2016 AppCamp Speakers

    • Tamera Kaldor

      Tamera Kaldor 

      Tamara Kaldor is the Assistant Director for Erikson Institute’s highly regarded Technology in Early Education Center (TEC), which empowers early childhood educators to make informed decisions about the appropriate use of technology with children from birth to age 8. TEC Center is the innovative continuing education entity within the Erikson Institute, the nation’s premier graduate school for early childhood development.  She has over a decade of experience teaching and consulting with parents, educators, and leading international organizations to integrate technology to suppor...

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    • Keli Winters

      Keli Winters, Evan-Moor

      Keli Winters 

      Keli Winters is the Director of Production at Evan-Moor Educational Publishers. Keli has been with Evan-Moor for 10 years, working with a team of Editors and Designers toward achieving the goal of creating innovative K-6 supplemental teaching materials. She works closely with various departments to shape the technology vision for the Evan Moor including technology that is integrated with print products, standalone technology products, and Evan-Moor's internet presence.

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    • Valérie Touze

      Valérie Touze 

      Valérie Touze is the founder of Edoki Acadamy formerly know as Les Trois Elles. She has been developing apps since 2010.  Education is in the company DNA: 2 of its 3 founders have been Montessori teachers.  The company's apps cover numeracy, geometry, creativity, phonics… in 15 languages, making it an international actor.  All their are available on the App Store and 6 are now also on Android. Valérie has an international background: she grew up in Canada where she studied Business.  She then lived in France where she trained to become a Montessori teacher le...

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    • Shazia Makhdumi

      Shazia Makhdum, Google

      Shazia Makhdumi 

      Shazia Makhdumi oversees global business development for educational apps and games on Google Play.  Her team is responsible for bringing the best apps to kids, in class or at home, and works with mobile developers worldwide to help them grow their businesses on Android. They also work closely with internal product teams to influence development within key areas including business models, discovery and distribution. Shazia has spent over 15 years in the tech industry, from Netscape in the early days ...

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    • Pierre Abel

      Pierre Abel 

      Pierre Abel is the founder of L'Escapadou, a family design studio based in the south of France. He started creating apps as soon as the iPad was released, and is the author of several awarded apps (including Montessori Crosswords and Word Wizard). Watching his homeschooled kids  learn and play is his main source of inspiration for the apps he designs with his wife. Previously, Pierre has worked as User Interface Designer/Developer, has done academic research in Information Visualization, and has developed his first game - a long time ago - on Apple IIGS. Pierre holds a PhD in ...

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    • Dan Russell-Pinson

      Dan Russell-Pinson 

      Dan Russell-Pinson President, Freecloud Design, Inc. Dan Russell-Pinson is the creator of several top 10 educational and entertainment apps including Stack the States, Tipping Point, Stack the Countries, Mathmateer, Presidents vs. Aliens and Monster Physics.  Dan has recently expanded his reach by supporting the Android and Windows 8 platforms.  He studied Computer Science at Clemson University and combines his interests in programming, graphics, music and sound to create games that are educational and engaging.  In his free time, Dan enjoys photography, unicycling, music and spending ti...

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    • Mark Schlichting

      Mark Schlichting

      Mark Schlichting 

      Mark Schlichting is a passionate promoter for play. He is also a pioneer of the multimedia industry, an expert in children’s interactive design, and is probably best known as the creator of Brøderbund’s Living Books CD-ROM series. In 2000 Mark founded NoodleWorks Interactive, a creative consulting and production company specializing in innovative design for children. In November 2011, NoodleWorks released its’ first iPad app, a word toy called Noodle Words. His ...

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    • Warren Buckleitner

      Warren Buckleitner 

      Warren Buckleitner is an educational psychologist who reviews children's interactive media. He's been a preschool, elementary and college teacher in TCNJ's IMM program. He is the founding editor of Children's Technology Review ( He speaks at education and library conferences, and contributes content books and publications, including a decade of children's tech coverage for the New York Times. He holds a degree in elementary education from Central Michigan University (Cum Laude), an MA in early childhood edu...

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    • Caroline Hu Flexer

      Caroline Hu Flexor, Duck Duck Moose

      Caroline Hu Flexer 

      Caroline Hu Flexer is the CEO and Co-Founder of Duck Duck Moose, an award-winning creator of educational mobile apps for families. Founded in 2008, the company has created twenty-one top-selling titles from its first musically focused title, Wheels on the Bus, to its most recent educational platform, WonderBox. Duck Duck Moose has received 20 Parents’ Choice Awards, 17 Children’s Tech...

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    • Daren Carstens

      Daren Carstens 

      Daren Carstens founded Carstens Studios Inc., where he authors, designs, programs and develops educational products for children. He has worked in K-12 educational publishing for 20 years, and his work has received many awards including the prestigious international Bologna Children's Book Fair New Media Prize in the Best Educational Software category, 2010 & 2011 Parents' Choice Gold Awards - Parents' Choice Foundation, and 2010 & 2011 Editor's Choice Awards - Children's Technology Review. Daren combines the rare talent of a thorough understanding of learning processe...

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    • Barbara Chamberlin

      Barbara Chamberlin 

      Barbara Chamberlin directs game development at New Mexico State University's Learning Games Lab.

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    • Aleen Stein

      Aleen Stein 

      Aleen Stein is a founding partner and principal shareholder of the Criterion Collection. She’s also CEO and Publisher of Organa L.L.C., a new media publishing company. Organa seeks to bring the best in children’s animation from around the world to American families, and include art, science, cultu...

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    • Ariella Lehrer

      Ariella Lehrer 

      A 30-year software industry veteran, Ariella Lehrer is the founder of three successful game companies. Lehrer currently serves as CEO of Legacy Interactive/Legacy Games, which she founded in 1998. Based in Los Angeles, Legacy is best known for its downloadable and mobile games based on popular licenses such as Crayola, Tarzan, Criminal Minds, Murder She Wrote, Law & Order, and others. Lehrer's many game credits include pioneering "real-life games" through the introduction of the popular "Zoo Vet," "Pet Pals: Animal Doctor" and “Emergency Room” product lines. Lehrer’s team was also tapped b...

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    • Jeannine Herron

      Jeannine Herron 

      Jeannine Herron is a neuropsychologist who is also the Director of Talking Fingers.  She has researched dyslexia at UCSF for 10 years.  She has received 5 Small Business Innovative Research awards from the National Institute of Child Health  (NICHD) to develop and do research with software and apps for early  literacy. She has developed Read, Write & Type, Wordy Qwerty and recently Taking Shapes, a seven app curriculum for kindergarten being tested by colleagues at Yale. Her presentation will be called "How the Brain Learns to Read...

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    • Tico Ballagas

      Tico Ballagask, Co-founder Kindoma

      Tico Ballagas 

      Rafael 'Tico' Ballagas is the Co-founder & CTO of Kindoma, where he strives to make video calls fun again.  Kindoma's award winning apps pair video calls with kids favorite activities to promote family engagement at a distance. Storytime allows families to read books together over video chat, and has been awarded the Parents Choice Gold Award. More recently, Kindoma has launched Drawtime which marries video calls with a shared drawing canvas to promote creative collaboration.  Before Kindoma, Tico was at Nokia Resear...

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    • Reyne Rice

      Reyne Rice 

      Reyne Rice is a seasoned industry professional, with over 30 years of experience in analyzing, strategizing and trend-hunting for the toys, games and kids technology industries. Her articles have been published in over 60 countries, and she speaks at over 20 Key Industry Events each year.  She has worked at Mattel, NPD Research, the Toy Industry Association and is currently the Lead Trend Hunter for Spielwarenmesse, the largest annual Toy Fair in the world, held in Nuremberg, Germany. She has owned her own consultancy, ToyTrends, since 2003, and can be reached at...

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    • Rex Ishibashi

      Rex Ishibashi 

      Rex Ishibashi’s entrepreneurial career reflects his passion for entertainment, education, and technology.  Rex is the co-founder and CEO of Originator Inc., the leading developer/publisher of education+entertainment mobile apps for kids.  He has previously held key roles at Callaway Digital Arts, Electronic Arts and Wired, and has advised a number of ventures including Elevation Partners, SecondLife, Chowhound/CBS Interactive, Blurb, and MOG/Beats.

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  • 2018 Events

    Masterclass • Mar. 25, Bologna, Italy • Register
    AppCamp • Jun. 1-3, Asilomar, CA • Register
    Highlights Retreat • Boyds Mills, PA
    Institute • Nov. 4-6, Lambertville, NJ • Register

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  • Conference testimonials


    • laserpinters

      Sanj KharbandaVP Digital Strategy, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "Unique, inspiring, eye-opening. I would recommend anyone involved in the interactive space for kids to attend at least one. Thank you to everyone for sharing and being an inspiration."

    • SONY DSC

      Roby JohnCEO, TapToLearn, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "Thanks for a great first Dust or Magic. Made it totally worth flying all the way in from Mumbai."

    • dustormagic-peterspicture

      Valerie ConnellVP Product & Market Strategy, The Waterford Institute, Dust or Magic 2010

      "Top Notch conference with A-list attendees - a pleasure to be included with the best of the best!"

    • katewilson200

      Kate WilsonFounder & Managing Director, Nosy Crow, Dust or Magic 2011

      "Relevant, invigorating and mind expanding: a great event. Warren's energetic, warm and informal style of communication and facilitation is key."

    • SONY DSC

      Krista MarksDust or Magic 2011

      "The best part is the inspiration that comes from being with a group of like minded, passionate, talented humans."

    • Jens Peter de Pedro

      Jens Peter de PedroPlay Designer, Toca Boca, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "If you are in Children's Interactive Media it's like coming to Church. You got to go for spiritual reasons. And it's only once a year!"

    • Scott_Traylor_200x200

      Scott TraylorPresident, 360KID, DM '13 Institute

      "Dust or Magic Fall is a must attend event to help increase chances of making successful children's new media products."

    • charity 1

      Charity GerbrandtCreative Lead, Disney Club Penguin, DM Institute '13

      "So great to share with like-minded people in a low pressure, no drama environment. Great size, space and leadership."

    • Kimberley SorensonThe Waterford Institute, Dust or Magic Highlights Foundation 2015

      "A wonderful opportunity to get down and dirty with a lot of different voices in a protected space. Inspiring + energizing on all conceivable levels -- many many thanks."

    • JCC

      Jayne ClarePresident, Teachers With Apps, Dust or Magic Highlights 2015

      "Leaving with a wealth of new knowledge, friends, ideas and inspiration!"

    • Erin - bio pic

      Erin ReillyCreative Director, Annenberg Innovation Lab at USC, Dust or Magic eBook Retreat 2013

      "This was just the retreat I needed to learn and to be inspired by others." 

    • Scott_Traylor_200x200

      Scott TraylorPresident, 360KID, DM 2002-2010

      "Come for toys, stay for friendship; leave with knowledge."

    • jlodahl

      Jesper LodahlCEO, SmartTots, Dust or Magic Hurricane Edition

      "Great crowd, great minds, great learning experience."

    • Hans WagnerOwner, Computer Explorers, Dust or Magic 2014

      "Just soaked in all of it. Great environment!"

    • Megan SmithSenior Designer, Interactive Media, Highlights for Children, Dust or Magic 2014

      "Warren and Daren really made everyone feel relevant and comfortable. Perfect balance of healthy criticism and ideas for growth."

    • aleen

      Aleen SteinCEO, Organa, Dust or Magic 2014

      "Even though I'm not making apps right now, exciting and relevant to my life."

    • Screen Shot 2015-09-23 at 4.03.01 PM

      Lorraine AkemannMoms With Apps

      While there is no shortage of conferences on kids and tech, Dust or Magic stands out in the crowd. This might be because attendees are required to leave their egos at home, or cast them into the ocean until the sessions are finished.