Highlights Foundation Retreat 2015

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    Screen Shot 2015-03-06 at 12.23.01 PMCelebrate spring, and excellence in interactive design

    caterpillar-soloThe third interactive media design for children retreat will take place at the beautiful Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA, about 2 1/2  hours northwest of New York City.

    We’ll expand on the agenda of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair Masterclass, taking a closer look at the latest digital materials related to language development for preschool and elementary age children (aged 2-to 12-years).

    Together we’ll dissect the latest apps, and together talk about what you need to know to “find the magic” in 2015. Examples will include the 2015 BolognaRagazzi Digital Award winners, mentions and short list selections.

    • How do you turn a story “inside out” in order to increase child engagement as was done in My Very Hungry Caterpillar?

    David Wiesner’s Spot used a “powers of ten” mechanic to move through the story. What are some other innovative navigation schemes that every digital storyteller should know about?

    • Auschwitz, a Tale of Wind was a bold undertaking, but it had some weak points. Can you identify the problems? If you were the designer, how could you tweak the interface to very affordably increase child engagement?

    • How can the interactive techniques used in Pry and Freddie Wants Sausage help a child learn to encode and decode?

    We’ll use our lasers to critique each example to better refine our own definition of what works (the magic), and what doesn’t (the dust).



    • Interactive designers who are responsible for making quality digital products.
    • Publishers who want to keep a competitive edge.
    • Authors who want to take a print based book and successfully move it to a screen.
    • Illustrators who want to learn how to illustrate for interactive design.
    • Early childhood educators who want to leverage the power of the tablet to help support early learning development.
    • Children’s librarians who want to find out what’s new with the latest children’s book apps, and learn about best practice.
    • ESL and Speech and Language Specialists who want to learn how to use tablets in day to day practice.


    WHERE: The Highlights Foundation  in Boyds Mills, PA. Transportation will be provided to and from the Wilkes Barr International Airport in Scranton PA and New York Port Authority  (departing at 2:30 PM on Sunday).  If this is of interest to you, please let us know.

    HERE’S A CONTENT PREVIEW: We’ll expand on the themes started last month in the Dust or Magic Masterclass in Bologna.

    REGISTRATION: $1580 per seat ($880 for teachers, librarians and small publishers) which includes housing for 2 nights food, drinks and workshop materials. Group size is limited on a first-come, first-served basisSave your seat now using the online registration form.  

    Small publisher rate (3 or fewer full time employees) $880. To apply for this rate, use this form.
    Educator/Librarian rate (must be full time teacher, librarian or graduate student). Use this form.

    HOUSING: You’ll get your own private cabin.  To register by phone, please call 800-993-9499 (9 to 3 EST).

    CONTINUING EDUCATION UNITS: Two CEUs are being offered by the Erikson Institute’s TEC for $100 extra.


    warren-amsterdamWarren Buckleitner is an educational psychologist who reviews children’s interactive media. He’s been a preschool, elementary and college teacher (currently TCNJ’s IMM program). He is the founding editor of Children’s Technology Review.  He serves as the chair of the BolognaRagazzi Digital Prize at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

    Lovely_GailheadshotGail Lovely is a former teacher who runs a school consulting and teacher training company. She holds a Master’s Degree in Educational Computing from Pepperdine University, where she was also an Adjunct Professor. Gail has provided content and interface development support and advice to several educational publishers and companies, and more recently to the educational versions of mobile device apps.


    Dress is casual. Bring a tablet, your laptop, your favorite children’s book and a musical instrument.



    Sunday April 19
    2:00 – 5:00 PM Arrive (informal) and check in to get your workshop materials.

    5:00 Greetings, Welcome and Introductions.

    6:00 Dinner

    7:00 What magic looks like The Annual BolognaRagazzi Digitial Award Demonstrations by Warren Buckleitner

    Monday April 20

    8:00 AM Breakfast

    9:00 The Top 50 “narrative driven interactive media products” for children that everyone should know:

    • Fairy tales.
    • Fiction and non-fiction techniques.
    • Innovative interactive design strategies.
    • Android vs Apple

    11:00 Literacy Theory, Applied to Tablets.  A fresh look at the latest literacy apps from the point of view of old theory: e.g., whole language vs. phonics.

    12:00 Lunch

    1:00 Application to education and learning (Gail Lovely)
    Topics to include:

    • Introducing apps to young children for the first time
    • Using a tablet in the classroom
    • Using a tablet in the library
    • Apps that use the camera
    • Augmented reality apps

    2:30 Break

    2:45 Critiques with laser feedback

    4:00 A hardware point of view. Apple’s iOS vs. Android vs. PC vs. OSX vs. Game Console vs. Kindle — What are the strengths and weaknesses of each, and what does each bring to children’s literacy?

    5:00 Break

    6:00 Dinner

    7:00 Informal exploration and discussion


    8:00 Breakfast

    9:00 Bottom 40: The lowest rated 40 apps from 2014. What went wrong, and why?

    Writing  and Encoding: 30 Examples

    • Apps to help with fine motor development
    • Apps for verbal development
    • Making movies and digital creativity experiences.


    11:00 Demos

    12:00 Lunch

    1:30 Evaluation and depart

    Group size is limited; quality is not…




  • 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


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      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."

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      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."

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      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."

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      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.