Highlights Retreat – 2016 Recap

  • Screen Shot 2016-01-15 at 6.42.01 AMArchived Content

    About the Highlights Foundation Retreat

    The Fourth Dust or Magic Highlights Retreat has concluded as of April 26, 2016. The event is 3-day retreat where we review the dust and the magic of the latest children’s digital products, with an emphasis on language, literacy, and digital storytelling.

    Download the flyer as a PDF.

    This year’s event was hosted by Gail Lovely, Warren Buckleitner, and Daren Carstens. Presentations or workshops were be presented by Kate Wilson, CEO of Nosy Crow, Dr. Katie Paciga from Columbia College and the Erikson Institute, Dr. Michael H, Levine and Lisa Guernsey; authors of recently published book Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens.

    Dates: April 24-26, 2016 (5 PM Sunday through Noon on Tuesday). As Kent Brown always says, “come early, stay late.”

    Location: Highlights Foundation, Boyds Mills, PA (about 3 hours from New York City).

    Cost: $1000 (includes housing, food and a van ride to/from New York or Scranton PA). Small publisher or student rates available.

    Register: Space is strictly limited to 40; seats and cottages are assigned on a first-come, first served basis. If you have a promo code, enter it on the second page of the registration form.

    Based on feedback from last year, we’ve made the following three changes to this year’s agenda:

    1. More than ebooks. We’ll offer a more general “Dust or Magic” experience. Our agenda will be a “stone soup” of stories, knowledge, apps and research over the three days. The broad category of children’s literacy in the digital age will be approached from four points of view: Warren, Gail and others will share what they’ve seen as reviewers, and publishers like Kate Wilson and Daren Carstens will share the latest technology. Also, the winners and finalists of the BolognaRagazzi Digital Awards will be demonstrated and discussed. Michael Levine and Lisa Guernsey will provide their 30,000 ft. point of view of growing readers in the age of screens, and Dr. Katie Paciga (who has studied with William Teale) will provide an overview of literacy theory in a digital context.
    2. More affordable. One fixed $1000 fee covers everything: comfortable housing, excellent food, beer/wine and transportation to/from the New York City area.
    3. More accessible. Getting to the rural Highlights Foundation is easier this year thanks to shared van service to and from the New York City Area.

    And finally – this is a 100% independent event built from the ground up around current products and the latest research. There are no commercial agendas, sponsors or business connections. The Highlights Foundation is an independent non-profit run by Kent Brown.


    • 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 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.


    Call 800-993-9499 for more information.

    Celebrate spring, and excellence in interactive design

    The third interactive media design for children retreat took place at the beautiful Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA, about 2 1/2 hours northwest of New York City, from April 19-21, 2015. Read a recap of the 2015 event.






  • 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."

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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!"

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      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." 

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      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."

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      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.