About the Highlights Retreat

  • The Fifth Annual Dust or Magic Highlights Retreat took place at the beautiful Highlights Foundation in Boyds Mills, PA, about 2 1/2  hours northwest of New York City, on Sunday October 22, ending Tuesday October 24, 2017. 


    The objective for making this event is to build bridges between the people who MAKE STUFF (app designers),  the people who USE STUFF (teachers and librarians), and the people who STUDY STUFF (policy people, writers, reviewers and researchers).

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    The Highlights Foundation is the perfect mixing bowl for this to happen. It’s like the “Camp David” for children’s literacy — a serene location where you get your own cozy writers cabin, amazing food and a setting free from distractions.  It was on these grounds that first issue of Highlights Magazine was created. 

    We start with a global view — by studying the BolognaRagazzi Digital Award apps which will give us our baseline  — or the “state of the app.”

    After we review these top dozen in depth we start looking at the field from the four essential perspectives related to technology and literacy  —

    1. PUBLISHERS (led by leading children’s app makers);
    2. REVIEWERS (from CTR and others);
    3. LITERACY THEORY (Katie Paciga from Columbia College and the Erikson Institute, who studied with William Teale et al);
    4. PRACTITIONERS (participants from various schools and libraries).

    Together we dissect the latest apps, and together talk about what you need to know to “find the magic” this year. Examples include the winners, mentions and short list selections.

    As with other Dust or Magic events, we 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.
    • Educators who want to leverage the power of the tablet to help support preschool and elementary level 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 is 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: $999 per seat which includes housing for 2 nights, all food, drinks and workshop materials. Group size is limited on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is handled by Highlights Foundation. Check back later for the 2018 registration form or call 877-288-3410.

    HOUSING: You’ll get your own private cabin but may have to share a room.


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




  • 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!"

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      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."

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      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!"

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      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."

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      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.