About the Highlights Retreat

  • The Fifth Annual Dust or Magic Highlights Retreat will talk 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).

    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 9.22.19 AM

    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: $1000 per seat which includes housing for 2 nights, all food, drinks and workshop materials. Group size is limited to 40 on a first-come, first-served basis. Registration is handled by Highlights Foundation. Please use this form or all 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.

    Archived content from this point

    2016 Agenda

    SUNDAY April 24

    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 Feature talk by Kate Wilson of Nosy Crow, and an informal discussion of this year’s Annual BolognaRagazzi Digitial Award results.

    MONDAY April 25

    8:00 AM Breakfast

    9:00  A literacy theory point of view. Katie Paciga from Columbia College and the Erikson Institute. A fresh look at the latest literacy apps from the point of view of old theory: e.g., whole language vs. phonics.

    11:00 Daren Carstens — How a small USA publisher won a global award, twice. Suggestions about non-fiction digital materials, original illustrations and responsive design.

    12:00 Lunch

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

    Topics to include:

    • Introducing apps to children for the first time
    • Digital storytelling in large and small group settings
    • Using a tablet in the classroom
    • Using a tablet in the library
    • Apps that use the camera
    • Augmented reality apps

    2:30 App critiques, with laser feedback.

    3:00 A hardware point of view. Apple’s iOS vs. Android vs. PC vs. OSX vs. Game Console vs. Kindle — What are the affordances of each, and what does each bring to children’s literacy?

    Screen Shot 2016-04-18 at 8.10.46 AM

    How’d you like to explore this library? You can at the Highlights Foundation

    5:00 Break

    6:00 Dinner

    7:00 Informal exploration and discussion


    8:00 Breakfast

    9:00  Dr. Michael H, Levine and Lisa Guernsey; authors of recently published book Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens.

    10:30  Writing and Encoding: 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

  • 2017 Events

    AppCamp • Jun. 2-4, Asilomar, CA • Register
    Highlights Retreat • Oct. 22-24, Boyds Mills, PA • Register
    Institute • Nov. 5-7, Lambertville, NJ • Register

  • Subscribe to our mailing list

    * indicates required
    Email Format

  • The Official Publication of Dust or Magic
    Full access to CTREX
    The CTR Monthly Issue
    CTR Weekly: Three Noteworthy Apps
  • Tweets from @dustormagic


  • 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.