It starts and ends with the kids: Lessons from Dust or Magic

This week, Claire Green, Sandbox Summit co-founder and president of Parents' Choice Foundation, shares the magic of kids media conference Dust or Magic. Among the takeaways? Child development matters.
November 20, 2013

Claire Green, Sandbox Summit co-founder and president of Parents’ Choice Foundation, shares the magic of kids media conference Dust or Magic.

You can’t possibly know everything. If you did, you’d be at the end of the internet. And that’s just too exhausting to think about.

I don’t code. I’m perfectly happy to remember my complex Dashlane login formula.  Yet, despite my non-coding background, I review  dozens of  apps for the Parents’ Choice Awards®, where among the many aspects we consider are the goal, the developmentally appropriate approach, the design, the function, the educational value, the play value, and of course, the slippery slope of in-app purchases.

So how do non-coders like me (or you) learn how to evaluate digital media? By reading and playing, of course. Part of what continues to sharpen my wits about children’s interactive screen based learning is Warren Buckleitner’s Dust or Magic conference. Having attended for many years, the easiest way to describe this embarrassment of riches is “a jam packed 2 ½ -day graduate course on how child development impacts and informs digital media development.” At last week’s gathering, Barbara Chamberlin, @bchamber, starred as an advocate, expert practitioner, and lifelong student of child- directed learning in digital media.  Anne-Sophie Brieger, @asbrieger, tweeted: Love sitting next to an illustrator @aal8n visual summary of #dustormagic of child development pic.twitter.com/vORAT0EZFt.  There was a whirlwind tour through the eyes of app developers like Jens Peter de Pedro, the Creative Director of Stories and Consumer Products for Toca Boca, who presented and rapped his 10 Kids Apps Commandments and Raul Gutierrez gave a peek behind the curtain of Tiny Bop’s magnificent Human Body app.  The ever elegant Chip Donohue @chipdono of the Erikson Institute delivered a summary address titled Digital Media and Early Learning: What We Know, What We Still Need to Learn, and Why It Matters to Developers. There were demos of other apps in various stages of development.  There were friends old and new.

For me, the key take-aways are clear and consistent.

  1. Child development matters. How, what and when children can learn is crucial to success.
  2. Children are active learners. Give them the tools and responsibility to learn.
  3. Tap into what interests a child, and they’ll be ready, willing, and happy to learn now, and later.
  4. Make the promise of fun clear.  Don’t take too long, or make it too hard, to engage the child.
  5. Make your app high in child control. Child directed learning is key.

We’re in the business of kids’ media. To create the magic that transforms play into learning, we need to understand the theories of child development and put them into practice. Only then will the apps begin to make sense to the children, and in turn, make a few dollars for the grownups who build them.


About The Author


Brand Menu