Dust or Magic 2008

In a few weeks this blog will be coming to you live from Dust or Magic, the exclusive conference of interactive toy designers, developers, manufacturers and critics held each Fall in Lambertsville, NJ, under the auspices of Children’s Technology Review.

I’ll be videotaping all of the presentations for the Dust or Magic Wiki and will also try to steal a few minutes during the conference (November 2-3) to post live. It won’t be in real-time, but will be the next best thing if you follow children’s interactive media and aren’t able to attend. This year’s speakers include:

Christopher Byrne, President Byrne Communications, Inc. aka The Toy Guy. Chris is one of the leading experts on toys and play. Over the past 27 years (and he’s not even old), he has served in a variety of positions with toy companies covering marketing, media, operations and product development. In 1988, he formed New York-based Byrne Communications, where he has served as a researcher, analyst and consultant to a variety of Fortune 100 companies. He is widely quoted in the media and appears regularly on national television commenting on toys. Besides his own web sites (The Toy Guy and new online Time to Play Magazine (www.timetoplaymag.com) he writes for trade publications including Toys & Family Entertainment and Royalties. Currently thetoyguy.com attracts millions of visitors annually. Chris will help us critique the crop of 2008 technology toys on hand at this year’s Institute.

Jim Gray, Ed.D. is head of the LeapFrog Lab where he oversees all user experience and product development research. He is responsible for ensuring that LeapFrog products maximize children’s engagement, fun, and learning. Jim has a doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Michigan State University. He was a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for Innovative Learning Technologies, and Instructor of Interactive Media Design at the Rochester Institute of Technology. He has contributed to dozens of publications and published studies and has been a driving force behind LeapFrog’s new learning path.

Claire Green is the President of Parents’ Choice Foundation, the oldest not-for-profit organization dedicated to the evaluation of children’s books, videos, toys, computers software, videos, television and magazines. Parents’ Choice was founded in 1978 by Claire’s mother, Diana Huss Green. Fewer than 15% of the products submitted to Parents’ Choice Awards Program receive a commendation in one of six award categories. Claire is a long-time participant of Dust or Magic, and has a deep conviction for empowering children, with all forms of media. She’ll be in the Reviewer’s panel on Monday morning, to lend her view on this year’s toys and software throughtout the event.

Benjamin Grimley is the Senior Director of PBS Interactive Businesses. He founded and leads PBS’ new Interactive Businesses group, including licensing, product development, and online distribution. In March 2008, his team launched PBS KIDS PLAY! for ages 3-6 in collaboration with PBS content providers including HIT Entertainment, National Geographic, The Jim Henson Company and Universal Studios. Previously, as Vice President of Business Development for Exent Technologies, Ben built Internet distribution channels for interactive publishers such as Atari, Microsoft Game
Studios, Riverdeep, Scholastic, Take-Two and Ubisoft. Ben holds an MBA from Johns Hopkins University.

Mark William Hansen is the Director of Business Development for the LEGO Group, and is the project lead for LEGO Universe, a new social construction site coming early 2009. He was the original architect of LEGO Factory, an experience that that bridges virtual design with real world construction allowing anyone to design custom LEGO models online which can then be ordered as a set for assembly “offline.” Hansen spent 3 years researching Mass Customization and Agile Systems at Aalborg University and served twelve years in the United States Navy. He holds a Bachelor of Science from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and a Masters of Engineering from Aalborg University.

Kathleen Kremer, Ph.D. is the Manager of Child Research at Fisher-Price. She oversees product research and testing for the Learning, Preschool, and Creative Activities Divisions. She advises these teams on child development, education, interface design, and game play and provides creative input. Products she has worked on include the Smart Cycle, the KidTough Digital Camera and FP3 Player, Digital Arts and Crafts Studio, Easy Link Internet Launch Pad, Pixter and Computer Cool School. Prior to joining Fisher-Price, Kathleen was a Development Scientist at Educational Testing Service. She also has worked on various product evaluations for media organizations such as Nickelodeon, WGBH, and Sesame Workshop and has published book chapters and journal articles on education and child development. She holds an M.A. in Psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and a Ph.D. from the Institute of Child Development at the University of Minnesota.

Debra Lieberman, Ph.D., is a communication researcher and lecturer at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she also directs the Health Games Research national program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to advance the design and effectiveness of digital interactive games used to improve health. Debra’s research focuses on processes of learning and behavior change with interactive media, with special interests in interactive games, health media, and children’s media. Debra has published widely and she consults for health organizations, education agencies, and media and technology companies to help design and evaluate interactive media for entertainment, learning, and health. Debra’s talk this year will be called Using Interactive Games to Improve Health Knowledge, Skills, and Behaviors.

Robin Raskin is a highly respected speaker, author, conference planner and blogger at YahooTech. Robin has been writing about raising kids in a digital world for nearly 30 years. The former editor of PC Magazine, and Editor-in-Chief of FamilyPC, she is the author of seven books on kids, including The Parents’ Guide to College Life (Random House, 2006) and consults on new media strategies for The Princeton Review. Robin is a long-time speaker at Dust or Magic. You can learn more about Robin at www.robinraskin.com

Scott Traylor, Chief KID and Founder, 360KID a kid-focused content and technology company dedicated to creating a love for learning through products that educate as well as entertain. 360KID provides turnkey development services to the broadcast, cable, textbook, and toy industries. Scott started his business over 16 years ago. His company has emerged as a recognized leader in the development of fun and engaging learning products. His clients include Sesame Workshop, LeapFrog, Discovery Channel, Hasbro, Highlights for Children, PBSkids, and many others. 360KID is a multi-award winning and three-time Emmy nominated company. Scott is continually reading, analyzing, and synthesizing research covering all aspects of kids and learning including new technologies, gaming, and different consumer-based delivery systems. He’s fascinated by electronic learning aids and technology instruction that is non-PC based. Scott believes nothing is impossible and so he pushes to make big dreams a reality, especially when it benefits children. See Scott’s 2006 Dust or Magic presentation here (on YouTube). You can see other presentations at http://dustormagic.wikispaces.com

Tanya Van Court is the General Manager Noggin and Sr. Vice President of Parents and Preschool Digital, Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group. She oversees strategy and operations, as well as creative and editorial content for Nickelodeon and MTVN Kids and Family Group preschool and parents online businesses. Van Court assumed this position in the fall of 2006 and is responsible for the day-to-day management of Nick Jr.com (Playtime and Nick Jr. Parents), broadband offerings Nick Jr. Video and Nick Jr. Parents TV, NOGGIN.com, GoCityKids.com and the community site ParentsConnect.com. She is a graduate of Stanford University, where she received both her bachelors and masters degrees in Industrial Engineering.

Roger Wagner is the creator of HyperStudio — the number one selling educational software product in the world during the early ’90s. Roger was a witness to the beginning of personal computing, writing the first book on assembly language programming for the Apple II which included the the first published description of how to make a computer do bi-directional scrolling text. He was a magazine columnist prior to starting Roger Wagner Publishing, and he’s experienced the garage-startup, building a company with market leadership, the thrills and trauma of selling a company, and the aftermath of brand mismanagement. Join us for an after-dinner conversation with one of the first software developers in the age of personal computers, as he talks about the past, present and future of interactive publishing for schools.

Jennifer Wells is the Associate Director for PBS Interactive Businesses. A former student of Sandra Calvert, Jennifer leads interactive content development for PBS KIDS PLAY! Past projects include creating content for Bear in the Big Blue House, Curious George, Fisher-Price, Highlights Magazine, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, Schoolhouse Rock and many others. She holds an MA from Georgetown
University.

Institute Facilitators: Warren Buckleitner of Children’s Technology Review and Daren Carstens of Carstens Studios.

For more information about Dust or Magic visit their website and wiki.

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