10 Reasons Why Attending the Digital Kids Summit is Essential to Growing Your Business

Digital Kids Summit

This September, the Digital Kids Summit at San Francisco’s Children’s Creativity Museum will be buzzing with business leaders in family-friendly digital media. If your company is struggling with the question of how to survive in a challenging marketplace, now is the time to tune in and learn from what these experts are sharing. Here are 10 compelling reasons why attending the Digital Kids Summit can provide insights to help grow your business:

1. Learn why moms purchase certain products

New 2016 research is available that explains what motivates mothers to say “yes” to buying certain digital brands. Does your product have what it takes to secure Mom’s approval?

2. Learn about global buying patterns

Understand Intel’s latest research about cross-cultural differences and how they influence buying patterns between the U.S., China and Germany.

3. Learn about Google’s view of creative play by taking a peek inside Imagination Day

Did you know Google is sponsoring educational workshops that use creative tools for teaching 21st century skills? Get the scoop. These workshops, called “Imagination Day”, are starting in the Bay Area this fall.

4. Learn how to best design a playful product

Observe how the National Institute of Play describes product design that fosters a lifelong drive to play. In addition, hear about the new book coming soon from Mark Schlichting: Understanding Kids, Play and Interactive Design: How to Create Games Children Love. 

5. Learn why to be careful when making content for kids

What’s appropriate versus inappropriate in terms of what to include in a children’s program? Find out why Standards and Practices could be helpful in answering this question.

6. Learn about reinventing classic toys

If you had to reinvent a classic toy, how would you proceed to add value without losing its magic? This session could be useful for app makers considering license agreements with classic brands.

7. Learn from Angry Birds: Are they still successful?

I would love to ask Rovio, the Finnish developer of Angry Birds, what it takes to run a successful business making apps. At this conference, you can!

8. Learn how kids are playing online at Samsung Kids

Samsung is one of the world’s largest information technology companies. Find out, from them, how are kids are playing on their Samsung Kids mobile platform.

9. Learn how to raise money and exit successfully

Getting funded and securing an exit may apply to your growing businesses. Hear insights from the VCs themselves and other venture funded companies.

10. Learn how to navigate a corporate acquisition

Some small businesses merge with others in order to survive, grow and change. Walk through a corporate acquisition with a Shark Tank contestant and hear how she navigated the waters.

And that’s only half of the agenda! To hear it all, reserve your spot now for Digital Kids Summit. Here’s how:

The Digital Kids Summit is taking place in San Francisco on September 13th and 14th at the Children’s Creativity Museum. Register through their website or reach out to the organizers if you have questions on how to get involved.

Don’t forget to tweet so folks can meet you there!


Lorraine Akemann | Co-Founder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Meet Three Women Business Leaders Who Drive Success in Mobile Apps

Join me on June 15th, 2016, in San Francisco to meet three women business leaders who are are driving success in the kids’ app marketplace. I will be moderating the Women In Tech panel at the Developing Apps for Kids Conference, hosted by Tech With Kids. We will be discussing best practices related to product development, marketing, operations, and key critical success factors for thriving in today’s mobile economy.

Panelists for Women in Tech: Driving Success in Mobile Apps

Panelists include: Connie Bossert, PhD, CEO and Co-Founder of Fairlady Media; Ariella Lehrer, PhD, CEO of Legacy Interactive; and Nancy MacIntyre, Founder and CEO of Fingerprint Play. These CEOs bring their experience of running two to thirty person companies in the kids’ tech industry, and relay what it takes not only to survive, but also to succeed and grow in this business environment.

Topic 1: Product Development

Panelists will be asked to share the decision-making process behind which products they decide to launch next. How much does data analysis play a role in these decisions? Or, is the launch the result of a strategic partnership? Ideally we will isolate the important quantitative reasons that a new app or product feature is greenlighted for development.

Topic 2: Launches and Marketing

What is the most successful proven element that goes into a product launch? Does this include launching with a well-known brand, in app-cross promotions, seasonal timing of the release, graphic design excellence, relationships with app stores, a great app review, a press release, or acknowledgement by an industry award? Whatever the case, please elaborate about keys to success in getting the word out so your product gains traction over time.

Topic 3: Business Operations

What have you learned over the years about sustainable business practices, and what do you think will determine your longevity over the next several years? Some depend on a diverse portfolio of product offerings to provide flexibility in case of market swings, and others have established focus in certain niche areas.

What is the best ongoing strategy to ensure business success? Small and nimble teams? Outsourcing? Tech tools and operational efficiencies like Slack or Trello? Partnerships? Licenses? Networking? Investments? A consistent stream of new apps? We’d love to know how successful CEOs balance day to day operations with long term strategic growth.

Excited to hear more? Me too! Tickets to the Tech With Kids Conference in San Francisco are still available up until the night before the event. I hope to see you there!

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [WOCinTech Chat]

How Apps Show Curriculum Alignment

As teachers close out the 2015-2016 school year, no doubt they will be planning for 2016-2017 very soon. With digital literacy as a pillar for 21st century learning, using apps for educational purposes may continue to increase in popularity. How do we know which apps have curriculum alignment? The answer isn’t always obvious, but these developers have taken steps to explain how curriculum standards are integrated into their app’s content.

Let’s take a look at how these alignments are presented in case more developers are curious about mapping their app’s academic content to standards frameworks.

Bel Math Apps is a husband-wife development team who specialize in building math quizzes for elementary and middle school. They have outlined connections between each app and its associated common core alignment in this table:

curriculum alignment

Todo Math’s early learning curriculum and daily math practice supports common core alignment as shown by a table on their curriculum page. Each Todo Math Mission has an educational purpose that is also associated with academic standards.

curriculum alignment

Appp Media’s educational apps for young kids come with a Teacher’s Manual to illustrate in detail how apps can be used in learning settings. This manual is a downloadable PDF from their website and includes the curriculum standard behind several game objectives.

curriculum alignment

L’escapadou, a family-run design studio focused on educational apps for kids, posts detailed app descriptions on their website which include common core standards for each app.

curriculum alignment

Splash Math’s learning program has a web page dedicated to common core alignment, and dynamically segments their apps by grade, concept and topic to drill down to specific common core objectives.

curriculum alignment

Do you know teachers who consider using apps in the classroom based on curriculum alignment? Do you have a suggestion for how developers should display or validate their curriculum mapping? Feel free to discuss in comments!

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr [Brad Flickinger]

Environmental Education Comes To Life On Steam

At the annual AppFest event in San Francisco, I met Lindsey Tropf, CEO and game developer who is applying game based learning to environmental education in a game called Tyto Ecology. Although I’m mostly involved in the world of mobile apps, I was curious about this title because in addition to her iPad app, she also launched Tyto Ecology on Steam, which is a PC gaming environment.

What is Steam?

Steam is a digital distribution platform for PC games, which also offers multiplayer and social networking features for its community. It can be accessed at http://store.steampowered.com, and requires a software installation for Steam software and for any purchased games.

According to an article on GeekSquad, 70% of PC gaming since 2012 has been Steam powered. Instead of using a game console or CD/DVD, I’m starting to think of Steam as a gamer’s cloud, or a gaming environment that enables downloads, gaming and account management from a central online marketplace.

Tyto Ecology on Steam PC Gaming Platform

How do you play Tyto Ecology?

Tyto Ecology is about building and managing your own ecosystem. As the player, you can choose between desert, rainforest, and grassland habitats. These habitats, or biomes, have certain species like predators, prey, pollinators and decomposers which construct the game dynamics. Can you keep the mix in balance? Will the environment you create die or thrive? The process of constructing a sustainable environment represents how the game supports active problem solving.

The tools and information for managing environments are aligned with academic science standards. Every species added to the game has a data profile, along with data tools and statistics to manage the biome’s health.

Why pay attention to Immersed Games?

Tyto Ecology is made by Immersed Games, and I think it’s interesting to see their vision beyond this standalone game. Their goal is to build out Tyto Online, a massively multiplayer online game where players complete quests. These players would be Tyto Academy Students who are recruited to help scientists build life on a new planet. 

In my opinion, the concept of Tyto Academy sounds incredibly appealing to explore sustainable life on earth! Although my kids are not avid PC gamers, Tyto Ecology is a point of entry I would consider to build our experience with connected online games.

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo Credit Flickr [Adam Schweigert]

How High School Students Are Solving The World’s Problems

This month I was invited to be a judge for the Congressional App Challenge. The App Challenge is a coding competition for high school students put in place to help support STEM education. Our district (the 18th Congressional District) received ten entries to be evaluated on parameters such as creativity, innovation, technical expertise and app design.


What I thought would be a simple review of app demos turned into an inspiring connection with today’s talented youth. As a parent myself, I sometimes worry about what high school will be like for my own children. The App Challenge eased some of those concerns by introducing me to students who are thriving and succeeding at real world problem solving.

Let’s read, for example, the topics they addressed:

Food waste

Equal access for college preparatory testing

Safe and undistracted driving

Political education through interactive competition

Food nutrition

Tools for helping after a car accident

Community service

Volunteer work

Teacher/student communication

Student empowerment

Feel free to read the list again to become even more inspired. All ten entries focused squarely on important issues and social betterment. These apps are designed to help make us safer, healthier, better educated, and more socially conscious. After watching the presentations and reading details about how the apps were constructed, I began to envision the entrants not just as students but as teams of skilled entrepreneurs.

The high school app makers demonstrated a range of technical expertise by coding in a variety of languages including Apple’s Swift 2.0. They also exhibited marketing savvy with cool app names and well designed app icons (which make a big difference in how professional the app looks in app stores). Innovations in app design came through with sleek user interfaces, database integration, and the use of application programming interfaces to perform specific functions.

A public reception to announce the winner will be held on Monday February 22nd at Palo Alto City Hall. The entries can be viewed here https://www.challenge.gov/challenge/congressional-app-challenge-ca-18-rep-eshoo/, and the winning app will be displayed in our nation’s Capitol Building for a year.

Although the nature of competition is to measure one idea against another, I consider this entire group of submissions as winners because of their positive influence on others. May they all be successful in future app endeavors!

With encouragement,

Lorraine Akemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Photo credit Flickr [Luftphilia]

Children’s Apps With Hand-Drawn Illustrations Always Catch My Attention

This year’s Dust or Magic conference on children’s interactive media did not disappoint. Fascinating speakers aside, one of my favorite experiences was sitting with developers to preview their creations. Lingering on my mind are three apps which share a common theme: they all include elements of hand-drawn illustrations. Compared to traditional graphic art, this softer form of craftsmanship always catches my attention. I’d be curious if you think similarly after scrolling through…

Yuri and the Flying Squid




Nicky’s Make Believe Castle



I think these illustrations show successful incorporation of human elements (like drawing, painting and doodling) into digital media. This human touch builds my engagement with the app because I want to look at all of the art on each page, activity or scene.

The stories behind each app are fascinating. Yuri and the Flying Squid was produced by a mother-son team. The son produced the app by digitally remastering graphics from his mother’s illustrations which were scanned over the Atlantic from Spain to New York. Attributes was programmed and graphically designed by a dedicated father and math advocate. Every element in the app is his original artwork. Make Believe Castle was brought to the iPad from an award-winning 1990’s computer based game. The founder’s grandchild inspired this latest rendition.

Thank you to the creators of these beautiful works for children. It may take quite a bit of effort, but families sure do appreciate it!

NOTE: It is very difficult to discuss hand-drawn apps without mentioning the amazing Roxie Monroe. If you haven’t heard of Roxie, please visit her website. In addition, the My Play Home series of apps have always been a favorite of mine, particularly because of the illustrations.

@LorraineAkemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Did You Say You Make Apps For Kids?

If you make apps for kids, or are involved in children’s interactive media, I’d like to talk about Dust or Magic and the role it plays in this space.

Warren Buckleitner, Editor of Children’s Technology Review, knows how to gather captivating minds to demonstrate, debate and discuss product design for children and how it relates to child development. He organized the first Dust or Magic in 2001 on the tailwind of Bologna Book Fair’s New Media Prize. He followed up by adding App Camp every spring in Monterey, California, starting in 2009.

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. Or it might be that Warren chooses down-home locations where attendees can relax and brainstorm freely. But the real reason might be that Warren is one of those people who really gets kids, and he is doing his best to keep the experience authentic — for their sake.

To focus on the interests of children, no sponsorships are allowed at Dust or Magic. This means attendees need to foot the bill. Out of pocket expenses can be high for an independent developer or small company. Warren recognizes this and tries to work with small publishers. In fact, he or someone in the office answers a real land-line phone just to hear those pleas.

Dust or Magic conference agendas brim with storytelling from a range of kids’ tech experts and pioneers. What I admire most about the speakers is their inclination to share failures as much as successes. These mistakes help us learn about Dust to better understand how Magic is made. The archives of past App Camps give you a flavor of who spoke on which topics, along with videos of memorable presentations (like this one from Dan Russell-Pinson about Letting Magic Happen).

I first found out about Dust or Magic back in 2010. Caroline Hu Flexer, founder of Duck Duck Moose, let me know about the conference through Moms With Apps. Living in the Bay Area, it was easy for me to make a trip to Monterey for the pre-conference demo sessions (now called AppFest). I enjoyed taking my girls along to test apps and provide feedback to the app makers. I popped in again for a brief panel in 2012, and later during the 2014 and 2015 AppFests at the the CoLab offices in San Francisco.

Although I usually just mingle on the conference periphery, I don’t hesitate to promote Dust or Magic to newcomers in the app world. The 15th Annual Dust or Magic will be held November 1st — 3rd in Lambertville, New Jersey. The agenda from Warren sounds timely and compelling:

“We have a lot to talk about this year. The iPad Pro has expanded screen size, opening new play patterns, and several Virtual Reality devices are ready to be launched. These will be discussed in a review of the year panel with Chris Byrne of Time to Play magazine; followed by a banquet and special talk by Muppet legends Michael Frith and Kathryn Mullen.”

Warren goes on to highlight new guests from the Parents’ Choice Foundation, New York Times, and MIT’s Education Arcade, along with top-notch industry veterans and app makers. This includes a presentation from Caroline about their new app, WonderBox. Reviewing the agenda while writing this post is making me rethink where I want to spend my November birthday this year. New Jersey sounds nice.

Keeping the child’s well being at the top of any conference agenda is a laudable goal to accomplish. Warren continues to get this priority right, every time.

@LorraineAkemann | Cofounder and Editor | Moms With Apps

Developer Exchange: A Conversation for Kids’ App Makers

developers banner-01

If you make apps for kids, summer is a great time to catch up on the year’s industry news. Whether you are brushing up on iOS 8 and Apple’s new programming language, evaluating “Family Sharing“, reading about the latest App Store changes, or just figuring out when to launch your app – the Developer Exchange provides a hub for these discussion topics. There is plenty of work to be done before back-to-school, and no need to go it alone. Write us at hello@momswithapps.com with your Facebook email address and we will send you an invitation to the forum.

Made In Finland: A new tool to help us visualize fractions, decimals and percentages

Esa Helttula of iDevBooks is coming out with a new app on October 7th: Visual Fractions Decimals and Percentages for iPad. What I find exciting about his “visual” series of math apps is that they let you explore numeric relationships in an open ended fashion. In other words, they let you experiment with numbers.


This summer I was fortunate enough to meet Esa in person during my family’s summer vacation. After showing us around Helsinki for a day, we sat down for a cup of tea at the hotel. I guess you could call it an “international app meet-up”, because he immediately brought out his iPad to let me preview his work. Esa is an independent app developer living in Finland, with an extensive background in computer science and math education. His family participates with product development, and his apps have been very well received in educational institutions around the globe. Sometimes I think it helps to put a face to a name: here we are outside of the Espoo Museum of Modern Art, shortly before he showed me the latest apps…


Some people call me crazy for making this blog my hobby over the past several years, but Esa is the type of person who inspires me to keep going. You see, apps don’t grow on trees. They are hand-made from the ground up, with hundreds of programming hours that go into each and every tap and swipe. Because of people like Esa, children will have a diverse set of tools for understanding math within reach.

To see his app in action, here is a 1 minute and 43 second demo video. He made it under two minutes especially for you, because he knows parents are short on time. 🙂  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. More information about the app is available on his website: http://idevbooks.com/apps/visual_fractions.php.


An observation about Apple’s new “Kids” category

On iOS7 launch day I was able to download Apple’s new iOS to my iPad Mini. My first stop was the App Store to check out the new “Kids” category.


I noticed a selection of familiar developers featured in the Kids category, many of whom have worked hard to build apps that kids really love. My hope is that over time, more and more developers will be featured in this category, because this section of the App Store is fun and vibrant and made with content “just for kids”.

I also noticed a selection of developers who I could not find in the Kids category, but who had, after a lot of effort to make their apps work with the new Apple Review Guidelines for Kids, gotten their apps accepted by Apple.

At this point, unfortunately, accepted does not mean selected. It looks like submitting your app with the new “Kids” designation, even upon acceptance, does not guarantee placement in the Kids section of the store. Apparently access to this section of the store, at least for now, depends on being selected by Apple for inclusion.

I wanted to share it in case it impacts your business planning.