Interactive Ontario OIDMTC Post-budget Townhall



In this year’s provincial budget, the government released changes to the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. Please join us at an important townhall meeting on May 28 to discuss these changes, which include updated eligibility requirements. As well, the OMDC will offer initial information about the renewed Interactive Digital Media Fund.

Due to overwhelming demand for Interactive Ontario (IO) OIDMTC Post-budget Townhall, they have added a webinar option. Webinar participants will be able to follow along with the presentations and submit questions to the moderator.

In this year’s provincial budget, the government released changes to the Ontario Interactive Digital Media Tax Credit. The townhall will discuss these changes, which include updated eligibility requirements. As well, the OMDC will offer initial information about the renewed Interactive Digital Media Fund.

OIDMTC Post-Budget Townhall

May 28, 2015

333 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M5H 2S5 – 46th Floor

tickets sold out

Webinar: 5:00-6:30pm

Register here for your free webinar ticket
(details on how to access the webinar will be sent to registrants next week).…

Guest speakers:

Jennifer Blitz, Director of Tax Credits and Financing
Programs – OMDC

Kristine Murphy, Director, Industry Development –

Co-hosted by Interactive Ontario (IO) in partnership with KPMG, CMPA


WordCamp Hamilton 2015 speaker line-up posted



WordCamps are conferences that focus on everything WordPress. They’re informal and community organized, and are a great way to learn new skills and connect with others in the community.

The speaker line-up for WordCamp Hamilton 2015 has been released, check out the line-up below and get your ticket today! Only $20 – what a deal!


When: Saturday June 6th 2015

Where: McMaster Innovation Park @ 175 Longwood Road South Hamilton, Ontario



Advanced/Developer Track


Time: 9:30 am
Talk: A Modern WordPress Developer’s Toolkit

The talk would be targeted to intermediate to advanced WordPress developers and would be about using some of the common and popular development tools in a WordPress specific settings. We’ll look at a number of issues that come up during WordPress development (such as sharing code between multiple developers, developer ramp up, repetitive tasks and deployment) and some modern tools to help developers worry more about development and less about the headaches that can come with it.

Speaker: Adam Wills


Time: 10:30 am
Talk: High Voltage: Building Static Sites with WordPress-Managed Content

WordPress evolved from a simple blog platform into a full-fledged content management system. It is now evolving beyond that into an application development framework. It is a new era for WordPress. One that partly made possible by the WP-API plugin. The plugin bolts a REST API on top of the WordPress platform, allowing for integration of WordPress with other systems.

WP-API can be leveraged in many ways. For example, there is a lot of excitement around using WordPress as a backend for single page web apps and mobile apps. But the possibilities don’t end there. In this talk, we will explore the use of WP-API to integrate WordPress-managed content with static site generators.

Static site generators and flat-file CMSs have been growing in popularity over the past few years, due largely to developer productivity, reliability, security, performance and ease-of-deployment. They are a compelling alternative but compromises must be made to realize the benefits. It doesn’t have to be an either-or decision. We will explore strategies for using WordPress as a collaborative writing room – similar to proprietary alternatives like and Contentful. And we will explore strategies for building static sites using that content.

INTENDED AUDIENCE: Intermediate to advanced WordPress developers

Speaker: Nick Kenyeres


Time: 11:30 am
Talk: How To Set a Vagrant Development System

If you need to have a development environment that matches a typical production environment.

See how the default server configuration provisioned by VVV matches a common configuration for working with high traffic WordPress sites.

See WordPress configurations provided by VVV create an environment ideal for developing themes and plugins as well as for contributing to WordPress core.

See how to run PHPCS (static code analyst) and PHPunit in vagrant.

Speaker: Paul Bearne


Time: 1:30 pm
Talk: WordPress Accessibility – the fundamentals of Web Accessibility

The focus of my presentation will be on WordPress and website accessibility; from a front-end perspective. First, I will explain what web accessibility is and why it is important. To continue, I will discuss AODA and Section 508 regulations for Canada and the United States. Then, I will go over some key WCAG 2.0 compliancy requirements a developer will need to ensure the websites they develop are fully accessible. From there, I will showcase a few web accessibility tools, then some WordPress accessibility plugins; followed by a quick demonstration on how to evaluate a website’s accessibility.

Speaker: Jordan Quintal


Time: 2:30 pm
Talk: Sharing the Love: Leveraging the WordPress REST API to Syndicate Content

We know and love WordPress as a great content management system. Wouldn’t it be great if we could leverage the power, ease, and simplicity of WordPress-as-CMS across a wide range of web platforms? We might display pages and posts in a node.js or Ruby on Rails web application, say, decoupling the front and back ends of WordPress to connect the CMS to a foreign site or application.

Future versions of WordPress will include a RESTful API to allow easy syndication of WordPress content across multiple platforms with a consistent. We will look at the plugin (WP REST API) slated to become part of core WordPress, review how the API came to be and where it’s going, and check out a bunch of cool things one might do with the API.

Speaker: Brian Hoke


Time: 3:30 pm
Talk: Speed up your WordPress site

Speeding up a WordPress site (or any content site) is economical, boost rankings, and most of all, improve the user experience. The presentation discusses the different general strategies to make your site more speedy or suck less if you are inheriting a mess. There will be some demonstration of how to make a site run faster by using different engines, installation of plugins and changes in general.

Developers of all abilities will benefit from the tips, and intermediate/advanced developers will find some of the examples/case studies useful.

Speaker: Alan Lok


Time: 4:30 pm
Time: WordPress For Web Apps – Using your favourite CMS to build the next big startup

You’ve got an awesome idea for a startup, but you’re just a WordPress developer—you don’t have the skills or resources to build a fancy web app. Or do you?

In this talk, you’ll learn how you can use the world’s most popular CMS to build a killer web app without investing time and resources into learning new frameworks or hiring other developers. You’ll see how easy it is to get started with real-life examples of WordPress-based web apps, learn how to adapt your ideas to work within the WordPress architecture to save development time, and get a step-by-step walkthrough of the app-building process. By the time you leave the talk, you’ll have all the knowledge you need to build the next big app—guaranteed!

Speaker: Chris Van Patten


Beginner/Blogger/Designer Track


Time: 9:30 am
Talk: WordPress 101

This talk will introduce WordPress to people who are new to WordPress or have never touched the platform. People want to know what their getting into! What kind of commitment does this mean? What things can it do for me on social media? A quick look at the dashboard and take questions that people have. Why would people use WordPress?

Speaker: Shanta Nathwani


Time:10:30 am
Talk: 10 Steps to Build a Better Business Site For Less Than $100

You don’t need to be a developer to build a great website in WordPress.


In this session we’ll be walking through the process of building a business website, from initial planning to site launch, for less than $100. Attendees will walk away with an actionable list of to-do items that they can follow to build a business site for themselves or for their clients.

The ideal audience for this session includes:

– Novice WordPress users looking to expand their marketable skills.
– Marketers looking to improve their technical skill set.
– Developers aiming to make their work more client-focused.

Attendees should already have a fundamental understanding of how WordPress works (pages, posts, plugins, themes, etc.)

Speaker: Andy McIlwain


Time: 11:30 am
Talk: Getting Started with Child Themes

The session would be directed towards beginner DIY WordPress users. I would cover what Child Themes are, why they should be used and how to create them. I would also cover the difference between Themes, Starter Themes and Frameworks. At the end of the session, the audience will know how to create a child theme from an existing theme and use the child theme to customize the site.

Speaker: Nick Adams


Time: 1:30 pm
Talk: Make your WordPress Blog Pinterest friendly

This session is for anyone who is curious about Pinterest and those already using it.

We’ll touch on the following topics…
* how Pinterest can make you a better blogger
* Pinterest Boards for your blog
* Resources for creating free images for your blog
* Pinterest Plugins for WordPress

Speaker: Ruth Maude


Time: 2:30 pm
Talk: Typography and WordPress

Why Typography matters on the web, with particular focus on why it matters for WordPress. Discussion on type choices, type pairings, when and where to use specific type styles. Some quick ways to make a difference with some type style (whether via plugins or CSS).

In general the talk would be somewhere in the middle the user/blogger track and the dev track, but I can easily adjust it to focus on one track vs the other depending on what you’d prefer.

Speaker: Andy Staple


Time: 3:30 pm
Talk: Plugins for the People: A beginners look at extending WordPress With Plugins

This session will help beginner level users understand how they can leverage the power of Plugins to extend the functionality of WordPress.

We will look at how to find and evaluate plugins and some of the amazing things they can do.

Speaker: Geoff Campbell


Time: 4:30 pm
Talk: How to Write Blog Posts that Get Results

Do you feel like no one’s reading your blog but your mom and your best friend? Are you wondering whether blogging is really worth it? Learn powerful strategies to help you attract readers, encourage social sharing, and ultimately generate more business. Suitable for both new and experienced bloggers.

Speaker: Janet Barclay


McMaster Software Outreach looking to visit local schools



McMaster Computing and Software (@MacCASOutreach) is running Software: Tool for Change workshops for local schools in May and June. Workshop lengths range from all-day workshops to 20 minute workshops.

Contact if you would like your school to participate, or would like to arrange a school visit.


Example workshop

Our first workshop was held at Parkway Public School on May 5th with Grade 7 and 8 students in the Enrichment Program! They were introduced to the functional programming language ELM where they created shapes with colours and eventually animations of a heart and beyond. The students also beta tested our teaching apps; Image 2 Bits, which was developed to teach the concept of binary bits using simple user created images, a graph based text adventure game designer, as well as a coconut cracking game, designed to introduce students to the most efficient search strategy.


Image 2 Bits

Our first outreach iPad app, Image 2 Bits, is also available for download:

Image 2 Bits teaches binary encoding using black and white images.

Coded images are shared with classmates wirelessly even if you do not have access to a network, and after decoding images, children can like them and then keep them in their picture gallery. Likes appear on the creator’s screen while they are decoding others’ images.

Basic help screens explain how everything in our digital world depends on binary encoding, and interactively demonstrates one method of decoding.

Bonus screens demonstrate addition and multiplication of binary numbers.

If you share iPads in your class, there is a restart button to enable a second child to create and share their own picture.

Troubleshooting: To enable sharing, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi should be turned on, but, for the unlikely case that an iPad will not talk to its peers, there are a few coded images built in.

Privacy: names, titles and images are transmitted to neighbouring iPads and may be intercepted by other network users. Quit the app to erase all stored information.















BrainStation is a progressive educational institution that offers a variety of in-class courses revolving around the modern digital landscape.  The BrainStation team is a tight-knit community of thinkers and builders dedicated to providing a flexible education to a wide range of students.  From creators to entrepreneurs, BrainStation’s adaptable curriculum has something for everyone.


BrainStation offers both full and part time courses in design, development, and business in major cities across North America.  Students can choose between web and iOS development, UX design, digital marketing courses, and more. Students spend time outside of the classroom working through readings, videos and tutorials, allowing them to apply the knowledge they have gained on projects in class.  Students are taught and mentored by industry professionals, allowing them to work with some of the best and brightest in the business.


Unlike traditional education, BrainStation classes take place after hours and online, allowing educators to share what they love without leaving the jobs they adore. This means that everything they teach comes directly from their own cutting edge work at innovative companies.  Students leave the BrainStation classroom empowered by a variety of completed projects, and a valuable portfolio to show future employers. Their hands on experience gives them something that a traditional education simply won’t.


Check out BrainStation’s blog to get the latest!


Additionally, check out what TechVibes has to say about BrainStation and learn about Konrad Group’s acquisition of BrainStation back in December.

Code club field report

In Fall 2014 the Innovation & Technology committee of the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce formed a subcommittee around starting up code clubs in Hamilton-area elementary schools. Code clubs consist of weekly gatherings of children interested in coding at an elementary school, with a mentor going through educational material to teach the children how to code using freely available tools. The idea isn’t new – the UK runs a nation-wide network of coding clubs for example.

IEC Hamilton and specifically subcommittee chair Cesare DiDonato have been critical to making the connections with the HWDSB and HWCDSB and facilitating this process. Since the beginning of 2015 we’ve had at least a dozen code clubs startup in Hamilton elementary schools, each run by a volunteer in the local tech community.

I was hoping to blog about my experiences running a club earlier in the year, but my club did not startup until last week. The schools all have different times when they’re able to accommodate this sort of activity.

Last week I ran my first session of the club in Sheri Crumblehulme’s grade 4/5 class at Mountain View Elementary School on Barton Street in Stoney Creek. It was a really cool experience! We spent about an hour going through the “Create a Pong Game” Scratch activity [link].

Here’s my thoughts on Scratch, why tools like it are important to teaching introductory programming, how the session went, and what I want to try next week.



Scratch is a programming language built by MIT’s Open Media Lab. It’s meant to be a stepping stone to more advanced programming languages. It’s very visual and event driven. Instead of writing code, most of the sequences of instructions for different events are composed by dragging and snapping blocks together. It’s particularly suited for creating simple games or animations, things that are more engaging than the more traditional “Hello, World!” style introduction to programming. And while it’s intended to be kid-friendly, it’s actually used in introductory computer science courses at the post-secondary level (including Harvard).




From about the 1990s onwards there were a lot of attempts to make these sorts of stepping stone languages (e.g. Alice). There had been attempts going back to BASIC in the 60s to make languages for beginner programmers and less technical users. These newer languages like Alice and Scratch were fundmentally different though for a few reasons. They were never intended to be used for production code, only for educational usage. This allows for a great number of simplifications, barriers to learning programming could be simply removed entirely in many cases. The GUI-style programming in particular strips away a huge annoyance for beginner programmers – syntax errors.

Another huge positive of Scratch is the ecosystem and community around it. Students can save their work and get access to it at school, home or a friend’s house later. Students can go through tutorials that others have created. There are forums for teachers and learners to get access to help. Most great developers will tell you that the ecosystem around a language is almost as important as the language, and that’s just as true with Scratch.


Learning to program

If you’re an experienced programmer, there can be a sense that by using Scratch you’re not really teaching computer programming. There’s a big jump between Scratch and something like JavaScript or Python. That said, with Scratch, you’re not really trying to teach computer programming so much as you are computational thinking.

One of the major barriers to learning how to program is to know how to sequence instructions to carry out some activity (i.e. write a simple algorithm to solve a problem). It’s a creative activity that involves composing building blocks (instructions, if-statements, loops) into a greater whole.

It’s also a really, really hard thing to do.

Experienced programmers and those naturally inclined towards programming take this ability for granted sometimes. But creating sequences of instructions to solve problems is at the highest point in Bloom’s Taxonomy. Bloom’s Taxonomy categorizes learning objectives, with skills on the bottom generally both easier to learn than the skills above them, and also required to learn the skills above them.




There’s a bunch of reasons why learning computer programming is difficult. But this creative ability to compose sequences of instructions is particularly brutal (and yes, “particularly brutal” is the appropriate technical term!).

“Regardless of what choices are made for programming approach, language and development environment, in the classroom the students will still face a challenging combination of abstract programming concepts and logical reasoning processes. These abstract principles and logical reasoning must be applied to solve a variety of real world problems in a variety of contexts. Therefore rote learning is near impossible in the programming context. Although students can arm themselves with an array of programming examples and constructs, each programming problem will have a unique solution comprised of the programming building blocks they have studied.”
– Learning challenges faced by novice programming students studying high level and low feedback concepts by Matthew Butler and Michael Morgan [link]

The fact that each programming problem has a unique solution prevents mechanical repetition from being effective (i.e. a hard work ethic alone won’t do the job, you can’t Rocky-Balboa-training-montage-scene your way to learning programming).

It’s like learning how to throw a punch vs. learning how to box against an opponent, or learning how to set an oven temperature vs. writing a recipe, or learning how to read a note vs. writing a song, or learning how to quote a source vs. writing an essay. It’s a level up that requires reflection, abstraction and new thinking on the part of the learner. So what’s needed is a different approach, one that’s based on teaching how to think, teaching meta-skills, developing problem solving skills.

And Rocky IV really is the best Rocky film by far, he practically won the entire Cold War on his own. Let’s not forget that.

Scratch is such a great tool because it strips away many of the other difficulties of learning how to program (fixing syntax errors, remembering language constructs, the dryness of visual-less programming), and it leaves us with something pure that allows us to work on computational thinking. And it’s not just Scratch, it’s all the other tools and teaching approaches that facilitate learning this type of thinking that are critical.



We only had an hour to go through Scratch and the Pong-building workshop. Overall it went pretty well, as by the end of the hour most students had a ball bouncing on the screen, bouncing off the walls of the screen, and bouncing off the paddle, which was the core of the implementation. Many of the students also created accounts on Scratch so they could access their materials later.

Importantly, most of the students also seemed to be having fun. They were also having fun with aspects that I didn’t guess at going in. Technically, the tutorial tells the students to select a regular looking ball and a regular looking paddle. Now, as a practical matter, students were using turtles for the ball and a corvette for the paddle. Students really enjoyed the fact that they could customize their game and make it theirs, doing something funny in the process.

One student put a cat head on the screen and got it to spin around constantly and bounce off the walls. It was funny, yes, but it’s also pretty cool he was able to get it to do that, because it involved putting together a set of instructions the tutorial didn’t show them directly. And he did it for fun, on his own initiative.

I kind of forgot both how much kids want to have fun (duh!) and how much they want to create their own fun. Going through a step-by-step tutorial might be more appropriate for Grades 6-8 rather than 4-5. And as nice as it is to have a theoretical discussion and thoughts about the importance of computational thinking and bla bla bla, that just can’t compete with the ability to create a spinning, bouncing cat head. So I feel it’s probably best to channel that desire to have fun and creative freedom.




In terms of any challenges, the students were all at different comfort levels. Some students were done the tutorial in 5 minutes as they quickly skipped ahead, while others struggled with the Scratch interface itself.

I’m not sure how much going through the tutorial really developed their computational thinking. The tutorial tells them exactly what to do, and they just follow the instructions. So while it does build an awareness of building blocks and the need to put them together, it doesn’t really let them work on how to put them together. Obviously there’s a limit to how much “computational thinking” you’re really going to develop in an hour.

The experience left me with two thoughts on how to proceed:

1) Doing a more open-ended Scratch activity, like teaching them how to conduct some simple animations, and then having them spend the rest of their time animating a scene they decide to create. The idea being to let them create their own fun, and learn with less direction now that they’ve had some exposure to the tool.

2) Doing something else entirely, like Lightbot, that would allow them to have fun playing a game that’s subtly teaching them computational thinking. The idea being that the activity is inherently more fun, to them it’s a cool puzzle game, but that it also really hones in on the paramount issue of developing computational thinking.


Next week

So next week we’re going to try Lightbot out. I’d honestly just like to give it a try and see what happens, as I suspect the students have never seen it before and will have a blast while secretly learning how to sequence instructions. There’s also an advantage to showing students multiple things – some students can play Lightbot at home in the summer, and others can continue to play around with Scratch. And being in grades 4-5 it’s more important the students learn the computational thinking fundamentals games like Lightbot can teach, and have fun in the process.

After this, if we do more sessions, depending on the classes availability, I think it’d be neat to either show more game-like learning tools or go back to Scratch in a more open ended way. Maybe after we’ve done a few activities the students could even select the activity they’d like to do based on what they enjoy the most.


Code clubs are really fun “makes me happy to be alive” stuff. If you’re interested in becoming a facilitator at a code club next year drop me a line at and I’ll make sure you’re added to the list!


Freelancer meetup this Thursday

peterWhen: Thursday May 21st 2015 6:00pm to 8:30pm

Where: The Pheasant Plucker @ 20 Augusta Street Hamilton, Ontario


We will be kicking things off with a presentation from Chad Fullerton on some great web-based tools and services you can use for Content Marketing, and how to automate your WordPress blog.

Following that, we’re having a very special guest speaker coming in who is an expert in business financial investing – Peter Skoretz, Financial Advisor at Edward Jones. He will be sharing an information-packed presentation about ways you can invest your business revenue rather than leaving your profits sitting in the bank. A great presentation, you don’t want to miss it!

We’ll then jump into an open networking session. Bring your business cards, and a smile :-)


Freelancer Meetups are monthly events run by the Hamilton Freelancers Association. They are free, and open to all creative professionals, consultants, and entrepreneurs in the Hamilton area that are freelancing and running their own business (or looking to learn how to start!). If you’re looking to start a freelancing consulting business be sure to visit our resources page beforehand for tips on starting your own business.

We bring in some of the best and brightest to give talks on ways to help you build and grow your entrepreneurial venture, along with facilitated icebreakers and open networking.

CoderCamp31 tonight

When: Wednesday May 20th 2015 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Where: The Pheasant Plucker @ 20 Augusta St Hamilton, Ontario



CoderCamp was born from the spirit of BarCamp, and has evolved into a monthly mini-conference. CoderCamp is for local software developers to learn tools, techniques, and technologies from one another in a casual and friendly setting. We meet to talk about coding, software development, and technology to learn from each other and get better at what we do in the process.
We have a projector and screen set up for people to give presentations. We try to have a few speakers lined up in advance to give the event structure, but there is usually room for “open mic” presentations or discussions if you’re interested in sharing. We welcome you to come, talk, discuss, share, or just sit quietly and listen.

Scheduled Talks:

Brian Graham, one of the original founders of CoderCamp Hamilton, will talk about the Modern PHP Ecosystem and teach us to go from prototype to production using Silex and Cilex.


Hacking Health Cafe #2



When: Thursday May 21st 2015 from 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Where: St Joe’s West 5th campus, 2nd floor, Seminar Room 2 (100 West 5th Street, Hamilton, ON)



Hacking Health is designed to improve healthcare by inviting technology creators and healthcare professionals to collaborate on realistic, human-centric solutions to front-line problems. Cafés are informal meetups to discuss and debate digital health in your city, where people and ideas mingle.

We’re back with more healthcare and tech connections!


danielpennDaniel Penn is president and co-founder of Toronto’s Shift Health. As a teenager, he was a competitive athlete representing Canada in ski racing. A series of injuries, operations and a significant concussion led him to experience the challenges of patient-provider communication. He has now founded a startup to address that problem.

Shift Health, an award winning startup working with their clients like Boston Children’s Hospital and CAMH, among others, to improve the patient experience and reduce barriers to effective clinical decision making with their flagship product TickiT. It improves outcomes by providing valuable insights into what patients think, and why they behave the way they do. Moving beyond the Quantified Self of patient-generated data from wearables, Shift Health’s unique data collection capabilities empower organizations to act upon the Qualified Self based on patient-reported data. With patients are partners, re-admission rates lower and clinical outcomes improve.


Sarah Drew from Every1Games will show how autistic children can improve their health by creating video games. Sarah graduated from Brock University in 2011 with a Bachelor of Arts in digital humanities. She has been working with the autism community for more than 10 years and has collaborated with multiple game studios, assisting with production and business development.

Every1Games helps participants explore the inside of the video game industry in a low-anxiety and collaborative learning environment. The program builds valuable life skills through individual and team-based game development, social learning activities and networking guidance. Autism is experienced differently by everyone, and Every1Games empowers each participant to define what their diagnosis means to them and what they want to achieve. Upon completing the program, learners are equipped to accomplish what they most desire: meaningful employment and independence. Every1Games also works with game developers to facilitate low-anxiety beta testing for video games.


Take5 is about giving yourself the 5 minutes a day you deserve for your overall mental health. By just popping in your headphones and pressing play, Take5 allows users to turn any busy restaurant or crowed go bus into their own personal meditation oasis. Studies show that mindfulness meditation improves your work performance, and decreases your stress levels.

The app features a 30-day challenge that allows the user to ease into the practice of guided meditation. The user will start off with 5-minute meditation sessions and progress to longer session as they complete each challenge. The user will be able to schedule meditation sessions, receive reminders, and track their progress.

The app is beginning it’s beta stage testing with students in and around McMaster University.


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