Episode # 54

Education & Willpower with Melissa Kincaid

April 11, 2024

About This Episode

On this episode, Kara & Caryn speak with Melissa Kincaid, a Technology Trainer Administrator with the ROCKSTAR Learning Technologies Team in Cincinnati, about how a major tool in any educators arsenal can be something as simple as the will to act.


Melissa Kincaid

Melissa Kincaid has been an educator since 2003. Starting as a classroom teacher, she taught Mathematics and Science from grades 5 to Algebra 1. At present, she is a member of the ROCKSTAR Learning Technologies Team at Cincinnati Public Schools, serving as a Technology Trainer Administrator. Additionally, she holds a position as a visiting instructor at Miami University, where she has the opportunity to learn and develop alongside pre-service teachers. Melissa’s passion lies in employing innovative techniques and technologies to integrate creativity, empower student voice, and engage all students in learning and growth.

Learn more about Melissa over on her YouTube channel



Caryn: Today we are talking to Melissa Kincaid, Technology Trainer Administrator at Cincinnati Public Schools. Welcome, Melissa. We are so excited to talk to you today. Hello, darlings. I am excited to be here. So I think we’ll just start like we always do. Melissa. So we usually have our guests come on and start off telling us about their journey into education and how they ended up where they are doing what they are doing.

Melissa Kincaid: So, my journey in the education, every teacher has their own unique educator journey. And I laugh that mine is the journey of the black widow. So I started off as a classroom teacher. I decided to become an instructional coach because I loved our instructional coach. And I thought that she did a really good job of supporting [00:01:00] teachers.

And she actually told me, hey, there was a position open. You know, I think that you should look into it. I became an instructional coach. I was instructional coach for several years until the district decided to eliminate that position. And although it was very sad, I decided to take a position as a math specialist, and then because of COVID, they eliminated that position.

That’s why I’m the black widow district. So I was, I went back into the classroom during COVID, which was very difficult. A moment of silence. Shout out to all of the teachers that were in the classroom during COVID, making it work, losing their minds, but wrapping their arms around their babies. Anyhow, and after I survived teaching in COVID for that year, I took the position that I now have as a technology trainer administrator, [00:02:00] which I absolutely love because I am in a classroom.

The position where I can truly support teachers and their journey to incorporate educational technology into their practice.

Kara: So how can technology integration enhance teaching the teaching and learning experience?

Melissa Kincaid: So I think that it is first very important to separate those two. questions, right? So many times we talk about teaching and learning as if they’re one in the same and they are, but they’re not.

So when we’re talking about how technology enhances the teaching experience, it’s a little bit different than enhancing the learning experience for the student. So with the teaching experience, technology really should be a tool that the teacher uses in order to be more efficient. The humanity of teachers is often left out of the conversation.

We are human beings that do not live to work. We have outside responsibilities and interest and [00:03:00] families and passions that may or may not have anything to do with our job. So integrating technology as a teaching experience really should be what are those tools that are out there that make the job more efficient, make the aspects more.

Easier and quicker to accomplish. And most importantly, how can I use technology to do those aspects of my job that are not about analyzing student behavior or emotions or learning path? So, for example, I may. Not need to grade all of these papers by hand when I can use an A. I enabled tool to give me feedback because then I can use my time analyzing that feedback and matching it with what I know about my student and their human life and the social, emotional, aspects of their learning environment that I think may be impacting their work. That’s what [00:04:00] I can’t do, right? That’s what technology can’t do. It doesn’t understand the humanity of the tiny humans that are sitting in front of you. So integrating technology as a teacher really should be doing the. Non human elements so that they can concentrate on the human elements and have a holistic wraparound service for the student and their family.

Now, integrating technology as a learning experience is a little bit different because. The students are entering into a world where they need employable skills that teachers may or may not have and that’s a hard conversation to have with teachers because they’re beautiful, wonderful and brilliant at what they do, but they have chosen a career path that may be completely different than what their students would choose to do.

However, they are the gatekeepers of the skills that their students have when they enter into those choices. So [00:05:00] it’s actually very challenging. nuanced and we have to make sure that we are giving our students the experiences that they need with the possible tools that they would need to impact the world they’re going into, which looks vastly different than the world that we went into when we were their age.

Kara: Yeah, for sure. And that’s kind of all about exposing them. I know you do a good job of like exposing or working with teachers to expose them to opportunities. know, for those skills. So that

Melissa Kincaid: is, that is the fun part of my job, right? Is I really do get to be the one that shows teachers what’s out there. I get to show them what’s possible.

That’s why I love working with our conference because it’s kind of a showcase of what’s possible out there, but it is very difficult for them sometimes because they balance so much. So we have to find creative ways of reaching our teachers [00:06:00] so that we can see them what. So that they can see what they have out there to also eliminate some of the teacher burnout that we see in and day out.

Kara: Yeah, which, what do you think is the best way to support teachers in that effort?

Melissa Kincaid: I believe the best way to support them is to involve them as a student 1st. So many times the introduction of a new technology to our teachers. Is an email from an administrator or above saying, Hey, we purchased this thing for you and we want you to use it.

Here’s a website that has webinars and videos about how it’s used. And the teachers don’t even know what it is. So it’s very important to. Never lose sight of the fact that our teachers are learners, too, and they chose a profession where they can be continuously learning. And also because technology changes every single day, everyone is always learning in the [00:07:00] world of technology.

Those that are creating the technology, those that are utilizing the technology, those that are teaching with it, learning with it, training with it. Everybody’s learning something new almost every day because it changes so quickly. So when we’re helping it to support our teachers with how they utilize technology, it’s very important to let them experience it as a learner first.

See how this program works, not because we’ve told you about it. But because you’ve experienced it, once they can experience the technology and its value, then they have the skill set to truly determine how it can be best used in their practice.

Kara: What are some of your favorite ways to get teachers excited about something?

Melissa Kincaid: Oh, I honestly think that my favorite way, and I wish I did it more, is co teaching with them. So we work with a vast diversity of teachers in their [00:08:00] interest and experience with technology. Some of them hear the word computer and they already freak out something here. The word computer. And they’ve, you Jumped down the rabbit hole, you know, 18 feet deep.

So what I really like to do is when I’m introducing something new that I think a teacher may be interested in is to go into their classroom and essentially teach a lesson with it. Because again, that wraps back around to what I said about the teacher being a learner. Their job in that moment is not to teach the technology or the lesson.

Their job in that moment is to see the impact that that technology has on their students and decide, is this something that I feel is a, would engage my students? Is this something that fits well into my students learning path? And also, is this something that I feel that I can manage well? I do a good job of managing students with technologies because I give them a lot of freedom and I have [00:09:00] the demeanor where I’m okay with that.

You could come into my classroom and it would seem like it was a 14 ring service. But I can see what my students are doing in the level of creativity that that has sparked in them. And I’m okay with that. Not every teacher is okay with that. And that’s actually okay. We’re not going to shame teachers for what they are and are not ready to handle.

Right? They’re human beings too. So I also want them to be in that moment to see, is this something that I have a management plan for as my students are engaging with it? So that’s my. Favorite thing to do because they get to be the expert into how this technology wouldn’t be incorporated into their learning space.

Not because they thought of it outside of their students, but because they seen and experienced it as their students were working with the technology.

Kara: Yeah. I love that. And we’ve been lucky. Well, [00:10:00] I’ve been lucky enough to do some things with you that are always so much fun in that co teaching space.

So I, I’m also curious, like, what are some of your favorite things that you Tools and maybe some uses for them because I think you’ve got some great ideas to share with listeners.

Melissa Kincaid: So I want to start with a disclaimer to all of our tools that we use in Cincinnati Public Schools and all of the great partners that I work with.

They are all brilliant and amazing. No, playing favorites is hard. So I am a creative person. I I love creating things. I love making things. I call myself a creative math nerd because I am just as jazzed about creating new things as I am about mathematics. So some of my favorite tools are things that we can use to help the students [00:11:00] express their learning path and journey in mathematics.

Creatively. So man. So should I do like a top three, a top five? What do you think? Cause you got to give me a limit girl.

Kara: No, maybe top three. That might be a

Melissa Kincaid: good place to start. Yeah. So I would say top three, number one definitely has to be Adobe express. So Adobe Express is an all in one editor that allows you to just create things super quickly. And when I say things, it really is a lot. You can create podcasts, you can create drawings, flyers, videos.

I mean, the, the sky’s the limit. And what I love about Adobe express is that it has so many stock options and templates that it makes creative [00:12:00] people like me who do not consider themselves artists, right? Like I am a creative, but. A blank canvas scares me, and so it gives me a starting point to where I can customize and take these ideas that are in my head and just bring them into reality.

So Adobe Express is definitely my favorite. And it has some cool AI, generative AI tools in there to where I can really. Take the craziness that’s in the head of Melissa Kincaid and bring it to life. I love it. I love it. The Adobe express is definitely probably my number one. Number two, I would probably say screencastify.

So screencastify is a video creation and editing software. And I love it because it creates the things, right? So Adobe express is an editor, but I’d have to actually create the The audio and video first. So I use screencastify for that a lot. And my favorite thing about screencastify is that it is [00:13:00] so super easy.

So many times we work with students and teachers that they want to make a video. They want to make a podcast. They want to do these things, but they don’t think that it’s accessible. And it really is. Really? It really is. Right. So I mean, a lot of times we’re like, you know what? Just, just press record. And if you don’t want to be on screen, that’s okay.

If you do want to be on screen, that’s okay too. So those are probably my two of my favorites. Oh, nailing down a third,

Kara: third

Melissa Kincaid: favorite star in the heavens or a favorite book in the library. Man, let’s see. I would probably say my number three. Is I’m going to cheat, right? I’m going to cheat. I’m going to say my number three is Google because it’s

Caryn: a little

Melissa Kincaid: bit of a cheat because it wraps in everything.

Slides, docs, sheets. I am a [00:14:00] sheets fan. I joke that I plan to run a small country on Google sheets. So the thing I love about Google products is that they all integrate together so I can create an email block in Docs that I can send through Gmail. I can create something in Sheets and then use an extension to create Docs from that.

Everything just integrates so seamlessly that it is A huge Google workspace is a huge efficiency tool for me and my job. So that’s the one that’s not about creation. It’s about doing the things that I need as an educator. Right. And it makes it, it saves me a whole lot of time so that I can spend more time dancing and biking and living and laughing and doing things that I enjoy.

Kara: Yeah, which and I love to I love that about you that you are a big proponent of like being a human who has and identity and interest [00:15:00] outside of a working space.

100%. Work hard while you’re in the, in the hours and then you’re allowed to. At

Melissa Kincaid: some point in time in the history of our profession, we started to equate the struggle with, with being an effective teacher. And that’s just not accurate. There are, Effective teachers that leave right after the buses leave, and they are ineffective teachers that are still in their classroom at 8 p.

  1. And that’s, that is the, that is the, That is the reality. How much time someone visually sees you doing work does not determine whether or not you are a good practitioner. You are a good practitioner if you can create a solid learning journey that takes the student’s interest and current achievement into account, and you could spend hours upon hours developing that path.[00:16:00]

Or you can know every tool in the book to be able to create that learning path in minutes. It’s kind of like a doctor, right? If you have a good surgeon, they’re going to spend the time on your surgery that it takes for you as an individual. And if they’re a good surgeon, they’ve been doing this forever, that could take them half the time as someone who doesn’t know what they’re doing.

Right? Yeah. And so at the end of the day, I want the surgeon that knows what they’re doing. If you can get it done in five hours and get it done in five hours, Get it done in two, get it done in three. Just take care of me. That’s what we do. We just need to take care of them. But we also need to take care of ourselves.

The students are not serviced. If we are dead, if we are, if we are emotionally dying, if we’re physically unwell. The job does not get done without our teachers,

Kara: right? I think that’s really important.

Melissa Kincaid: It is so important. And we’re losing. We’re losing so many great teachers, other professions, because they [00:17:00] realize the incredible skill set that they have.

And so we need to start recognizing that skill set and. Keeping our teachers and training them and supporting them because we need them doing the good work here to really build our communities for our future.



Kara: Okay, I have 1 more question for you [00:18:00] being a math teacher.

I’m ready. Okay. So ready. What would your advice be for integrating technology or using technology in a math space, but also balancing like the importance of. still actually like writing and working out problems and, you know, doing those, those things where like, that’s

Melissa Kincaid: important too. For sure. So I love this question for so many different reasons, right?

I am a one woman army, To try and change, excuse me, the narrative around what we say. Mathematics teaching is right. So in my mind and heart and personal war, I should say, math is not about doing the things. Math is about [00:19:00] understanding the things and applying the things. So when we talk about the incorporation or the integration of technology into math class, it doesn’t seem like it fits if your math class is all about Procedures and doing the things and writing the things to be a good mathematician is so much deeper than that.

Our students have to be able to think through and process the mathematics and the mathematical ideas and technology really helps with that because it is a tool. So, 1 thing that we really want students to do in a mathematics classroom is to be flexible with their. Excuse me with their problem solving strategies.

Right? So I should be able to give you a problem and you decide what tool you need to solve that problem. And that may not be what I need. Right? If I’m trying to figure out which 1 of these. jugs of milk I [00:20:00] should buy. Should I buy this one for this price and it’s six in a pack? Or this one’s two for this, or this one’s on that sale.

I should be able to choose how I make that decision, right? Technology is a tool. So if we are training our students, you have a problem in front of you. Here’s some tools you can use to solve that problem. Here’s some strategies you can use to solve that problem. Then it becomes around. What do I need to solve that problem?

The focus is not just on. Here’s the solution, right? And that’s the change that we’re trying to make. So incorporating the technology will always have them in the mindset of understanding what is around them that they could use so that they can choose what What is important in any situation that is super important, because they will not always have you there to hold their hand.

I always tell my students that I want them to create the next Uber more than I want them to be an Uber driver. [00:21:00] You could be a really, really good Uber driver, but I want you to be the 1 to determine there’s a problem with how people get around. And create the solution pathway. If you did not have the problem solving skills and the understanding of how technology works to do that, you would not be able to be the one who conceptualizes the next uber and that’s what that’s what I want.

My students. That’s the position. I want my students to be in. So that’s why I want them always seeing the technologies. It’s out there understanding what’s available, but also just being in the mindset. That there has to be something out there that I can use to be efficient in this task. And I may not know what it is yet, but because I know technology is so vast, because I have those experiences with different things that can do, I know it’s out there and I can search for it to not give me on this soapbox about.

She’s in technology and math, and it is also very sorry. Sorry. Y’all know this was no, no, [00:22:00] no, no, no, no. I want to hear it. It is very important that we allow students to be creative with their learning pathways in mathematics. And so, when I talk about things like screen, classify or Adobe Express, or even something like.

Pear Deck or Kami, where they can annotate on documents, there is value to writing with your hands. There is also value to writing things digitally. So when I create things offline, it hits a different part of my brain than it does when I create them online. There are some teachers that feel that Handwriting is the way to go.

There are others that feel that digital is a way to go. In reality, it needs to be a balance. Why? Because the learner needs to understand what they need to communicate their story. In the world that we live in, the people that are right are not always who’s listened to. The people who can communicate well, are those that are listened to.

And I want our students to [00:23:00] know how to communicate how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking, what they need. What they think the next steps are and how they communicate may not be how I communicate. So I need to expose them to different ways of communicating their story through writing, through video, through audio, through movement, through art, both physical and digital.

So that way they can decide in their being, which one of these ways do I best communicate my learning. My learning pathway, my story, because they need to understand the bodies they’re living in, which may be completely different than the mind that I’m living in. Sorry, girl. I told you this is a soapbox.

Kara: No. Yeah. No. And I’m just sitting here thinking like the people that would say, But they still have to take the test, but they still have to take the test.

Melissa Kincaid: They do still have to take the test. And you know that. So, you know that Kara, because you were there when we did that [00:24:00] script with Whitten Hills. So yes, they do still have to take the test.

As a, as our students, and I love that project that we did with her. So the students were having a hard time writing that for understanding, right? So you could keep telling them, Oh, you need to write this. You need to write this. You’re not writing it right. You’re not writing it right. You need to do this.

You could do that. You can do that. Or you can say, I’m going to have you make a cartoon, but before you can press play, you have to write a script. Why? Because that’s what we do in the industry. Right. Like, even for this podcast, you gave me an idea of, hey, here’s some things that we could ask. Preparation is part of the industry.


Caryn: Right.

Melissa Kincaid: And so you wrote this script and then we talked about your vocabulary and how you communicated your story. And then you created the animation. Them knowing that the end game was a way that they wanted to share their story [00:25:00] made the steps of that more accessible. They didn’t like writing, but they did like creating animations.

But because the writing was a part of that, it helps to improve their writing as well.

Kara: Yeah, then

Melissa Kincaid: when they’re writing on their test and was, oh, this is just like when you wrote your script. Oh, now they don’t have a problem writing. Yeah, because writing is part of the process. It’s not a punitive end game.

And so you can take those the unfortunate reality that we’re in right now. Is that states have decided there’s only one method that they are willing to accept you communicating your learning. Right. Right. No educator agrees that that is best practice, but for reasons outside of our control, and most likely due to, you know, finances and all of those things that we don’t have control of the state has decided, hey, this is how we’re going to have kids communicating our right there.

They’re learning. [00:26:00] That’s, that’s another fight for another day, but for right now, there are creative steps that can get them to that same goal. If you’re willing and I’m willing,

Kara: Well said!