ACT Certified Educator Training

I recently attended a training session in Arlington, Virginia to become an ACT Certified Educator in English. This program required me to complete a 16-hour course and pass two tests. The credential indicates I know the content underpinning the test—the grammar, punctuation, idiomatic language, etc.—as well as appropriate test-taking strategies and methods for remediating gaps in knowledge.

The best part of the class was that it confirmed many of my pedagogical instincts. For instance, it’s very important for students to understand why they got a question wrong, but it’s equally essential for me to be able to recognize the “gaps” in their knowledge when they choose a wrong answer. That presents a powerful opportunity for learning—a teachable moment.

I always tell students it’s helpful to have an editor mindset when taking the ACT English. So, when our instructor spoke about this test in terms of a perfect piece of writing being “broken,” I gave a mental fist pump. It is the job of the test-taker to recognize and make the corrections. When a student knows basic grammar skills, she is either able to choose the correct version immediately or eliminate those that are incorrect. That’s how it works in an ideal situation. But we know that applying a rule can sometimes be tricky. That’s why, as tutors, we work so much with practice items. It’s a form of learning known as “rehearsal.” As students practice the cognitive, active process of applying rules and deducing answers, they become adept at it.

When I was teaching in public schools, most of my colleagues hated test preparation. Of course, I could feel their pain. They objected to poorly designed test questions, time lost from their own curriculum, or the misery the tests seemed to inflict upon students. Yet, there was always a part of me that liked the challenge of it, the let’s-figure-this-out of it. In a subject that is often very nuanced, it was fun to deal with more cut and dried examples.

When you deal with a new standardized test (and I had to deal with plenty of them over the years) there is always a learning curve—for the teachers and the students. The ACT is no different. Once you know what is being tested and what to look for, it becomes much easier. That’s why test prep works.

Note: Before a candidate can complete any ACT subject area certification, he or she must complete an 8-hour Basics course and test. This credential covers areas including test fundamentals, administration and professionalism.

ACT Certified Educator–Basics issued by ACT Certified Educator to Alisa  Fisher

ACT Certified Educator–English issued by ACT Certified Educator to Alisa  Fisher


Why I Teach Online

Learning to teach in an online school like the Electronic Classroom of Tomorrow (ECOT) wasn’t easy. After fifteen years in brick and mortar schools, it was boot camp. Yet, once I got the hang of it, there was no looking back. I knew I was witnessing a revolution in education, and within eighteen months I was already thinking about how to go into business for myself.

When ECOT offered a Certificate of Online and Blended Learning at the University of Cincinnati, I jumped. I learned about a new field called instructional technology: how to record sophisticated learning videos, how to arrange course materials in a Learning Management System (LMS), and how to diversify tech tools in order to give my online learners multiple ways of interacting with the content. I was introduced to industry standards for designing online courses through an organization called Quality Matters.

All of these “tools” have an important role in creating a top-notch online course, but there is one in particular that’s above all the others: web-conferencing. It’s this application that puts living, breathing, learning people at the center of the process.

Web-conferencing is a game-changer in many fields, but especially in education. I can send a link to anyone in the world and meet that person, or group, online in less than a minute. The participants see and hear me, and the environment is extremely interactive. I am able to post content, play music, act out a skit, write on the screen, share my desktop, transfer content in document form, or poll a large number of people very quickly.

I once took a class of seventh graders on a virtual field trip to Manhattan: there is a webcam in the Statue of Liberty torch. Within seconds students were sharing their impressions and asking questions in both verbal (audio) and written (chat) form. They were a community of learners.

So what does it all mean? If you have expertise in any area, you should be teaching it online. Just think: there’s almost no overhead and the markets are enormous. Not technologically savvy? That’s OK too because most of the programs you will use are so user-friendly that just about anyone can pick them up. Need a little nudge? There’s a solution for that too: Marie Forleo, Jocko Willink and many others offer all sorts of free motivational and business insights.

I’m not an expert, but I keep learning. I went into teaching because I thought I could help people learn. Now I do it from home, on my own terms. I’m not beholden to state standards or a school district telling me how and when I should assess. I make decisions about how to teach based on my clients’ needs. And sometimes those needs have easy solutions. Extra practice might be in the form of a fun quiz or a set of digital flashcards. Sometimes it’s just a conversation. It is amazing how quickly you can come up with an interesting college essay topic just by chatting with a teen.

When I saw the 2017 Bloomberg list of “The 50 Most Promising Startups You’ve Never Heard Of,” I wasn’t surprised to see “Digitization of Education” on the list. But don’t let the name fool you: people are still very much at the heart of online learning, or at least they should be.                                                                                         -Alisa