While filming this week’s Cave Country episode of ScubaNation, producer “Bitchin’ Mitch” Horne asked me whether it would be possible to produce an effect in which you start with a Google Earth zoom-in on a particular piece of real estate, just above an underwater cave, that have that dissolve to reveal the cave underneath.
Even though it has been around for roughly 15 years, few things in diver training remain as controversial as eLearning. Just this past year, Dive Center Business published a scathing article pinning the blame for the current decline in equipment sales — at least in part — on eLearning. Many dive retailers and instructors will tell you, at length, what they don’t like about eLearning.
I was certified through your store ten years ago. I’m leaving on a vacation next week and can’t find my certification card. Can you get me a replacement?
Does that set off alarm bells? It should, because it could easily be the sign of an accident waiting to happen. Here is just one story that illustrates what can take place when you issue replacement c-cards on a “no questions asked” basis.
At the surface, a properly weighted diver will float at eye level. This statement, or one like it, appears in virtually every diver training organization’s materials. What you won’t find agreement on is whether this is with a full lung of air or half a lung of air. It may also be unclear is whether this is done which a full tank or one that is closer to empty. It doesn’t matter. No matter what your Open Water Diver manual says, it’s probably wrong. At least much of the time. Why is that?
Most of us are aware of a trend in public education in which students are not allowed to participate in competitions or games that have clear winners and losers, or in which everyone who participates doesn’t receive some sort of trophy or medal. The rationale is that it is better to leave students totally unprepared for the realities of life than it is to bruise anyone’s fragile ego. Well, guess what? We’ve apparently reached that point in diver training as well.
What happens when the people we rely on most to provide good role models for new divers drop the ball? That’s easy. The divers get bad information and, as a result, make poor decisions. This is why being a role model is so important.
Go to Google Images. Search for Neutral Buoyancy. Along with images of the NASA Neutral Buoyancy facility and Neutral Buoyancy Turtle, you’ll see a lot of photos like the one on the right. To most divers — and, sadly, most instructors — the so-called Buddha Hover is synonymous with buoyancy control. Unfortunately, as Penn and Teller would say, it’s total bullshit. And here are seven reasons why.
Ten years ago, my entry-level students were required, by their training agency, to answer a test question having to do with responses to out-of-air emergencies. Students not only had to correctly identify five different possible responses, but rank them in order of desirability (yeah…like they are actually going to remember all that five years from now). Ironically, the best possible response to any out-of-air emergency wasn’t among the choices. That response? Not running out of gas in the first place.
I saw trouble coming in advance. What I didn’t foresee, however, was that the diver in question would refuse my attempts to prevent a problem from happening. And the reason why stemmed from how he had been taught.
Someone recently characterized diver training as 50 years of tradition, unimpeded by progress. That’s pretty much on the money. Dive instructors, as a group, often resist change, as it’s simply easier to keep doing things the same way they always have. Training agencies can be every bit as bad, as modernizing their training materials may mean having to reprint all those expensive textbooks.