Warning Signs at Tham Luang and Similar Caves: A Complex Issue

adsit80By John Adsit
Educational Consultant

(Response to Harry Keller’s “Three Most Important Takeaways from the Thai Cave Rescue,”19 July 2018, and the issue of warnings on caves. -Editor)

The entrance to the Tham Luang cave did indeed have a prominent warning sign, and the soccer team went past it when they entered. Most of the explored underwater caves in the world have strongly worded signs telling untrained divers to turn around. My guess is that 98% of the divers passing those signs do indeed have the proper qualifications, but a small percentage do not. That small percentage accounts for roughly half of the total cave diving fatalities worldwide in the last couple decades. For that small percentage, the posted danger appears to be more of a lure than a deterrent.

Photo from Marisa Chimprabha’s “Many Worry That Coach May Blame Himself for Ordeal” (The Nation, 5 July 2018).

Eagles Nest sink in Florida provides a couple good examples. The upper basin has 70 feet of (usually) murky water, with a tiny chimney only wide enough for a couple of people to pass at the bottom. That chimney takes you about 30 feet farther down to the huge cave complex below. Eagles Nest is often called the Mount Everest of cave diving, and you are not supposed to enter it without qualifications even beyond cave diving certification. Two days ago, a 20-year old man (boy?) died there freediving (no tanks–just mask and fins) deep into the bottom chamber. He told his companions he was going to set a personal record on that dive. As I write, diving social media are ablaze with comments on the sheer stupidity of that act.

A few years ago a father and son took their brand new scuba equipment to Eagles Nest for a dive. The father had only introductory scuba certification. The 15-year old son had no scuba certification whatsoever. They passed a huge warning sign outside the site and the warning sign at the chimney entrance and attempted a major dive that demands years of training and far better equipment. Their deaths were all-too-predictable, but what happened after that is most telling for this issue.

When they died, their friends and relatives began a campaign to have that cave closed to everyone. Because their friends and relatives died performing an act for which they were totally unprepared, they argue, the cave itself must be too dangerous for anyone at any level of training. Their campaign continues to this day, and it is possible that all the fully trained and prepared divers who wish to go to that magnificent dive site will someday be prevented from doing so. You cannot respond to their argument by pointing out the utter stupidity of their actions because doing so is harshly construed as speaking ill of the dead: “How dare you blame our friends and family for their own deaths! The fault must lie with the cave itself!”

What is the solution? How do we prevent people from doing things beyond their ability while still allowing access to those with legitimate qualifications?

Immersed in Virtual Reality: iLRN June 2018

By Vic & Bonnie Sutton

There is growing evidence that immersion in virtual reality can improve learning outcomes for students.

This was the main conclusion from many of the papers presented at the fourth annual conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN), which was held at the University of Montana from 25-29 June 2018.

Jonathon Richter, Executive Director of iLRN, introduced the conference as an opportunity to explore “what works” in immersive learning, drawing on high-quality research.

He proposed that the three main components of immersive learning are:

  • computer science,
  • gaming studies, and
  • effective learning outcomes.

The potential impact of successful immersive learning initiatives, he suggested, were good measures, good goals, and good outcomes across disciplines, cultures, and contexts.   Continue reading

The Thai Cave Rescue: Implications for Teacher Education?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

The plight and rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the cave in Thailand shows us once again that being an educator requires more than the enjoyment of working with children and loving the subject you teach. When you look at what an educator might face when working with students, inside and outside the classroom, it becomes evident that teachers, coaches, and school administrators do much more than teach and are expected to play many roles that they may not anticipate and may not be prepared for.

Coach Ekkapol Chantawong with some of his young players.

They may have to comfort a child whose pet died. They have to report signs of child abuse. They have to keep track of their charges when on field trips. They may even have to protect their students from an active shooter on campus. Not every educator wants to fill all these roles. Not every educator can fill these roles. However, when you are the “adult in the room,” what choice do you have? Children’s parents expect and trust that their children will be safe with an educator. The soccer coach, Ekkapol Chantawong, was trusted by the parents of the children in his charge to do the right thing, to protect them until they could be rescued.

There will be many opinions expressed and many questions asked in the coming days about this incident. However, let’s focus on teacher training. How does a teacher training program prepare teachers to handle a variety of situations, including life-threatening ones? Or should they? How do you know the teacher candidates you are preparing could step up if called upon to do so? Should they be expected to? What other resources do teachers need to handle crises, large and small? Let us know what you think.

Three Most Important Takeaways from the Thai Cave Rescue

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor
& President of SmartScience

The first lesson is that you don’t have to be clever or high-tech to solve this sort of problem. The final solution was straightforward, although extremely difficult to implement. It involved existing diving technology. These days, everyone seeks the high-tech or innovative solution first.

You might consider the solution used as being the “brute force” solution. A large number of air tanks had to be assembled along with a large number, around 90 as I’ve read, of highly experienced and capable divers. Divers deployed the air hose essential to survival and ferried food to the trapped soccer team. They set up a line for navigating the more difficult portions of the submerged cave. Some even stayed with the remaining few team members until the last one disappeared into the gloomy waters with his two accompanying divers.

The second lesson is that every cave of any difficulty should have prominent warning signs posted to keep out inexperienced people. What were those team members doing so deep in the cave? I have yet to see an answer to that question. Their foolishness cost one diver his life. It might have cost all 13 their lives, too. I sincerely hope that the publicity accompanying this incident keeps others from running these risks. The coach should have known better.

The third lesson is the importance of organization. I think that those in charge did essentially everything right, although they might have been able to move more rapidly had there not been so much “noise” to filter out. The noise came from the media and a great many well-meaning individuals and organizations. The volunteer divers were the good part.   Continue reading

Thai Cave Rescue Media Coverage: Notable for the Most Part

adsit80By John Adsit
Educational Consultant

The whole world watched in fascination as a massive international rescue team worked to pull off an unprecedented rescue of a soccer team trapped in a cave in Thailand. I watched from the perspective of a cave diver, a former journalism instructor, and a diving instructor. One of the talks I have had on and off for the last few years has been to help investigate and write reports on cave diving fatalities for the National Speleological Society, and from that perspective it was refreshing to watch a scenario that ended so happily, for that is not the norm for cave diving incidents.

The result of the rescue was, of course, wonderful, but in reflecting on some of the elements I observed from afar, I believe there was a whole lot that went very well in that situation in addition to the happy ending. I saw a lot of appropriate and professional behavior on the part of a number of parties, and because of it the few bad moments stand out in stark contrast.

In the social media I followed, one of the questions that was raised on several occasions was why there was not more commentary from the true experts on cave rescues around the world. To me, that lack of commentary was a positive highlight. After my ETC article (7/4/18), I was contacted by the BBC and asked to sit for an interview. I declined. I explained that I lacked the expertise to speak on an issue of that complexity—my article about the education aspects was the limit to which I could speak with authority. Continue reading

Science Is Not the Friend of Thai Cave Soccer Team

Harry Keller 80By Harry Keller
Former ETCJ Science Editor
& President of SmartScience

Spending two weeks in a cave that has been sealed off by water is no one’s idea of fun. There’s no food but plenty of water. This cave portion appears to be fairly large, large enough to have plenty of air for a long stay, but that air is running out.

Thirteen people, twelve of them children, are stuck and isolated under very dangerous circumstances. They face several perils: oxygen, carbon dioxide, food, and even waste treatment.

Detailed map of the Tham Luang cave system provided by BBC News.

What happens when someone seals you into a box? You use up the oxygen there, turning it one-to-one into carbon dioxide. That’s what all animals do. Even plants do it when there’s no sunlight. It’s called respiration. In that box, you will rapidly drop the oxygen level to below the 16% that we must have to function normally, and that’s 5% below the usual 21% we are used to.   Continue reading

Two Frameworks for 21st-Century Skills

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

Globally there is a call for learners and workers to develop 21st-century skills. Two common frameworks are from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), a group which has members from 35 countries worldwide, and DigComp developed by the European Union (EU).

The OECD states that “[o]ne approach to organizing 21st-century skills focuses on cognitive skills, intrapersonal skills, interpersonal skills, and technical skills (Ananiadou & Claro, 2009 in Geisinger, 2016).” These skills are geared toward the educational context, the work environment, and commerce. Skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and cross-cultural sensitivity are seen as key to participation and problem-solving in the global economy. Underlying all of these skills is a need for digital knowledge and proficiency.

The DigComp frameworks, now presented as DigComp 2.1, focuses on competencies related specifically to technology knowledge and skills for citizens, specifically in the workplace while DigCompEdu (Redecker, 2017) outlines educator-specific digital competences. DigComp 2.1’s eight (8) levels of competence are fitted to Bloom’s taxonomy. These range from remembering, e.g., being able to perform simple digital tasks with guidance, to creating, e.g., resolving complex problems and guiding others in high-level problem solving.

DigCompEdu presents educator-specific digital competences that are organized in six areas. These areas include educators engaging in their own growth by professional development to creating appropriate digital integration activities for their students.   Continue reading