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

Thailand Cave Rescue via Diving Is a Daunting Challenge

adsit80By John Adsit
Educational Consultant

As a certified cave diver, I have followed the ordeal of the Thai soccer club with great interest. As I type, the rescuers are trying to determine the best way to bring them to the surface. No one has an answer at this time, but I have been asked to write about the options from the perspective of a cave diver, an educator in general, and a diving instructor in particular. What I hope to convey to an audience unfamiliar with cave diving is how truly daunting it will be if the decision is made to have the team escape by diving. If the team is going to make an exit by diving, they will need to undergo immediate and intensive training.

Personnel and equipment in the entrance chamber of Tham Luang cave during rescue operations during 26–27 June 2018. Screen capture from NBT news report.

When I teach new divers, I ask about their swimming and snorkeling experiences. What I am looking for is the degree to which they feel comfortable in the water. The greatest enemy to a diver is panic. Students who are accustomed to the normal mishaps of swimming, like accidentally getting water in the mouth or eyes, will usually have no trouble, but for people with little swimming experience, such a minor event can lead to irrational panic. Most of the Thai team members are non-swimmers, and the culture there has a common belief that swimming is extremely dangerous. That starts any training in a serious deficit.   Continue reading

Not in Our Lifetime: Are Libraries Dead?

By Gwen Sinclair
Librarian, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Library

Because I am a librarian, people often ask me, “Do we still need libraries now that everything is online?” My stock answer goes something like this: “‘Everything’ is not and will not be available online in my lifetime, and even if it were, we would still need  libraries.”

The belief that practically everything, from every book ever written to all of the films ever made, has been digitized and is available online for free has taken root in the collective minds of nearly everyone. However, if you dig a little deeper, you will realize that a lot of miracles would have to happen before “everything” could be digitized and posted online.

There are several roadblocks to scanning all of the books, periodicals, archival records, films, videos, audio cassettes, photographs, and ephemera available in libraries and putting them online. First and foremost is funding. A digitization project involves more than simply scanning a set of books and uploading the content. Even with high-speed automated book scanners, humans are still needed to select the books, prepare them for scanning, position them on the scanner, and so forth. Items that have folds or tears must be flattened or mended before they are scanned. Care must be taken not to damage fragile film or magnetic tapes during the digitization process. Photographic prints, negatives, or slides must be positioned precisely, and some post-processing may be necessary to straighten, crop, or clean up images.   Continue reading

How Do You Prepare Students to Learn Online?

Lynn ZimmermannBy Lynn Zimmerman
Associate Editor
Editor, Teacher Education

What do you tell your online learners?

Most universities and many high schools in the US use online and hybrid courses to teach anything from foreign languages to Physics. People around the world take part in MOOCs, free online courses with hundreds, perhaps thousands of participants. Informal courses are offered online so you can learn to knit or repair a car in the comfort of your own home. Online coursework is everywhere, and there may be the assumption that everyone knows how to “do” it.

However, instructors often find that, just like face-to-face courses, learners’ abilities, needs and motivations vary. The novelty of using technology for learning can soon wear off, so like any coursework, the online offering needs effective pedagogical strategies to provide intrinsic motivation to learn.

Online learning readiness

Let’s consider one factor that some research from the field of online learning has explored, online learning readiness (Cigdem & Ozturk, 2016; Horzuma, Kaymak, & Gungorenc, 2015). I’d like to hear about your experience. How do you prepare your students to learn in the online environment? What have you done that you find effective?

Assumption: because computers and technology are so pervasive, learners know how to use technology for learning.

Research findings: Many people know how to use social media, email, and their smartphones, but may be less sure how to use technology for educational purposes. Some studies have shown a direct correlation between a learner’s familiarity with the learning platform and their ability to use it and their motivation to participate and learn (Cigdem & Ozturk, 2016; Horzuma, Kaymak, & Gungorenc, 2015). Therefore, these researchers propose that the instructor should not assume that learners know how to use the platform and that they understand how to successfully complete assignments. Provide clear instructions on how to use the platform, give clear and direct instructions for assignments, and clear expectations.


Cigdem, H. & Ozturk, M. (2016). Critical components of online learning readiness and their relationships with learner achievement. Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE 17 (2), 98-109.

Horzuma, M.B., Kaymak. Z.D., & Gungorenc, O.C. (2015). Structural equation modeling towards online learning readiness, academic motivations, and perceived learning. Educational Sciences: Theory & Practice, 15 (3) pp. 759-770. DOI