On the Cutting Edge of Instructor Training

By Bill Harrigan

If a training center claims to be on the cutting edge, it had better be making good use of the latest in computer technology and software. Advances in computer applications are improving how we handle nearly every task these days and instructor training is no exception. Of course, there are one or two caveats to computer use. For instance, course selection and content still have to be excellent. The end goals of the training remain much the same, it's just the getting there that changes. You also can't forget that some things, such as providing one on one instruction, are still best done the old fashioned way, by real people. A recent visit to Pro Dive showed me it is intent on following both paths. The policy is to continually refine the syllabus and teaching procedures.

If adopting the latest developments will give its students an edge, Pro Dive does it. Check out the new features Pro Dive has put into instructor training.New Software, Smoother Presentations: One of Pro Dive's principal means of harnessing computers is through use of the latest software. Two different packages are at work here, Adobe's Persuasion for the PADI IDC and Microsoft's Power Point for the TDI Enriched Air Nitrox and Rebreather courses. I spent some time comparing the Power Point version of the nitrox course with the text version and it was easy to see the advantage, especially for instructor candidates. The software lets you absorb the subject matter at your own speed, going back to points you don't understand until you have the material down cold.

When you have to know the subject backward and forward in order to teach it properly, this sort of presentation can be a great help. This is particularly true when theory and math are thrown at you simultaneously. Most of us need to see equations more than once before they become ingrained enough to explain to someone else.

Another nice feature of using computer software is that illustrations can be shown on large LCD screens, rather than by projecting slides. This method eliminates having to sit in the dark and listen over the whirring noise of a hot projector. The software also lets students be creative when putting their instructor presentations together. They can cut and paste stored images or add images from other sources.

Professional Resumes: Everyone wants to be the best they can be but, for new instructors, the job is the thing. As soon as instructors begin Pro Dive's exclusive ROS course, they are assisted in preparing a resume. Putting your best foot forward is vitally important on resumes, so Pro Dive has also started using computer technology to produce the most professional resume possible for each ROS candidate. Adobe's Pagemaker software is the basis for the resume. In the hands of a skilled technician, this powerful document layout program can turn out resumes that say 'success' by their very appearance. Pasting an old photo on a new resume doesn't impress many prospective employers, so Pro Dive imports digital photos of each candidate into Pagemaker for that final touch.

PADI EANx Specialty Instructor: There is a bumper sticker that reads something like 'The more you know about nitrox, the more you'll want to breathe it.' Many divers seem to be taking that advice, which naturally increases the demand for instructors. Just look at the increasing use of EANx on live-aboards. On many boats nitrox is offered to divers certified in its use in order to increase the safety margin during multiple repetitive dives. Given a choice, live-aboards will prefer to hire instructors with the EANx specialty to provide those certifications. Pro Dive teaches the PADI EANx Specialty Instructor course, one of the most thorough courses available. Instructor candidates learn to teach the history and theory of EANx use, advantages and disadvantages of diving EANx, special applications, oxygen management, EANx equipment and tank filling and diving emergencies.

Rebreathers: Last July PADI sanctioned rebreather training and use, provided they are used within recreational diving limits. Coupled with the increased availability of nitrox and the variety of rebreathers on the market, this development will mean more demand for rebreather qualified instructors in the future. To meet this need, Pro Dive uses its Power Point version of the Technical Diving International (TDI) rebreather and rebreather instructor courses to bring students with no prior experience up to speed quickly. Four of the latest versions of the Dräger/Uwatec Atlantis semi-closed circuit rebreathers are kept on hand for the course, which is limited in size so everyone gets plenty of time to use, maintain and instruct on the units. Both courses together cover five days of pool, classroom and open water work. Theory, assembly, dive planning, buoyancy control and emergency procedures are all thoroughly covered. In addition, students get lots of practice in daily maintenance, one of the areas where rebreathers differ significantly from open circuit scuba.

Nitrox Blending: As the use of nitrox continues to gain acceptance, it makes sense that individuals who are trained as gas blenders as well as instructors will be the most versatile and in the most demand. Whether students are learning the benefits of nitrox for use in open circuit scuba or rebreathers, an instructor who knows the basics of gas blending is better prepared. Pro Dive teaches the TDI Basic Blender Course, which covers gas theory, oxygen handling, blending system designs and mixing mathematics.

U/W Photography: Not every cutting edge technique is directly related to computers. Sometimes all that's needed to be out in front is a fresh approach. That's the case in Pro Dive's underwater photography instructor training. Rather than be satisfied with the basic requirements, the staff at Pro Dive wanted to make photography fun. They also wanted their new instructors to actually be good at it. To get these improvements, they made some rather sweeping changes. First, they bought a lot of first rate photographic equipment, including Nikonos V cameras and Ikelite TTL strobes. That gave each student more hands on time with the kind of equipment they will probably see in the hands of their own students later. Second, they combined underwater photography with coral reef ecology. It's hard to get great pictures if you don't know what you're looking at, right? Third, they gave both courses more time, especially in the water.

GPS: Navigation is an integral part of boat handling, one of the subjects taught during ROS. Some of the basics of navigation, such as dead reckoning and pilotage, were taught hundreds of years ago and will continue to be useful to anyone who puts to sea in a boat. In the last decade, though, the Global Positioning System (GPS) has created a revolution in electronic navigation. Pro Dive students receive a working introduction to GPS while learning the fine points of handling Pro Dive's modern 60 foot dive boat, the Pro Diver II.

Staying a Step Ahead: Staying at the head of the pack means changing some things continuously while adhering tenaciously to others. As the digital revolution in technology proceeds, Pro Dive will make the necessary changes to stay on the cutting edge. Providing staff instructors of the highest possible quality, though, is something Pro Dive has no intention of changing. That's one of the main reasons its graduates are in such demand and Pro Dive means to keep it that way.

For more information, contact Pro Dive toll free in the U.S. at (888) PRO-DIVE. >From the U.K., call (800) 068-9034. From other locations, call (954) 761-8915. E-mail can be addressed to prodive@ icanect.net. Additional information is available on the Pro Dive Web site at http://www.pro-dive.com.