Flash Interview: Mark Powell (SDI TDI) on the use of cameras in teaching situations

March 18, 2020Interviews

At BOOT 2020, we interviewed a number of interesting and inspiring people from different ocean-related companies. What is diving and surfing with purpose? How does an “Ocean positive” business look? What are the benefits of adding underwater cameras to teaching situations? Why is visual inspiration key to make more people care about the Ocean? And, why is diving for exploration so important?

This time, we spoke to Mark Powell, instructor trainer at SDI TDI.

Interviewing Mark Powell at BOOT 2020

What are the advantages of using a camera in teaching situations? 

I’m a big fan of using a camera in teaching situations. It’s a great way to document what the student has done and to give them direct and visual feedback. It’s easy for the student to follow their dive, identify their mistakes, and better understand them. Video is a great training tool.

Are there disadvantages? 

Of course, there are some aspects that you have to be aware of as an instructor. One point is; you need to make sure that you aim your full attention on the student at all times. As an instructor, you can’t fiddle too much with the camera, trying to focus it or look at the screen. Having a hands-free camera reduces this issue in particular.

Another point is; instructors should keep the footage for themselves and their students only, and not post anything on social media. People will always find something to criticize, and most often that feedback is not valid. Therefore, we encourage our instructors to use the cameras only for educational purposes and keep the footage just for the debrief with their students.

Is the usage of cameras in training interesting for all levels of diving students?

In my experience, the use of cameras in training is rooted in the technical diving field as of now. There has always been an emphasis on video debriefs for rebreather cave diving, for example. We see now that this trend is slowly filtering down into the recreational areas as well.

Right now, some international standards inhibit the use of cameras in beginner courses. However, in follow-up courses, it’s within our standards to use cameras. 

I think with the development of hands-free video cameras that some international standards could change the future.

How is the response from your students?

The response from students is twofold. Initially, it’s horror (Mark laughs), and they don’t want to see the video. The student might feel embarrassed seeing their mistakes on camera. But that feeling is quickly followed by understanding, and finally, most students end up really appreciating and liking to work with video. All in all, it’s a very, very positive experience for the student, as well as the instructor. 

So the instructors are also happy?

Yes. Using a camera brings a great advantage to the instructor, as they can document what they’ve done much better. They can prove the skills that they’ve carried out in the dive – it’s a great way of ensuring quality standards. What we recommend to instructors is that they don’t just record the dive, but also record the briefing and the debrief as well. Then they have a full record of what they’ve done during the whole course. Ultimately, a lot of instructors are very enthusiastic about using cameras, even the ones that are initially a little bit reluctant. Once they start using them, they immediately see the value. 

I think one of the problems in the past has been technology. If you spend half an hour trying to connect to the camera and download footage while you’re trying to do a debrief, it wastes so much time. Thus, advances in technology are bringing the use of cameras in teaching forward, like being able to download and watch a video immediately, and automatically upload it to the cloud, all of those sorts of things.

Thank you Mark!


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