Learning Caves are a HUGE part of Spike@School. Often schools buy Spike@School purely because of the Learning Caves.
If you don't know what they are: Learning Caves are password protected group learning areas for your students. They are housed on your website. A Cave has a project description that the students are to complete and has only one password which you share with the group of students who will be working in the Cave. This is a unique approach that works surprisingly well!
If you're still confused, the easiest way to understand Learning Caves is just to have a go. Let's get started by adding a Learning Cave Set to the site:
A Learning Cave Set basically just has a name. You can have as many Learning Caves as you like in the Set, it just helps you organise things better. We'll click on the Set and then click Add a New Learning Cave:
You give your Cave a name, and enter the project definition. You also can give your students some general information to get them started. You then give the name and email address of the person in charge of the Cave. It's also here that you enter the password that the children will use to access the cave. You can change any of these details later on. To help the students differentiate between Caves you can also give the Cave a picture. Finally, you can disable deleting within the cave, and also disable any of the Cave modules which you'll find out about further down this page.
When you've added your Cave you'll be taken back to the Caves list:
From here you can archive old Caves (if they are really good and you want to keep them). You can also make a Cave public which removes the password and disables all editing of the content. This is good if you want to make the Cave available to the public so they can see the what's been happening inside it. To make your job easier, you can duplicate an existing Cave. This is useful if you want to keep your student numbers down inside each cave but still have them working on the same project. You can create one Cave with all the information in it, and then duplicate it several times, giving each one a different password and name. Finally, you can move a Cave to another Learning Cave Set elsewhere on the site.
We haven't even really started with regards to setting up our Cave, we still need add contents to it to help the students get going. To do this we'll click on the name of our Cave. This will take you to the Cave administration area:
As you can see a Cave is made up of a selection of Links, Files, Pages, Messages, Events, and Quizzes. The work exactly like their counterparts in the greater Spike@School system and you can learn more about them by following the links above. The big difference in how they work in Learning Caves (apart from Messages) is that you can set them to be Startup or Normal resources. If you choose Startup, the resource will appear on the opening page of the Learning Cave when a child logs in and they won't be able to edit the resource (though they can use it to help them get started on the project - thus the term Startup). If you make it a Normal resource the children will be able to edit the resource just as if it was one that they made themselves. Usually you'll just make Startup resources unless you wish to participate with the children in their area. This will all make sense in a moment. Right now we'll add a Startup Link, File, Page, Event, and Quiz. We'll also add a Message. Messages are different in that they're readonly 15 minutes after they've been made (from the children's perspective). You can still edit the messages in the administration side of the Learning Cave.
Now that we've set up the Cave we can view it as though we were a child logging in on the website. First we browse to the Learning Cave Set on the website.
Our Learning Cave is listed here. Click on it to log into the Cave.
We now enter our Name and the group Password. The Name isn't checked against anything but you can tell the children that they must enter their own name. All actions performed with in the cave are Logged and their name is recorded against each action. This will help you troubleshoot later on. If we successfully enter the correct password we'll be taken to the opening screen of the Cave.
As you can see, all of the Startup resources we added earlier are shown on the opening page and can't be edited, but can still be used. A child would use the resources and then click on the links on the left side of the page to start adding their own Links, Files, Pages, Messages, Events, and Quizzes. They can also use the Live Chat feature so that they can chat to each other in real time. You can disable this at any time. The options are endless here. You could ask your children to present their findings on a Page, or upload their project as a Publisher file for instance. There really are no hard and fast rules. Some teachers use Learning Caves as readonly tools for putting the class homework in, as a way to get started. When they get more confident they start using the interactive features of the Caves.
We've added two new templates that you can use for your learning caves: the Ice Cave Theme (White) and the Freestyle Cave Theme. The Freestyle theme is especially cool because it lets you set your own background colour and/or image. Check out the two new themes below:
As a last activity we'll add a Link, File, Page, Message, Event, and Quiz into the cave as though we were a child. We'll also have a chat.
Now lets go back to the admin side of the cave and check out the logs:
That's basically it. We believe Learning Caves are a great way to get started with online learning because they are so basic and easy to use.