Discovery Learning and Raspberry Pi

In my own classroom, I enjoy using collaborative learning, which I define as students working in groups, bouncing ideas off one another to solve a problem and holding discussions. Also, I love using inquiry-based learning, which I define as hands-on exploration to gain experience about a certain subject. After investigating different learning theories in CEP 811 this week, I found that discovery learning linked to my type of teaching the best.

De Jong and Van Joolingen (2005) describe discovery learning as “students construct knowledge based on new information and data collected by them in an explorative learning environment” (p. 604). Students perform experiments with variations and observe the effects of these changes, which forces them to learn (p.604). Chet Hedden (1998) writes in his dissertation that discovery learning is a theory where the “so-called problem of motivation is automatically solved” because students “move through well-constructed programs at their own pace” (p. 29). Hedden (1998) describes “humans as problem solvers” (p. 29) who have “tendencies to seek solutions to problems” (p. 29). Through discovery learning, students enter the activity “without prior knowledge of the content of the learning task, but with general knowledge that can be called upon to help with the learning task” (p. 50). This type of learning is “task-oriented and encourages self-initiated action” (p. 50) and forces the student to “face an unknown experience with an unknown outcome” (p. 50). Hedden (1998) describes this learning as optimal because it optimizes learning and motivation (p. 47).

Both research papers that I investigated linked discovery learning to a computer program (Heddent to Adventure and De Jong and Van Joolingen to different computer simulations). With this idea in mind, I tried to find an activity that would link Discovery Learning to my Raspberry Pi. Funny enough, I found inspiration through one of my students in summer school. This student walked into the classroom wearing a Minecraft t-shirt. I began a conversation with him about the game and he stated, “Minecraft is actually based around math. I love it and I get to problem solve as I play it.” At that moment, a light bulb went off in my head! I could use Minecraft in the classroom to engage students (an important way to motivate students as Hedden (1998) stated in his dissertation) and get them to be thinking about math.

After researching Minecraft in the classroom, I was encouraged by the positive gains by using this software in the classroom. Mike Rugnetta (2012) describes ways to use Minecraft in the classroom: “Probability: build a random animal dropper. Physics: measure the time it takes a block to fall and then talk about gravity. Even build Minecraft versions of famous architectures.” Rugnetta (2012) also describes Minecraft as being a great collaborative tool, which challenges students and encourages them to problem solve.

After figuring out that Minecraft had come out with a Pi version in November (“Download” 2012), I was sold! How simple it would be to set up a Pi classroom for only $50 a student and download free software to encourage students to collaborate and problem solve in any subject area! After more research, I found great ideas to connect the Pi, Minecraft, and the classroom. One student described how to solve a two-step equation in Minecraft as a project (Superpineapplelover 2011), and this teacher had students build replicas of buildings in different scales (“Minecraft” 2012). There are tons of different websites and blogs with descriptions of how to incorporate Minecraft into the classroom including Edutopia and Think Tank.

After all of my research about Minecraft and Pi, I decided to create a lesson plan that incorporated a Raspberry Pi, Minecraft, and Discovery Learning. Through my lesson, students problem solve to create a scale drawing of a building of their choice in Minecraft. They are placed in an unknown learning environment where students must problem solve and create steps on how to create a scale drawing of a building. Raspberry Pi Lesson Plan to view my lesson plan.
While the Raspberry Pi can be extremely frustrating at times, I am beginning to see the advantages of incorporating a cost-efficient computer in the classroom.

de Jong, T., & van Joolingen, W. R. (1998). Scientific discovery learning with computer simulations of conceptual domains. Review of Educational Research, 68(2), 179-201. Retrieved from
Download Pi Education Now (December 20, 2012). Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from

Hedden, C. (1998). A guided exploration model of problem-solving discovery learning. (Order No. AAM9836182, Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, , 1903. Retrieved from (prod.academic_MSTAR_619379870; 1998-95023-051).

MacQuarrie, A (March 19, 2013). Transforming the Way we Learn: Why Minecraft is an Amazing Learning Tool [Website]. Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from

Miller, A (April 13, 2012). Ideas for Using Minecraft in the Classroom [Online Article]. Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from
Minecraft and Crafting to Learn (January 11, 2012). Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from

Rugnetta, M. [pbsideachannel]. (2013, March 6). Is Minecraft the Ultimate Educational Tool? [Video File]. Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from!

Saab, N., van Joolingen, W. R., & van Hout-Wolters, B. H. (2005). Communication in collaborative discovery learning. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 75(4), 603-621. Retrieved from

Superpineapplelover. (2011, Oct 11). How to solve a linear equation (Minecraft). [Video File]. Retrieved on July 18, 2013 from

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