Finland-based Rovio, the company behind Angry Birds, has launched a new educational program that will focus on physical books and activities alongside digital content.
Rovio's educational program, Angry Birds Playground, was developed in partnership with the University of Helsinki and based on the Finnish national curriculum. It covers math, science, music, language, arts and crafts, physical education and social interaction, writes Stuart Dredge of The Guardian.
The program is designed for children around 6 years old. The program's materials will include books, posters, game cards, a five-string instrument and physical games as well as digital content.
Digital elements will range from games and mobile content to collaborative activities designed for interactive whiteboards in classrooms.
"It's not just games we're talking about here: it's a full 360-degree approach to learning, where games are just one part of it. It's not learning by sitting down and playing with a digital device," says Sanna Lukander, Rovio's vice president of learning and book publishing. "There's a real substance to it, and a healthy balance between rest, play and work. We feel it's necessary to talk about healthy nutrition and physical exercise, as part of this approach to learning, balance and wellbeing."
The University of Helsinki will provide training to teachers on how to use the program and incorporate their feedback into future versions — and to research how effective the program really is.
Lukander stresses that digital games are just one element of Angry Birds Playground, with board games, sports and physical activities taking a high priority alongside elements that even a traditionalist education secretary might appreciate. "We are studying the formats of the content carefully. We certainly believe a traditional book is good for certain parts, and also that it's important for children to use pen and paper," said Lukander.
Rovio unveiled Angry Birds Playground in China last week, where it will be launching first in an early-learning center in Shanghai. According to the company, it is talking to a mixture of public schools and private-sector companies, with the mix varying from country to country depending on the educational system.
In addition, Rovio will continue its book publishing business. The company works with partners like National Geographic on Angry Birds books that include educational content. The company plans to release a new "Science Behind the Saga" book in conjunction with the release of its Angry Birds Star Wars II game for smartphones and tablets.
"I could understand the concern if people thought we had the wrong people working on education content, but we have educational specialists working on this," said Lukander. "This is not a licensing thing, and Rovio is not a games company any more. It's a media company, and like many other media companies, it has an educational arm. We're trying to do something meaningful and good with these characters."