Angry Birds Playground turns popular characters into educators

Angry Birds maker Rovio Entertainment is trying to get kids hooked on learning with a new early childhood program, called Angry Birds Playground, based on its home country's groundbreaking education system.

Finland-based Angry Birds is marketing its home country's early childhood education around the world with Angry Birds Playground. This is a screen shot from Angry Birds Friends.

Finnish game company Rovio Entertainment, maker of Angry Birds, is tapping into its home country’s education philosophy to roll out an early childhood curriculum based on its popular game.

Angry Birds as a teaching model? Before you knock it, Rovio was inspired by Finland’s internationally renowned teaching methods, which emphasizes creativity, collaboration, and free play. The interactive program, called Angry Birds Playground, comes at a time when technology in schools is still in its experimental stages, but is quickly becoming the norm. Rovio believes Angry Birds, and its Finnish roots, could provide a solution.

Angry Birds Playground is far more than just a mobile game. The program combines math, science, music, language arts, and physical education, through a combination of books, game cards, musical instruments, and digital components.

"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 to the Guardian. "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."

So far, Angry Birds Playground has been rolled out in early learning centers in China, and was presented at the Finnish Embassy in Washington this week. Rovio executives hawked the program as an opportunity to introduce more creativity and interactive play into a curriculum, at a time when US education programs such as the Common Core and standardized testing have drawn criticism from parents across the country.

Finland has long been known for its exemplary education system. Compulsory education doesn’t start until age 7, the school day is shorter than many other countries, there are no national tests, and teachers put an emphasis on creativity and collaboration. This has other countries interested. Since Angry Birds has more than 2 billion downloads worldwide, who could be a better ambassador of this brand of education?

"We're not just putting a sticker on something, we're combining two brands. One is Angry Birds with its global reach and people recognising the characters and being motivated to learn more," adds Lukander. "But the other brand is a long legacy of work done in Finland by educational experts, and beautiful co-operation between the authorities, schools and book publishers."

This being said, even Finland recognizes the increasing role of technology in the classroom, and this program marks a way of adding a digital component to their signature curriculum.

“We have to wake them up in a different way,” said Krista Kiuru, the Finnish minister of education on Monday, in reference to getting more students in tune with technology. “We don’t want schools to be like airlines: 'Please turn off all your digital devices.’ Then after seven hours, you can get them back again.”

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