Angry Birds plush toys based on the best-selling mobile game. (CC/Oran Viriyincy)
Rovio is bringing its best-selling mobile game to the classroom with Angry Birds Playground, aimed at kindergarten-age students.
Developed in partnership with the University of Helsinki and based on the Finnish national curriculum, Angry Birds Playground will cover math, science and language as well as arts, physical education and social skills.
"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," Sanna Lukander, Rovio's vice president of learning and book publishing told the Guardian. "It's not learning by sitting down and playing with a digital device."
"There's a real substance to it, and a healthy balance between rest, play and work," Lukander said. "We feel it's necessary to talk about healthy nutrition and physical exercise, as part of this approach to learning, balance and wellbeing."
Angry Birds Playground materials will include books, posters, physical games, interactive whiteboards and even a digital five-string instrument. But Lukander stresses the program is meant to be used alongside traditional tools like pen and paper.
Rovio has partnered with Chinese firm 123 Education Development to bring the concept to students in Shanghai, where the new program was unveiled last week.
The University of Helsinki will remain involved, training teachers at an early learning center in Shanghai where the program is launching.
"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," Lukander said.
"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."
In response to criticism that the educational content is tied to paid games and merchandise, Lukander said the brand's reach was a benefit to its educational arm.
"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," Lukander said. "What's most interesting is to promote the very open and wonderful dialogue that the Finnish authorities have with schools and textbook publishers."