Angry Birds Playground will soon guide students at a Shanghai public school through everything from mathematics to physical education.
In our chosen hobby, we're pretty used to hearing discussions about the negative impact of videogames on today's youth. Most of us are content to refute these arguments directly, but developers like Rovio seem set on proving that the reverse is actually true. After finding some success with its line of educational textbooks, the Angry Birds developer is going all out by launching an entire educational curriculum called Angry Birds Playground. And no, this isn't an app or some kind of theoretical experiment; Angry Birds Playground is being adopted by an actual public school in Shanghai, China, and will cover everything from mathematics to physical education.
"It's not just games we're talking about here," Rovio vice president of learning and book publishing Sanna Lukander explains. "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. 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 well-being."
Angry Birds Playground was developed with the University of Helsinki and based on the Finnish national curriculum. The program covers math, sciences, music, language, arts & crafts, physical education, and social interaction using a variety of Angry Birds-brand educational materials. Although there's a valid concern that the program would encourage brand loyalty, Lukander insists that Angry Birds Playground places education first and foremost.
"We're not just putting a sticker on something," Lukander says. "We're combining two brands. One is Angry Birds with its global reach and people recognizing the characters and being motivated to learn more. 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." Lukander notes that while digital games are a component of Angry Birds Playground, board games, sports, and physical activity all have a high priority.
As strange as the idea may seem at first, Lukander might have a point. Angry Birds Playground doesn't just build off of an established educational program, it uses the popular Angry Birds license to keep children engaged. In my own youth, I probably would've loved watching Optimus Prime teach computer science, or TMNT's Splinter offering phys ed tips. As long as teachers aren't teaching physics by catapulting children into fellow classmates, then Angry Birds Playground may be worth keeping an eye on.