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‘Brianna’s World’ teaches ASU social work students real-life experience

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PHOENIX — Social work students at Arizona State University are gaining valuable experience without having to physically go anywhere.

They’re doing so through a 3D video game called “Brianna’s World.”

“It’s not the textbook kind of learning or the case study on a piece of paper that you read three paragraphs about,” said Judy Krysik, director of the ASU Center for Child Well-Being. “It’s a very engaging, different way of learning.”

Players create an avatar and get to choose physical features, such as skin tone, hair color, eye color and clothes. They are then assigned a home visit involving a 15-year-old girl named Brianna who lives at an apartment complex.

As part of the home visit, they interact with the teen, her family and neighbors.

“After the home visit, they go back to their office and consult with their supervisor,” Krysik said. “And all the time they are making observations and putting those observations into the beginnings of an assessment.”

The video game was created by the ASU Center for Games and Impact on behalf of the Center for Child Well-Being.

Krysik said it teaches social work students communication skills, and it helps them come up with an informed assessment.

“In addition to playing the game, the real benefit in learning comes from the discussion I think that occurs after the game,” she said. “There are all kinds of issues that this type of game brings up that you don’t get in other forms of simulation.”

Krysik brainstormed the idea for the game after she was asked to come up with a simulation lab for new social workers in the field.

“I thought this would be perfect for providing that type of experience, and it’s a way we could do it across the state at no extra cost,” she said.

On Friday, she will receive an award for helping create Brianna’s World from the Council on Social Work Education at the group’s 65th annual conference in Colorado.

Brianna’s World continues to be developed and is only being used by a group of social work students at ASU. It’ll soon become more broadly available to more students and to new social workers in the field across Arizona.

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