INDIANA, Pa. (KDKA) — A group of communications graduate students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania have created a digital world that makes it easier for people to learn about the Civil Rights Movement.

“I really felt like the project brought the movement – which is a topic that we tend to shy away from or know only a very small portion of information about – I thought that by us working on the project, it not only informed us of that time and the Civil Rights Movement, but also by the video and the second life itself creating an avatar of color,” said Malaika Turner, an IUP grad student. “You know, some of us were avatars of color. And the clothing and because we had to purchase some of the things that we used in the project, it really brought it to life for us.”

“One of the goals of using games and simulations is to build empathy; something that can’t be done through traditional education methods,” added David Porter, another IUP grad student.

“There are tokens, there are things they go around and gather to accumulate points. What we did was attach facts to some of the tokens of the games so they learn facts about that era in history,” said Turner. “But then, there’s also these interactive immersive elements where they can experience what it was like to be an African-American during the Civil Rights Movement.”

“It’s giving folks an opportunity to be there, you know,” said Porter. “I think that’s what you can appreciate about the project, which is what second life does. One of the ways that it enhances education is it allows you to be a part of whatever you’re learning.”

The program allows participants to experience the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, the 1963 March on Washington, the 1964 Mississippi Freedom School Movement and the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.

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