TOEFL Practice Test 5 (Reading Section)
Excerpted from What Video Games Have to Teach us about Learning and Literacy by James Paul Gee
When people learn to play video games, they are learning a new literacy. Of course, this is not the way the word “literacy” is normally used. Traditionally, people think of literacy as the ability to read and write. Why, then, should we think of literacy more broadly, in regard to video games or anything else, for that matter? There are two reasons.
First, in the modern world, language is not the only important communicational system. Today images, symbols, graphs, diagrams, artifacts, and many other visual symbols are particularly significant. Thus, the idea of different types of “visual literacy” would seem to be an important one. For example, being able to “read” the images in advertising is one type of visual literacy. And, of course, there are different ways to read such images, ways that are more or less aligned with the intentions and interests of the advertisers. Knowing how to read interior designs in homes, modernist art in museums, and videos on MTV are other forms of visual literacy.
Furthermore, very often today words and images of various sorts are juxtaposed and integrated in a variety of ways. In newspaper and magazines as well as in textbooks, images take up more and more of the space alongside words. In fact, in many modern high school and college textbooks in the sciences images not only take up more space, they now carry meanings that are independent of the words in the text. If you can’t read these images, you will not be able to recover their meanings from the words in the text as was more usual in the past.
In such multimodal texts (texts that mix words and images), the images often communicate different things from the words. And the combination of the two modes communicates things that neither of the modes does separately. Thus, the idea of different sorts of multimodal literacy seems an important one. Both modes and multimodality go far beyond images and words to include sounds, music, movement, bodily sensations, and smells.
None of this news today, of course. We very obviously live in a world awash with images. It is our first answer to the question why we should think of literacy more broadly. The second answer is this: Even though reading and writing seem so central to what literacy means traditionally, reading and writing are not such general and obvious matters as they might at first seem. After all, we never just read or write; rather, we always read or write something in some way.
There are many different ways of reading and writing. We don’t read or write newspapers, legal tracts, essays in literary criticism, poetry, rap songs, and on through a nearly endless list in the same way. Each of these domains has its own rules and requirements. Each is a culturally and historically separate way of reading and writing, and, in that sense, a different literacy. Furthermore, in each case, if we want to “break the rules” and read against the grain of the text—for the purposes of critique, for instance—we have to do so in different ways, usually with some relatively deep knowledge of how to read such texts “according to the rules.”
So there are different ways to read different types of texts. Literacy is multiple, then, in the sense that the legal literacy needed for reading law books is not the same as the literacy needed for reading physics texts or superhero comic books. And we should not be too quick to dismiss the latter form of literacy. Many a superhero comic is replete with post-Freudian irony of a sort that would make a modern literary critic’s heart beat fast and confuse any otherwise normal adult. Literacy, then, even as traditionally conceived to involve only print, is not a unitary thing but a multiple matter. There are, even in regard to printed texts and even leaving aside images and multimodal texts, different “literacies.”
Once we see this multiplicity of literacy (literacies), we realize that when we think about reading and writing, we have to think beyond print. Reading and writing in any domain, whether it is law, rap songs, academic essays, superhero comics, or whatever, are not just ways of decoding print, they are also caught up with and in social practices. …
Video games are a new form of art. They will not replace books; they will sit beside them, interact with them, and change them and their role in society in various ways, as, indeed, they are already doing strongly with movies. (Today many movies are based on video games and many more are influenced by them.) We have no idea yet how people “read” video games, what meanings they make from them. Still less do we know how they will “read” them in the future.
Please answer questions based on following passage.