About juliagillen

Reader in Digital Literacies in the Department of Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University, UK.

Liverpool and the Umbrella Revolution, Hong Kong, 2014

On Friday I gave a talk on the Umbrella Revolution at the wonderful Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art in Manchester.  By the way, if you find yourself in Manchester before 12th May, do go and see their exhibition, “Chinternet Ugly”.  It’s a small but vibrant gallery and this multimedia show is provocative and witty.

I was surprised that most of my audience for the talk, Artistic Layers: The Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong in 2014 came from Liverpool.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been, since I already knew from the data that there was a strong link between Liverpool and the Umbrella Movement in 2014.  My co-authors are Dr Mandy Hoi Man Yu, Gloria Ho Nga Fan and Selena Ho.  They had advised me that an online “Golden Forum” of young professionals and others in Hong Kong were particularly responsible for the Liverpool link. Of course in a far broader sense it is highly significant that the oldest European Chinatown is in Liverpool.

In Hong Kong in 2014 I could see for myself how inspiring the work of John Lennon was, particularly with reference to pacifism and hope.  I hope you enjoy this selection of relevant images below. I’d love to know more about the link between  the Umbrella Movement and Liverpool so if you can help please email j.gillenATlancaster.ac.ukP1010316P1010267P1010282P1010290P1010292

Advice on getting your journal article published

Literacy Research Discussion Group 23 October 2018

This blog post, originally a handout, was started off by Julia Gillen and then contributed to by other members of the LRC including Uta Papen and David Barton who were also present at the meeting. Many thanks to all those who helped with ideas, questions and responses.

What shall I publish?

You could publish one aspect of your study  such as research design, methodology, literature review (especially if systematic) or a mini study ie outline and response to 1 RQ.  It could be the majority of an MA thesis or discarded chapter of PhD thesis, that is a good piece of work but that better sits outside the coherent final work.

What shall I do before I publish?

Conference papers can be excellent as they move your work along and help you structure it.  You might make useful contacts at a conference and get helpful feedback.  Alternatively, you may be disappointed in the quality of feedback, as audience members are generally listening for their own purposes rather than thinking of helpfulness to you.

Writing retreats help many people.  Don’t pay – organise one yourself!

Where shall I publish?

Chapter in edited book, – advantages & disadvantages  – can be accessed through a call.

Special issue of journal – very good if fits. Similarly, one can respond to calls.

A good aspect about these is that they force you to work to a deadline.

Freestanding journal issue.

Choose journal early as this shapes so much of the process.

Ensure journal is academically respectable, not a predatory journal

Research the journal including aims and scope, previous articles around your topic or methodology, editors and editorial board.

To what extent should we take notice of impact factors?  This is difficult.  Many of us are pressured to go for a journal with an impact factor above 1 or to put it another way, this may be useful in job applications and promotions.  However most agreed it can’t be the only thing that counts including because there might be stronger features that lead you to choose a specific journal.

Is there some overlap between your citations, those of relevant studies even the editorial board? If none, this could be the wrong journal for you.

How shall I write?

Look at models or organisation, structure and voice especially from target journal and significant predecessor studies.

Work out what you have to offer that is new and ensure this is highlighted.

Put the article aside for a while (say a week) so that you can revise with a fresh eye.

Get at least one critical friend to read your article.

Reviewing and submission

Devote attention to the journal’s instructions to authors and every tiny detail of their submission process in respect of text, referencing, structure, cover letter, figures, blinding references etc.  – but be aware these might not be exactly the same as you encounter during submission. Submission can be a lengthy process.

Don’t be tempted to put a preprint on academia.edu or researchgate at least until your article is published.  It is possible that a journal, even if it has provisionally accepted your paper, will then reject it owing to “prior publication”.

How journals review

Roles of assistant editors, editors, editorial board, external reviewers vary.

Differing policies and practices: Journals vary in how they elicit reviews and how they react to them.  Some editors are more helpful than others in advising writers what to do when reviewers’ opinions conflict in some way; others just send them all along.  Nevertheless, you can ask advice from the editor.

How to interpret the response to your article & remain resilient

Desk rejections – This could be because of an editorial policy (e.g. “Let’s not accept any more articles about X/ with N methodology for a while”) that you could be quite unaware of, so don’t be unduly upset.

Demands for revisions/tentative & uncertain acceptances.

How to correct

Remain undefensive, grateful and respectful.

Take great care over Letter/list describing corrections & the corrections.

Move onto another journal if necessary.

How to celebrate….  Oh that’s up to you!



Reading aloud in Britain Today – Saturday 17th November

Posted on behalf of Sam Duncan:

Saturday 17th November 2018

The Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) Symposium

Everyday Reading: Explorations of Literacy and Oracy


Please join us for a day of presentations and discussion examining forms of reading aloud, everyday reading and relationships between literacy and oracy, in and out of the classroom.


We are delighted to welcome:


Andrey Rosowsky (University of Sheffield) Heavenly Reading – the oral/aural nature of reading sacred texts


Catherine Sadler (University of Hull) Reading aloud and poetry


Gordon Wells (Project Manager of the Soillse inter-university Gaelic research network, and Co-ordinator of the Island Voices/Guthan nan Eilean online community project) Reading Island Voices: Issues around the primacy of speech and the privileging of literacy, from a Hebridean viewpoint.


Jenny Hartley (Emeritus Professor Roehampton University and co-founder of Prison Reading Groups) Twenty Years Behind Bars: Reading Aloud in Prison Reading Groups


Jo Westbrook, Julia Sutherland & Jane Oakhill (University of Sussex) Faster, immersive reading of whole texts


Kevin Harvey (School of English, the University of Nottingham) & Susan Jones (School of Education, the University of Nottingham) Whose meaning is it anyway? The communal construction of meaning in shared reading groups


Lionel Warner (University of Reading) Reading Aloud in the high school: why do they keep doing it?


Maxine Burton (freelance scholar) Reading Aloud in 19th century England: some evidence from Victorian fiction


Russell Aldersson (City Literary Institute) Re-thinking “aloud” in the context of sign language users 


Sue Walters (UCL Institute of Education) Reading as recitation in faith school settings:  Issues for learning and teaching


Victoria Watkins (UCL Institute of Education) Reading Year 7 and Year 12 Reading Partnerships


And an update from the Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) project.


Please come along and join the discussion. The day will start at 1030am and close at 5pm. Lunch and refreshments provided. This day is free but places are limited. Please register using this linkhttps://www.eventbrite.com/e/rabit-symposium-tickets-50262193574

RABiT Symposium


The Reading Aloud in Britain Today (RABiT) Symposium  Everyday Reading: Explorations of Literacy and Oracy  Please join us for a lively day of presentations and discussions examining forms of reading aloud, everyday reading and relationships between literacy and oracy, in and out of the classroom.

Scroll free September?


scroll free september
The UK media are busily discussing a new campaign by the Royal Society for Public Health – Scroll Free September. It’s a lively idea to encourage us all to think about our relationship with social media and its possible impact on mental health.
The RSPH’s introduction is quick to stress potential benefits of social media in supporting connectivity and wellbeing. But at the same time its 2017 #StatusofMind report examined both the positive and negative effects of social media on people’s health. YouTube came out as particularly positive, but use of Instagram and Snapchat was experienced to some people’s detriment.
The Scroll Free September campaign is not an alarmist suggestion that we all go cold turkey, but rather suggests:
“By taking notice of and learning which elements of social media make you feel good and which make you feel bad, participating in Scroll Free September could help you build a healthier, more balanced relationship with social media in the future – a relationship where your use is conscious and mindful, and where you are the one in control.”
There are 5 levels of participation ranging between “cold turkey” and “sleeping dog”. I’m contemplating blending “social butterfly” social butterfly and “night owl” night owl.

Almost inevitably, the media is tending to report the campaign in a relatively extreme and therefore somewhat unfair way: see for example the Independent’s “Why a health charity wants you to go cold turkey on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.”
I know that my colleagues’ project on Academic Writing found that email was experienced as a considerable burden by some participantsbut I’m not sure if the team (Karin Tusting [PI], David Barton, Ibrar Bhatt, Mary Hamilton and Sharon McCulloch) found much evidence of the impact of social media in 2016-17 on academics in HEIs.
I learnt about the campaign from Niamh McDade, the Senior Policy and Communications Executive at RSPH, who is a relative of mine. I think any campaign that gets us thinking about writing and reading in our lives in a balanced way is a good thing, but this seems particularly imaginative. I will decide which level to sign up to by the end of the day!

Phonics Screening Check – research findings by Margaret M Clark

The Phonics Screening Check involves children of about six years old in England being tested on their ability to read out loud 40 words, half of which are not real words at all.  The Government recently repeated its commitment to the test in England  despite the lack of supportive evidence and despite the irony that the Minister for School Standards, Nick Gibb, urges teachers to take notice of research.

At the recent 54th UK Literacy Association annual conference in Cardiff I met the redoubtable Margaret M Clark OBE, who I first encountered perhaps 20 years’ ago.  Professor Clark has recently published “The Phonics Screening Check 2012-2017: an independent enquiry into the views of head teachers, teachers and parents.”  This report has been made open access and is accompanied by other resources including an article in the Education Journal.

Margaret Clark OBE

Margaret M Clark OBE

Clark explains in the article how the originally described “light touch diagnostic assessment” has become “a high stakes test in the accountability programme, with schools required by DfE and Ofsted to increase their percentage pass each year….it has come to dominate the early years literacy experiences of young children, with many hours devoted to preparing for the check, in particular the alien (pseudo) words which account for twenty of the forty words in the check.” (Clark, 2018: 20). Those who do not meet the pass mark have to take the test again the following year. Yet, as the report explains, “When teachers were asked: “Do you feel the phonics check provides you with information on individual children which you did not already have?” Only 71 of the 1,108 teachers polled answered ‘Yes’. Only 20 of 180 Head Teachers said that they found the Check helpful.” (Clark: 2018: 23).

Disturbingly, the PSC is gaining ground in Australia.  In an appendix to the report Dr Misty Adoniou of the University of Canberra explains how South Australia has made the PSC compulsory, with endeavours to roll it out as Federal policy.  She explains that the policy is driven by supposed benefits to the identification of dyslexia, although this was “never the stated purpose of the PSC,and the developer of the check and subsequent evaluators, acknowledge that the PSC is not nuanced enough to perform diagnoses of literacy difficulties” (p. 42).  She argues that the policy is ideologically driven, as  a “framing of learning to read as a medical neurological condition.” (p. 42).

I admire the continuing work of Clark, which includes a  challenging investigation into the appalling amounts spent on the PSC. This could be spent   very much better in supporting children’s wellbeing and literacy experiences.  In my opinion her research completely justifess her key findings and policy implications:

1. The views expressed indicate that the government should seriously consider either discontinuing the phonics check or making it voluntary.
2. Many of the respondents, teachers and parents, were critical of the inclusion of the pseudo words and of the time taken in practising them
3. The use of the check as a benchmark to measure overall school improvement appeared to be regarded as unhelpful by many.
4. Given the proportion of teachers and parents who disagreed with government policy,the Government should consider a broader repertoire of approaches to teaching children to read.

Clark (2018, p. 24)


Clark, M.M. (2018) The views of teachers, parents and children on the Phonics Screening Check: the continuing domination of politics over evidence. Education Journal Issue 347. pp. 20-24 10 July 2018.

Clark, M.M. & Glazzard, J.  (2018) The Phonics Screening Check 2012-2017: an independent enquiry into the views of Head Teachers, teachers and parents. A preliminary report July 2018.  Birmingham: Newman University.

Comment. Education Journal. Issue 347, p. 4.10 July 2018