Tom’s Personal Story
I created a reading tent in my background when I was about eight years old. I needed a hideaway: my parents divorced; my mom was an alcoholic. Reading became a means of escape. And when I wasn’t reading, I was tinkering with things around me. That old electric guitar? Took it apart, repainted it, and jammed out like Eric Clapton (at least that’s what it sounded like to me!). That musical I loved on VHS tape? I rewired a stereo system so I could record the whole movie on a bunch of cassette tapes and take them wherever I went. For me, literacy and technology were dual loves from an early age.
It should be no surprise that when I started teaching English at a high school in Manhattan, my technophilia came with me. I recorded my comments to students’ writing on CDs. (Remember those?) I designed hands-on projects where students recorded literary rap albums, remixed presidents’ foreign policy speeches, and filmed recreations of Shakespearean scenes in their own neighborhoods.
But here’s the thing: using technology in the English classroom was never about the tech. It was always about deepening and expanding our study of literature and writing as a way to better understand ourselves and the world.
Over time, I have worked in lots of educational settings: directing a large scale online learning program, designing and launching a resource-sharing website and community for teachers, coaching ELA teachers and school leaders, writing and teaching as an education technology professor, and leading a nonprofit program devoted to engaging families and shaping education policies via digital platforms.
But that scared kid reading in his makeshift library in his backyard never really went away, nor did his fascination with technology.
For many years, I dreamed of ways to use computational methods to enhance the joy of reading books. Not just as an English teacher, but also as a reader more broadly. I taught myself to program, wrote academic articles on my process, created prototypes, and ran many workshops with teachers over the years. I even interviewed for a professorship at an Irish university in K-12 computer science, which didn’t work out but left me convinced I was on to something. Plotting Plots is the product of all that sweat, gleefully poured.
My hope is that Plotting Plots becomes an invaluable resource for readers everywhere who want to explore and enjoy books a little differently. It is never about the data themselves. But it is a kind of reading that sees the value in using data as a way to reflect on books: There are some things we can only see from the algorithmic altitude of quantified literary data–about the books, yes, but also about ourselves.
Thank you for visiting Plotting Plots, and don’t hesitate to say hi via the messaging feature on the site or via social media.
Tom’s Professional Bio
Dr. Tom Liam Lynch has worked at the intersection of education, technology, and English for 15+ years. His insights on educational technologies have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and CBS News. Here’s a bit more about Dr. Lynch.
- Served as expert consultant on K-12 computer science projects funded by the National Science Foundation and US Department of Education
- Won the 2019 NTLI Award from the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) for pioneering methods on embedding computer science into secondary English Language Arts classrooms
- Co-led the creation of NCTE’s “Beliefs for Integrating Technology into the English Language Arts Classroom” for classroom teachers, school/district leaders, and education professors
- Published 50+ articles and 3 books on technology, literacy, and K-12 computer science education, including dozens of presentations all over the world
- Led the implementation of a $50M online learning program in 100+ schools in New York City schools
- Designed and launched a digital resource hub and community for 75,000 teachers
- Spent thousands of hours coaching teachers and school leaders on how to leverage technology to increase the quality of learning and teaching
- Named to the 2021 Education Power 100 in New York State by political media juggernaut City & State
- Earned a doctorate in English education from Columbia University’s Teachers College