June Guest Blogger Paul Deardorff Speaks on Anti-Bullying
Grab a coffee, and sit down to read about our Guest Blogger of the month, Paul Deardorff! This month Paul will be sharing with us his insights on development of an anti-bullying software and his journey. BRIM is an anti-bullying software used by students, staff and family members to report bullying. This piece of software was developed through research, study and the passion for increased communication – in order to lower bullying incidents. Thank you Paul for sharing with us this month.
Name: Paul Deardorff
Currently residing in: Durham, North Carolina
Background/A Little Bit about Yourself:
I recently graduated from UC Berkeley where I studied at the Haas School of Business with a degree in business management. I have always loved entrepreneurship, working with teams around the world, and building software applications.
Connect with Paul on the following Social Media outlets
Blog Posts or Articles we can read
Learn More through this Video
Where do you live?
I am currently based out of Los Angeles, Caflifornia, but am moving to Durham, North Carolina very shortly. Durham has a wonderful, growing start-up community and several of our school district partners are located in North Carolina and I look forward to being able to visit them so easily!
- Tell me a little bit about your family?
I’m half Armenian, so at least one side of the family is very big and even the most distant relatives are held tight and treated like close relatives. We have big celebrations primarily centered around food, family, and our faith. These gatherings can get quite loud – with so many people and the fact that we are naturally a loud group of people. At a minimum there’s laughing, conversing, noise from the kitchen where food is being prepared and plenty of children of all ages running around.
- What is your educational background?
I attended the University of California Berkeley and received an undergraduate degree in business management at the Haas School of Business.
- How did you get into the app business?
I began working with computers and electronics at a young age. From Lego sets to electronic calculators, PDAs, and computers everything in my hands would be disassembled and re-assembled (sometimes without luck). My first applications were a website for my business selling antique toy trains and a C# program to track my inventory and scrape pricing data from the internet.
- Why did you decide to create this educational app?
The BRIM reporting app was created back in 2012 by Chris Norton and his team based out of Vancouver, Canada. In search of my next project and knowing that I wanted to work in ed-tech again, I was fortunate to meet Chris and learn about the incredible business he and his team built. After four years of hard work building the business, Chris was ready to move on to his next project. The timing worked out perfectly because I was ready and keen to work on something new in edtech.
- Tell us about your research?
We are very fortunate to have cyberbullying expert Lavina Sadhwani on our team to guide our mission and product. Lavina’s research and work at York University revolves around peace promotion and educating others about cyberbullying. Lavina is currently working with a local agency to explore cyber violence among youth. Her research and direction have been incredibly valuable on the development of our program and partnerships with schools.
- What has been the most beneficial part of your job?
Building lasting partnerships with schools is what gets me excited. Every time we form a new partnership it means we have the opportunity to support more schools and help them achieve their goals. This means improving school culture, making sure students are safe and in the end creating a better environment for learning and growth. The school leaders certainly earn all the credit and we are always in the background available to help. We get satisfaction from any help we can provide: from doing a simple password reset to helping with sending parent letters to let everyone know BRIM is now available at their school. It’s all part of our work to do everything we can to support our partner schools.
- What frustrating parts are there in your job?
Bullying is a sensitive issue for everyone involved, including first and foremost the students, but also parents, community members, school counselors, and administrators. We have been impressed by our partnerships with schools and how supportive they are of anti-bullying programs. Some of our schools and districts have shared their success stories about how BRIM helped them do a 180-degree turn on school culture and performance. All the credit goes back to them because a tool like BRIM is only as good as the team of people using it. Our school partners have done an incredible job incorporating BRIM into their routine, even coming up with creative ways to track bullying and insure staff proactively respond to bullying.
- Do you think children and/or adults should be using this app? And if so, in what ways?
We are lucky to have hundreds of school partners proving each day that BRIM provides value to their school communities. We partner with schools to encourage all members of the school community to stand together against bullying. We have had powerful responses from students, parents, grandparents, and guardians who all work together to report and resolve incidents of bullying. School staff show incredible diligence with our product by responding to incidents and tracking them internally.
- Do you think the school system is addressing bullying?
Here in the U.S. and equally in Canada, where we have several partnerships, we are pleased to see that most school systems do promote programs that address bullying. School administrators know that a positive school culture impacts performance and decreases absenteeism. Forget about improving test scores if students are not coming to class due to fear of bullying. Think about the number of students missing out on the opportunity to learn because of this fear? Student and school safety should be top of the list for priorities. Although there is no federal law related specifically to bullying, anti-bullying legislation at the state level has improved. Such laws and policies help by mandating prevention programs that go from student self-help resources through to methods of anonymous reporting. As of 2015, all fifty states have their own anti-bullying policies and laws. Detailed information about each state’s specific laws and policies can be found on StopBullying.gov.
- Paul, what is your philosophy on technology in the classroom?
As a technologist my response is already biased, but I do agree with many others in education that technology has a great potential in the classroom when used in the right ways. Teachers are in my opinion creative people and quick on their feet. If you’re going to have any success teaching a group of energetic children bouncing off the walls to go to lunch break, you have to get creative. I love seeing how educators use ed-tech apps in the classroom. My favorite tools and apps are those that amplify a teacher’s capabilities instead of replacing their role in the classroom. I see two primary categories of ed-tech tools: support and engage. Support tools might help a teacher grade faster, collect survey data from students, or distribute reading material forstudents. Engagement tools, on the other hand, supplement the teacher’s lessons in the classroom. An engagement tool, for instance, might send students on a virtual tour of the pyramids at Giza after a history lesson. In the end I believe all of these tools should support and empower teachers to better guide and engage students in their learning.
- What do you see happening in the future around bullying?
There probably is not a single person that hasn’t been touched by bullying. Saying that we could eradicate bullying would probably be naive. But we can improve how we talk about bullying and respond to it. If students feel secure and confident to report bullying, find the resources they need, an adult or peer they can talk with, then the situation gets much better for them.
- How do you network and work with others around the world?
LinkedIn and Twitter work wonders for networking in the digital world. We connect with others in the community and try to highlight what school leaders are doing to improve school culture. We love doing school counselor interviews to help other school counselors learn new tips and trips from their peers. We’re also looking forward to attending conferences this year to meet more in-person. And of course we will continue to meet with our school partners in-person to hear what’s important to them and how we can improve our partnership.
- What does a normal day look like for you, in your profession?
I try to talk with at least one school partner each day – either by email or preferably by phone. This helps me stay in touch with the business. Usually sometime throughout the day I will also receive a phone call from a concerned parent. They feel helpless that their child is being bullied at school. While these calls are difficult since there is not much I can do but point them in the right direction and provide resources, these calls are very important to me. They let me know that the work I am doing is important and real.
- Paul, where you live, do you see a promotion of connecting kids with anti-bullying programs? Why or why not?
I am very pleased to see school leaders actively seeking out anti-bullying programs to implement at their schools. Speakers, assemblies, campaigns, software programs for reporting, teacher training on bullying, and support resources for students are all sought by school leaders to help them build a strong culture at their schools. Non-profits and other organizations are also helping put these resources into the right hands as well. One of our partners, Be Strong, runs a national program to unite students together through their state representative program, live tours, and self-help resources for students.
Thank you Paul for sharing your insights, thoughts and journey with us!