Education Without Backpacks: Modernizing Education in Bulgaria Using Khan Academy

This is the meeting for the week of October 30, 2017 through November 5, 2017

This Meeting at a Glance:
Program: Education Without Backpacks: Modernizing Education in Bulgaria Using Khan Academy
Program Description: In this week’s program, we hear about Education Without Backpacks, an educational non-profit in Bulgaria that aims to improve the use of innovative tech tools in Bulgarian schools
Speaker: Daniel Cholakov, Education Without Backpacks

Is this your first time to visit us? If so, welcome to our weekly online meeting! To complete our meeting, please continue reading from here to the bottom of this page. 

Each Monday our week’s meeting is posted early in the morning, U.S. Pacific Time. These meetings are designed so that you can read and watch what we post anytime during the week. The entire meeting takes about 60 minutes to complete, with the video conference recording of the program being the bulk of the time.

Note that you can easily read this meeting with your favorite device, so feel free to take our meeting on the go with you; read it while on public transit, waiting in line for coffee, or even at the park! Please also make sure to complete the attendance form at the bottom and leave a comment. Enjoy!

Welcome to the Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley!

Here’s a message from President-elect Andrew:

Welcome, members and guests!
This is the week in the States when children and adults dress up in their favorite, scariest, or funniest costumes. Around where I live, this holiday is a wonderful mix of typically incompatible emotions, horror and delight. As a tradition that was once steeped in solemnity, it has evolved, in the hands of children, into something light and playful. It’s a wonderful reminder of us to be more open to play, even in the face of serious days.
My hope for this week is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. That in the face of the good work we all must do, we take a bit of time to have some chocolate, a good scare, and an even better giggle.

Andrew Taw, President-elect
Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley

Weekly Funny with the Lady of Laughter (LOL)

We believe laughter is an important part of life, and we should all make time to laugh a little. This segment of our meeting is meant to tickle you just enough. These funnies are curated by member Yvonne Kwan, our “Lady of Laughter!”

From our club’s Lady of Laughter, Yvonne Kwan:

“What, Yvonne finally has jokes again?!

Apologies for not gracing the past few meetings with my sense of humor. I’m back with some spooktacular jokes in honor of Halloween!”
What do you call a cheesy Halloween dance?
The muenster mash!
What do ghosts eat for breakfast?


Why didn’t the skeleton dance at the party?
He had no body to dance with.

Weekly Inspiration: Meet the Female Chemist Blowing Up Stereotypes

Every week we start our meetings with a short video highlighting innovation, inspiration, entrepreneurship, or social change. This week we are featuring a video from Great Big Story about a female chemist in Texas who is blowing up stereotypes!

At the University of Texas, Dr. Kate Biberdorf is breaking stereotypes and blowing stuff up—all in a good pair of heels. Through her theatrical and dynamic approach to teaching, Dr. Biberdorf is breaking the stigma of what a stereotypical scientist looks like, while reaching students that might otherwise be intimidated by chemistry. By making waves within her field and empowering the next generation to get involved in STEM, she’s sending a message that any human can be a scientist.

That was explosive!

Coffee with a Rotarian

Every month our club members are paired with fellow members and special guests for an exclusive one-on-one coffee session called Coffee with a Rotarian. The idea is simple: spend 1 hour of your time during the month to get to better know a fellow Rotarian! Some of the greatest friendships were spawned that way. Members report on their coffee sessions here.

This week we feature a coffee session between two of our members: Andrew Taw from California, USA (pictured below on the left) and Ferheen Abbasi from Osaka, Japan (pictured below on the right).

Here is what Andrew had to say about Ferheen:

Ferheen finds wonder in many things. She loves podcasts about social issues, a flower called ginmokusei, which blooms in the liminal time between Summer and Autumn, genetics, and cat pictures. She’s also a bit of a celebrity as her voice has been featured twice on the NPR podcast “Make Me Smart.” She also wants to end menstruation with a non-hormonal method! It was a rare opportunity to talk to someone who thinks so big!

Thank you, Andrew, for sharing!

Here is what Ferheen had to say about Andrew:

It was an honor to talk to Andrew for my first Coffee with a Rotarian. Actually, he had contacted me a few weeks prior to our match-up wanting to video chat. From both of these chats, I’ve come to the conclusion that Andrew is one of the most spectacular people I have ever met. He is so kind, cares deeply about his Rotary family, and truly wants to make the world a better place. When I asked him how we can improve our Eclub, he said that he wants to make sure everyone makes great memories. I have no doubt in my mind that Andrew will find the perfect job at an organization like the Gates Foundation and spread his positivity, love, and excitement for a more just world.

Thanks for sharing, Ferheen!

A big shout out to Tzviatko Chiderov for continuing to chair and organize these Coffee with a Rotarian sessions! If you are not yet signed up for a Coffee Session, please email Tzviatko at [email protected] to sign up!

World of Rotary

The over 1.2 million members of Rotary Clubs around the world form the largest humanitarian service organization, Rotary International. We’re part of this global family. This segment is a tribute to stories and to good deeds Rotary clubs around the world are conducting.

Last week we celebrated World Polio Day. You may have heard that we are “This Close” to ending polio. There are many updates that we have been hearing about the polio campaign over the past week. It seems fitting that we dedicate this segment to a short promotional video between John Cena and Dr. Jay Wenger from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of Rotary’s partners in the fight to erradicate polio.

Learn more at

For Members Only: Updates

This segment of the meeting is dedicated to our club members. This section includes announcements and new initiatives. Guests, you are welcome to read this section or just skip it.

Members: NAMEBADGES ARE COMING! Update your info please!

The Membership Committee is working on ordering new magnetic name badges for each member! We are missing the info for many members!!! These name badges will have your name on it and your profession. Perfect for wearing when you attend any Rotary events or meetings. In order to do this, we need your most updated information. Members, please click here to submit your info.

Past Member Announcements:

Our Events & Projects

We hold our meetings online, but we hold regular service projects and social events in the Silicon Valley every month! This section is updated every week with our upcoming events. We welcome guests to all of our events and service projects listed here.

Also be sure to join our Meetup Group for automatic calendar updates and to RSVP for our events! These are open to all guests as well!

Rotary E-Club of Silicon Valley

Fremont, CA
137 Members & Guests

Calling all service-minded entrepreneurs, foodies, and community leaders! This group is for anyone interested in innovation, community service, education, business networking,…

Check out this Meetup Group →

Upcoming Events:

All times are Pacific Time! (San Francisco time)

Sunday, November 19, 2017 – Coming soon!

We are gearing up for a club social on November 19th! Mark your calendar!

Other Upcoming Club Events:

  • Friday, December 8, 2017 – Save the date for a club dinner (Details TBD)
  • Saturday, January 13, 2018 – Save the date for a club outdoor expedition (Details TBD)
  • Saturday, February 28, 2018 – Save the date for a club skydiving event (Details TBD)

More events coming soon! All events are open to guests, unless otherwise mentioned. Feel free to join us! If you ever have questions, please email [email protected]

What would you like to do?

Hey Members! What would you like to do? We’re working on putting together some exciting socials and impactful service projects for our upcoming quarter’s event calendar. Let us know what you want to do by posting in our members only Facebook Group (if you don’t have access, please request it with Webmaster Mitty). Remember, you’re only taking advantage of the full impact of Rotary when you’re stepping up to get involved.

Happy Dollars: Do Good by Sharing Something Good

Each week we ask our members to share stories with the club and toss in a few dollars to support our efforts. The primary goal of this section is to provide a fun way of getting to know each fellow members and guests, while giving back to a good cause.

Happy dollars is an opportunity to share something positive that has happened in your life whether it is personal or business. Think of it as your opportunity to brag a little, but also put a little bit into a karma jar. The money donated through happy dollars is put to charitable use, and the message that you leave for happy dollars will be posted in our online meeting the following week for the entire week for folks to see! (Pending that it’s appropriate!)

Last week’s happy dollars went towards helping rebuild communities in Chiapas, Mexico that were affected by the recent earthquakes as part of our two week happy dollars dedication. Here are some of the happy dollar messages from last week:

Thank you to member Rushton Hurley for his generous $25 donation towards helping rebuilding communities in Mexico. Rushton had this to say:
“I’m happy to be part of our club’s effort to help those affected by the earthquakes in Chiapas!”

Thank you to member Tzviatko Chiderov for his generous $10 donation towards helping rebuilding communities in Mexico. Tzviatko had this to say:
“Apply to the relief efforts in Chiapas.”

Thank you to member Rory Olsen for his generous $15 donation to PolioPlus. Rory had this to say:
“Go Astros! Please apply my gift to Polio Plus!”

Thank you to member Monique Ziesenhenne for her generous $20 donation to The Rotary Foundation’s Annual Fund. Monique this to say:
“Please add to the Annual Fund. I enjoyed a nice celebration for the PhD with my family and friends!”

Thank you to member Brian Liddicoat for his generous $15 donation towards helping rebuilding communities in Mexico. Brian had this to say:
“I am up with helping people in Chiapas, Mexico. Great idea for Happy Dollars.”

Thank you to guest Jorge D’Garay for his generous $50 donation towards helping rebuilding communities in Mexico. Jorge had this to say:
“I’m happy because we’re alive”

Thank you to member Nate Gildart for his generous $25 donation towards helping rebuilding communities in Mexico. Nate had this to say:
“On behalf of the people of Japan, who were supported by the rest of the world in 2011.”

Thank you to member Heather Shaw for her generous $25 donation towards helping rebuilding communities in Mexico. Heather had this to say:
“Happy dollars to support earthquake victims”

Thank you all for your donations last week! It doesn’t stop there.

For a second week in a row, all happy dollars donations this week will be going towards a special relief fund to help rebuild communities and homes in Chiapas, Mexico hit by the recent earthquakes. Remember, our club will be matching every dollar donated up to $250. So your happy dollars this week will be 2x their normal impact! 

Happy dollars is also a great opportunity to share with the group about something good that has happened to you, while giving back to a great cause.

So what are you happy about? Share with us below, and help support victims of the earthquakes in Chiapas, Mexico.

Fill out my online form.

Selected Six

Every week at the bottom of our meetings, there is a comments section for members and guests to tell us what they enjoyed about the meeting or to ask questions to the speaker. We select six comments every week from last week’s meeting to be featured during this week’s meeting.

Here are six comments selected from last week’s meeting featuring the program on The Secret to Successful Networking:

Guest Carlos Gabuardi had this to say:
“After attending my first on-line Rotary meeting, I confirm that Rotary means both inspiration and hope. I believe in Rotary and the goals and purposes of our organization. I felt inspired for the story of Mutual Rescue, by the presentation made by Tam Pham, but also by the way in which all these technological resources are innovating the manner in which the Rotary message is communicated providing fresh air to the good all things of The Rotary Club. Rotary has meant hope for the world and for many of us, participating in this meeting shows me that we, rotarians, are putting new wine in old wineskins (vino nuevo en odres viejas) one of the keys for constantly renovating and reinventing our selves.

Member Yvonne Kwan (California, USA) had this to say:
“I love the Mutual Rescue video! I’m a huge advocate for adoption and love seeing stories like Jessi and Andi’s. Welcome to the club, Sean! It was great meeting you in Atlanta at the Rotary International Convention a few months ago! Tam, thank you for your presentation! I also had the pleasure of hearing your keynote speech at the Fall Leadership Conference earlier this month. I love how you use your not-so-positive life experiences to fuel you to do something constructive to move your life forward. Your thoughts about giving are ones that are usually reserved for service (like Rotary), but putting it into the perspective of networking also makes complete sense. We don’t — and shouldn’t always — give with the expectation of getting something in return. Always love your energy when you present! Thanks again!”

Guest Helena Pleinert had this to say:
Tam, a great presentation, many thanks! I agree 100% with your philosophy of being a giver, and I agree with the comments that it makes ourselves happy. A comment from me as a career coach: it’s unfortunate that you have to engage many people in conversation about something else than their professional field to make friends – ideally people should choose a vocation that they are just as passionate about as they are about their hobbies.”

Member Nathan Gildart (Japan) had this to say:
Stephen, our hearts are going out to you and your family. Tam, that was a really engaging presentation, and as an educator it’s an area often ignored. I’ve had many teachers in the past express that “teachers don’t network; that’s for business people”. I couldn’t disagree more. We refer to it as a professional learning network, and my PLN has been invaluable to improving my teaching practice, as well as gain a lot of unique opportunities (such as presenting at edtech conferences in and outside of Japan, where I live). I think you’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to giving without expectations – it’s cliche, but what comes around does go around in some way. Sean, welcome to the club, and Ange, rock those popsicles!

Member Shags Shagrin (California, USA) had this to say:
“So many great things about this week’s meeting, but first, thoughts and prayers to President Stephen and his family during this challenging time in their life. The video about Jessi & Andi was heartwrenching. I’m a dog lover, convinced that I’ve been a dog in a former life, and dog is the palindrome of god. We are all animals — those on earth which are animated by nature, as opposed to non-animated life forms. And what a great program! Tam’s message of “give, give, give” reminds me of Rotary’s “Service Above Self”. It’s great now with the technology of tags and relational databases — when I was Tam’s age, it was still paper index cards!!! Rock on, Tam! And, of course, welcome to Sean — From one SS to another (though I am a triple: SSS)!

Member Mitty Chang (California, USA) had this to say:
“Tam — What a wonderful presentation. Thank you for taking the time to speak to our club! I have always admired your entrepreneurship and positive spirit. Keep up the amazing things you’re doing! It was really interesting to hear your insights about Amazon categories to become a bestselling book, as well as your insights about ChatBots in general. I’m going to give a try! New Rotarian Sean– WELCOME to our Rotary eClub family!! So excited to have you with us!”

Be sure to leave a comment at the end of this week’s meeting after you watch the program below, and perhaps you’ll see your comment featured next week!

Program: Education Without Backpacks – Modernizing Education in Bulgaria Using Khan Academy

Every week we bring to you a new program on innovation, education, technology, and humanitarian service. This week our guest speaker is Daniel Cholakov

Daniel Cholakov is currently a Director at Opera Solutions, a big data analytics and software firm based in New Jersey. Daniel graduated from Franklin & Marshall College with a Bachelor’s in Economics and Mathematics.
Daniel is also one of the co-founders of Education Without Backpacks, an educational non-profit in Bulgaria with the mission of improving the use of innovative tech tools in Bulgarian schools. While Daniel now only supports Education Without Backpacks in his free time, he is still very involved with them. In this week’s program, Daniel will be sharing with us how they are using Khan Academy to modernize education in Bulgaria!

Members and guests, please join me in welcoming Daniel!

Related Links:

What did you think? Let’s hear from you!

Share with us your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of this meeting page! If you have questions for Daniel, feel free to ask him in the comments too!

Upcoming Program Schedule

All of our guest speakers and programs are recorded live online over Zoom video conference. We welcome members and guests to join us in one of these upcoming recordings. Recordings are approximately 30 minutes long and are subject to change without notice.

Upcoming Weekly Programs:

 Week of Host Guest Speaker  Topic
Week of 11/6/2017  Hosted by Tzviatko Chiderov Vimbai Gwata  Muzinda Hub – a tech hub in Harare, Zimbabwe, which aims to help Zimbabwe’s youth get access to top quality digital skills training
Week of 11/13/2017 Hosted by Rushton Hurley Zachary Nelson Rumors and Reconciliation in Myanmar

Upcoming Recordings:

If you would like to join us for any of the live recordings, you are welcome to join us. Our online video conference room link for these recordings is always Please note the timezone for all recordings are listed for San Francisco, California, USA time (Pacific Time).

You’re Almost Done! One last thing: The Attendance Survey…

Thanks for reading and watching this week’s meeting. You have two last things to do before you’re done. First, we have a very short attendance survey below for you to fill out to record your attendance.

Visiting Rotarians, this is how you can get an email receipt to pass along to your club’s secretary as proof that you’ve attended our meeting if you need it for makeups.

Non-Rotarian Guests, we would love to see who is dropping by our meetings! This part is optional for you. If you think you may want to join our eClub at some point in the future, we would strongly recommend you fill out the attendance form as it will improve your chances of success for your membership application.

More importantly, for all members and guests — we strongly recommend and ask that you leave a comment below in our comments area below. Tell us how you enjoyed the program. Ask this week’s speaker any questions you might have. Or just stop by and say hello and tell us where you’re from!

Fill out my online form.
  • Megan Breyer

    YES! I am beyond thrilled to see Khan Academy getting the recognition it deserves and to hear first hand how it is helping educate in a different way. Thanks for sharing!

  • Monique le Conge Ziesenhenne

    Fascinating and diverse meeting today! Love John Cena’s video and his help for Rotary – just great to have such a visible and recognizable supporter. I hope this is the last year we have to do this, because polio will be completely eradicated. Khan Academy is such a useful tool. Daniel, thank you for sharing your work; your thinking about the future of education is great food for thought and the ideas around automating the corrections needed would be amazing (at least to my teacher friends who spend whole days marking papers!). And the big idea was awesome – almost makes me want to learn chemistry. Boom!

  • Keith Marsh

    Daniel, Thanks for the program. I am going to sign up for some Khan Academy classes.

  • Tzviatko Chiderov

    Daniel, thanks again for speaking to our club. The traditional education system is due for disruption and I hope tools like Khan Academy become truly mainstream as more educators are made aware of their ability to bring more efficiency and a more targeted approach to teaching and learning.

  • Tzviatko Chiderov

    Daniel, thanks again for speaking to our club. The traditional education system is due for disruption and I hope tools like Khan Academy become truly mainstream as more educators are made aware of their ability to bring more efficiency and a more targeted approach to teaching and learning.

  • Rory Olsen


    Thank you for an interesting and thought provoking program.

  • As an educator my self, this session was quite exciting for me, since it is an actual invitation to reflect not only about education, but also about the future and the impact of innovation and new technologies on the world. I agree with the implied message of Dr. Biberdorf, education has to be fun. I admire and respect all the good work she is doing. New technologies have already been changing the educational process (she is a good example of it) and the role of educators and students is being modified. Institutional or formal education will have to adapt to all these changes, but it will also be in competition with “self-taught” education, bringing new challenges on how these self-educated people will be acknowledged in comparison with formally educated students, among many other implications. It seems like the Shock of the Futures is already here, but there is much more to come.

  • Daniel, thanks so much for sharing your vision for what’s possible using the Khan Academy tools. Having run a free educational video site for over a decade, I’d be interested to talk with you about original content and ways of sharing it. Raquel, thanks for heading up our effort to raise money for victims of the quakes in Mexico, too.

  • Leanza Tupfer

    With the recent press coverage and depressing % of women in STEM, I am inspired by Dr. Kate Biberdorf’s dedication to chemistry education and “blowing up” stereotypes of what roles/fields women should be in. Thank you for breaking the glass ceiling and inspiring students with your theatrical chemistry demonstrations, Dr. Biberdorf!

  • Andrew Taw

    Thank you, Daniel, for a great presentation! I’m familiar with Khan Academy but never knew what the back end looked like so it was a good opportunity to see the data analysis element. Much appreciated!

    Also, loved the video about Dr. Kate Biderdorf!

  • mahmood khan

    Thank you Daniel. Khan Academy can have a WW impact in a positive way. I see kids with backpacks bigger their tiny skeleton and cringe! How can these kids carry on with heavy books on their backs? We must be able to provide a better leaning methods using technologies – WWW, tablets, self-learning, etc..
    I share the last name, but I am not related.

    Love the Halloween Jokes.

  • Nathan Gildart

    Thanks for the interesting presentation Daniel. I teach but haven’t used Khan Academy so much, so the detailed examples of how EWB is using the platform to enhance learning. I’m big into edtech and really believe that in the future schools might be places where children come together to do fine arts and sports, since a lot of quality learning can be done online with or without the teacher. There are more and more Global Online Academy courses, IB Diploma Programme courses, etc. I think we’re only scratching the surface of the potential that digital technology brings to learning, and learning to remote areas of the world. (though there are no doubt drawbacks as well) The outreach you have going is fantastic!

  • BDL

    Khan Academy is terrific. We use it in my kids’ school and there’s so much good stuff on it, I’ve started watching it myself. You can even learn electrical engineering on Khan Academy: it’s way beyond geometry lessons now.

  • Loved the video of females in science! Those students are lucky to have her
    Thanks for the info on Khan academy I will check it out

  • john lozano

    Daniel, thanks for sharing your use of Khan Academy. As a teacher, I enjoy hearing how others are using the online tools to enhance education. Great work.

  • Thanks for sharing

  • Ferheen Abbasi

    Go women in stem!!!! As a biologist/scientist/researcher, that video made me super happy 🙂
    Daniel, thanks so much for your presentation. I used Khan Academy back when I was a student – it’s a great resource and I’m glad you could use it!!

  • Nicole Pham

    I loved this week’s inspiration because it so resonates with me and my challenges as a woman in stem! I used Khan Academy so much when I studied for the medical college admission test! It was one of my best free resources.

  • Mark Dohn

    Awesome videos! From Women in Chemistry challenging stereotype to how smart John Cena is! He really show how smart he is by asking an expert about something doesn’t know. 😉 Daniel, thank you so much for sharing your story of bringing Khan Academy to Bulgaria. The strength of your vision is apparent in the depth of your questioning – that you look beyond pushing out a valuable tool to education (the old model) and take the time to share and get input from educators will ultimately prove to be much more successful.

  • Yvonne Kwan

    LOVE this week’s inspirational video! It’s especially appropriate timing seeing as how Nov. 8 is National STEM/STEAM Day! (NOV8 can also be read as “innovate.” Mind. blown. Pun intended.)

    Daniel, thank you for sharing this wonderful information about Khan Academy with us! I’ve always been a huge fan of Khan Academy, and — as Tzviatko mentioned in the recording — it’s so cool to see the backend and how educators can utilize it in a different way other than just having students watch the videos.


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Copyright Rotary eClub of Silicon Valley 2015-2017, located in Rotary District 5170 in the sunny Silicon Valley of California, USA. Rotary International club #86428. Inquiries can be sent to [email protected]

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