The Digital School (Shkolla Digjitale in Albanian) is a Kosovo-based start-up that is working towards teaching kids how to write code and become market-fitÂ in early stages of their growth. In less than three months, Shkolla Digjitale has achieved to gather over 300 members aged between 7 and 15 years old in over 30 classes.
For Hana Qerimi and Darsej Rizaj this started kinda like a side project, but it quickly turned into a full-time gig. “We wanted to start something small, step-by-step and grow gradually.
However word spread so fast that in less than 3 months, weÂ found ourselves with 10 employees, 300 kids and walls were torn down to create more space for coding,” says Hana, while talking to Digjitale about how everything started. “We had to quit our jobs and jumpÂ straight to the commitment. You can’t just hire someone else to start your own company, especially when things are growing so fast”.
For Darsej, an experienced Technical Sales Manager and Network Architect, coding is an essential asset in today’s economies. “Having early access to coding gives you a much-needed leverage into the market. If I had the opportunity to learn code at a young stage, who knows where I would know. One thing I know for sure is that I would have a totally different mindset about the world”.
To Darsej, in today’s economy, it’s not important anymore to know how to use a computer. “Kids nowadays know all there is to know about using a computer. They want more. They’re so eager to show you the progress they had on coding on Scratch since the day before during class. That commitment and joy on them gives you such an incentive to push for more. It’s unbelievable”.
For Hana, working with kids it’s like having three customers at the same time. “You have the kid, who is very straightforward to you and provides instant feedback if they don’t like something. Then you have the parents as well. They come and go constantly and want to see what their child is doing.
We have a very good system to track the progress. We show the parents how their kids are doing, we notify them if their kid has skipped class with an automatic SMS notification system and we award certificates only to the ones who really put effort into the process.”
Computer science isn’t an optional skill
In early 2016, the Obama administration proposed a budget of $4 billion for states and $100 million directly for school districts to implement computer science education, while emphasizing that computer science isn’t an optional skill anymore.
“By joining a program of the Digital School, kids get to learn to code in a fun way. We use programs prepared by code.org and apply them in a high degree of professionalism. We also work with our lecturers for about 3 weeks, in order to see how they perform and how they work with the kids. They (the teachers) have to be certified from a learning program from Code.org as well” says Darsej, while explaining how the educational program at Shkolla Digjitale works.
The program is split in four levels, whereas the first three levels are focused around the programming logic while the fourth level is focused in programming. The learning program that the Digital School uses is based on the models that have been prepared by CODE and Massachusetts Institute of Technology – MIT.