The Dayton Early College Academy or DECA is an innovative high school that is taking at risk students and pushing them to complete a 2-year associates degree by the time they graduate high school. I’ve had students from the school intern at my business and have been a guest at the school several times.
It’s located in an old NCR building on Brown Street, what used to be across from UD- but since they bought more land- I guess we could call it in the center of campus now. Because of the levy failure, Dayton Public Schools was going to close it- so UD took it over and now it’s a charter school.
Not too many high school students get a former Governor for a teacher, but the group I listened to on Wednesday did. Their assignment was to take a politically charged subject and make a presentation- using powerpoint to support their presentation. The topics were tough: immigration, convict to citizen, stem cell research, crime in Dayton, racism. The presentations were supposed to be 10 minutes in length with a few minutes after each one for questions. It was required that they had to do research from multiple sources, cite their sources and establish a position.
Sometimes the hardest part was naming the presentation- or writing the headline. The presenters on convict to citizen started their presentation with the title “Felonies” which didn’t properly prepare the audience for what was to come. It’s a difficult subject to say the least, but starting with a weak lead makes it harder to have a strong presentation. I’ve tried to tackle this subject myself on this site Esrati on prisons . They started out with a story, using students from the audience to give faces to the characters, but, I instantly knew they were telling the story of Derek Farmer  before they told me they were. The picking of the exception to use as an example to prove a point isn’t always the strongest solution. After one of the presentations- probably this one, I asked the audience how many of them knew someone in prison- when over half the kids raised their hands, it was clear that this school is working with a different demographic than Oakwood.
By the end of the presentations, with the exception of talking about stem cell research, most of the topics were ones I had covered at one time or another here in one form or another. Universally, the one thing that I’ve always thought was common practice was missing- the final slide, either thanking the audience, or reinforcing the final position. Great presenters work hard at building to a conclusive end, these presentations almost always ended with closing the power point presentation.
When I judged the American Advertising Federations Student competition  the rules were very strict about timing and requirements to include in a presentation. Often, the presentations were more like stage plays- which to me lacks authenticity. The DECA students were the exact opposite- authentic to the bone, but they didn’t get the build right.
The US Army was where I learned to speak in public comfortably. Our mantra was to tell people what you are going to tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them. While it may sound repetitive, it’s a system that works. It also helps the audience prepare, digest and then consider what has been presented because they were prepared and receptive to the topic.
I was in the Army and college long before power point. We would have flip-charts or presentation boards. Power point may be one of the worst speaking crutches out there, and if there is one thing that makes me lose interest- it’s when people read slides to me. Always try to have your slides either speak for themselves- or provide reinforcement to your oral delivery. If you are going to read what I can read- it’s just distracting since I can read faster than you talk.
The best thing about power point is it’s ability to deliver quotes, citations and statistics in graphical fashion. One group tried to read us stats that were on paper- while the slides were of something else- it was disorienting to say the least. This was the group that I cut off at 15 minutes. Apparently I wasn’t supposed to do that and for that I apologize.
While the above may seem harsh judgment, it’s all in the interest of helping the students prepare for their next presentation and to help other students who may come across this when Googling “How to make a great presentation.”
I’ve gotten some e-mails from another DPS high school teacher who wants to help his students get involved with the Obama campaign. When he told me why they were interested in supporting the campaign the reasons were all superficial. To me, the students at DECA are getting taught the critical thinking and analysis tools that it seems are missing in other schools. These students reinforced my belief that it is possible to teach urban kids and have them preform as well or better than suburban kids if the faculty is engaged and not overly concerned with “teaching the test.”
If we could duplicate the DECA experience in every DPS school to some extent, with it’s school pride and belief that these students are capable of achieving anything- we’d have people moving back into the city. These kids, even with my criticism, moved me. I believe there is hope for our cities future- these kids have the potential to be our next leaders.
Thank you for allowing me to be a part of it for a few hours.