David Preston

Keynote Speaker

Educator and Founder of the Open-Source Learning Network

David Preston is a teacher, author, management consultant, and activist who has been transforming learning communities for three decades. He gained international attention as one of the first teachers to encourage K- 12 students to use the public internet and develop practices that would later become known as Open-Source Learning.

David has worked with thousands of students and clients whose life stories and backgrounds are diverse and inspiring. Some have run corporations or launched successful startups. Others became the first in their families to graduate high school or college. A few have given back to their communities by establishing or contributing to nonprofits and NGOs. Many have faced adversity: poverty, violence, immigration, malnutrition, homelessness. Open-Source Learning has consistently empowered learners in all walks of life.

In 2021 David wrote Academy of One, which outlines the framework of Open-Source Learning and shares strategies everyone can use.

As our learning technology and culture evolves, David continues to innovate. For 10 years he has engaged, inspired, and informed audiences at conferences, schools, and companies.

Speaking Topics

Learning to Fly

In 2004 David left management consulting and teaching at UCLA to teach at one of the nation’s ten largest high schools in Los Angeles. That meant a shift from supercharging small, highly motivated teams of smart, talented people to managing 173 direct reports who couldn’t do jobs they didn’t want in the first place. David’s students included gang leaders, teen parents, and suicidal introverts. No one carried a book. Over the next few months, David and his students transformed their experience from a converted auto shop filled with trash into a global think tank brimming with great ideas. This is how Open-Source Learning was born. For nearly 20 years now the Open-Source Learning culture has become a tradition that has led to all sorts of adventures. In “Learning to Fly” David shares the core principles of Open-Source Learning, along with stories about joining students on explorations through the internet, Yosemite, Mongolia, and even the backseat of an airplane with a student who learned to fly.

Leadership Learning

Leadership is a very popular word that means something very different than what most of us think, because most of us first learned about leadership in school, where there often isn’t any. David flips the script: in Open-Source Learning there are no administrators, managers, or teachers. Everyone is an active learner. Lead learners act as stewards, guides, and mentors who model the art of learning and transparently practice what they preach. In this keynote every audience member becomes an active participant who acquires new leadership skills, masters new concepts, and curates their learning journey in ways that immediately create value. This talk includes a working demonstration — every audience member will master and demonstrate at least one new leadership practice and tell their story online. Success is a rush — the inspiration and motivation that Leadership Learning creates is through the roof!

Build Your Open-Source Learning Network

Your most valuable asset and your most treasured talent is your ability to learn. Supercharge it! Students, executives, entrepreneurs and community organizers have all used Open-Source Learning to build their individual capacities and their teams to achieve amazing results. In “Build Your Open-Source Learning Network” David provides the Open-Source Learning framework, entertaining examples, hands-on activities, and a step-by-step guide to help you create your own road map for success.

We the Learning People

Every election cycle promises education reform, but every week seems to bring a new crisis. School raises more questions than it answers. Between the test scores, the abuse, and the campus shootings, what the heck is really happening in school these days? What’s coming next? Most importantly, how can we support young people and guide graduates as they recover, rebuild, and chart a learning course for the next chapter of their lives? In “We the Learning People” David answers these questions with the Five Fitnesses of Open-Source Learning. David’s research and experience-based insights from his work as a teacher, professor, management consultant and journalist give audiences hope — along with practical strategies and tools for improving our selves, our communities, and our organizations.

David’s Audiences Respond

“It was amazing to watch David not just describe best practices but model them in real time– bringing students and colleagues online from around the world took the promise of learning from ideal to real.”

MacArthur Foundation Digital Media & Learning Conference

“David brings cutting edge research and practice together with humor and humanity to deliver a message of learning, value, interdependence, and hope.”


“Dr. Preston’s energy and compassion brought us into a world of motivated learners who design their own interdisciplinary journeys and create high value networks all over the world. Welcome to the Learning Economy.”

Institute for the Future

“Dr. Preston delivered a vision of Open Source Learning that made an immediate impact. This is the future of education.”

O’Reilly OSCON

“David’s unique perspectives on management, leadership, vision and strategy breathed new life into familiar topics and energized an executive audience who thought they’d seen it all.”

The Employers Group

“Dr. Preston takes collaboration and engagement to a whole new level. Our members loved his talk and took his messages to heart in ways that will help their organizations, communities, and constituents. This is a cultural foundation we can build schools on.”

California Charter Schools Conference