David Preston on Open Learning


Visual notes from a conversation with David Preston (@prestonlearning) about his own journey.

David Preston (@prestonlearning) page 1

Speechless – this is not something that happens to me often. David Preston’s take on education is beyond refreshing, it’s revolutionary. It’s revolutionary in the sense of being extremely appropriate, necessary and invokes the reaction, “It’s about time,” at least for me, a teacher facilitator of learning at heart.

DAVID PRESTON & AMANDA LYONS TALK (this paragraph is a mashing of each of our ideas)

“It’s not that it doesn’t matter what we teach,” he hesitates, “but really it’s a classroom of learning.” For people to learn deeply we need to engage them in what matters – to them, and allow each individual to own his or her learning journey. We have control over our learning (well, most of it). The idea that ‘school is where you learn and outside of school is where you live’ is like taking visual communication out of cognition – it’s bogus. (See Visual Thinking by Rudolph Arnheim for more on the ‘educational blackout.’) Yet the gap between how we learn in life and how we learn in (most) school classrooms is widening. David Preston is on a mission to change the way we see learning.

I can’t tell you how excited I am to have found some new parallel energy for my perspective which pulls together pieces of visual thinking and experiential education with appreciation for group dynamics. We need to use and promote visual communication tools to teach and learn ALL subjects, not just Art. This means we need to stop eliminating Art programs, and start integrating them into our curriculum for English, Social Studies, Science and more. What if students could not only doodle in class, but doodle strategically thereby capturing what’s happening in class and learning it on a different level? Visual note-taking is engaging, fun, helps with memory, deeper understanding (I’m offering online classes in this exact thing)… but that’s my soap box. Back to Preston…


David Preston facilitates learning in his classroom and beyond by igniting student curiosity, sharing a few parameters and letting them go! He leverages technology and tools, as students create blog posts for assignments and meet LOTS of amazing professionals via Skype. It’s an intersection of curiosity, possibility & opportunity – where technology, education and visuals meet to build ideas and to make things happen, oh and people too. People are the heart of the matter.


Preston is hacking high school. Roy Christopher puts it eloquently in his blog post and interview with Preston.


I’m sooooo excited about open learning and humbled to be one of those asked to Skype with Preston’s students last week. (Gotta love Skype!) WOW – what a GREAT group! I’m excited to hear more about what’s happening in their classrooms & via their blogs! The video can be found on Preston’s blog. Here are a few of my visuals from our conversation:


“Where does the word ‘doodle’ come from?” To this, I must send you to Sunni Brown’s TED talk – and I’ll simply say, she rocks!

“Is there a way students can use some of the tools you’re recommending or the thinking that you use to produce these [visuals] and think about how they might use visual thinking to tell a story for their presentations?” YES, definitely! Visualize your story. Simple visuals can go a LONG way to help your audience better understand and maybe even relate. Stick figures are awesome!

“How long does it take to make sketchnoting practical for class notes?” Oooo, I have to say it COMPLETELY depends on the person… the more you practice the better you will be. Try it, set a goal and go for it. I’m always around if you ever need pointers! *Remember it’s for understanding or sharing information, not to enter into an art contest! It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just has to help you remember. Do this experiment every now and then to know when you’re ready to take ALL your notes in sketchnotes: Watch a TED talk and sketchnote it. Wait three days without looking at your sketchnotes. On day 4 try explaining what the TED talk was about to someone else. If you remember all of it, you’re ready. If you got the gist… maybe try some visual note taking interspersed with your text?

“What language can you give students for when the teacher comes over and says stop drawing and start taking notes please?” Explain to your teacher that you’re doodling strategically (this means you have to be doodling with the purpose of capturing and not just doodling…. Explain that you are actually capturing what she or he is saying and what’s happening in the class. You can share that it helps you remember the class better. If your teacher still isn’t so into it, ask if you can try it for a while and as long as you can show you’re paying attention and retaining information ask to be allowed to continue. If your grades start slipping or you are not able to pay attention well, then back to text it is… (And you can always refer your teacher to Sunni Brown’s talk or to me….)


Thanks for hosting me in your digital classroom. It was great to meet y’all! Don’t forget to doodle strategically and report back. I can’t wait to see what collaboration is in store for the future!

My hat is off to the students who are taking ‘school’ to the next level – rock on learners!!!


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