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AI 101 Series: How PowerNotes Uses AI

By: Brett Peterson
Posted On
August 23, 2023
Featured In
August 23, 2023
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In my last article, I discussed how AI works generally. In this article, we’ll go through how PowerNotes helps students and teachers capitalize on the AI opportunity; in our next article, we’ll discuss how PowerNotes helps students and educators avoid the dangers of AI.


AI tools can help students research more effectively and efficiently, find new potential lines of thought in their work, and focus their research efforts on the most fruitful sources of information. 

The educational opportunity in AI is to help students realize these benefits without outsourcing their thinking and learning to a machine. PowerNotes’ platform can help students and educators achieve these goals by improving the student learning process with AI as an learning aide, not a learning replacement.

Open Prompting

An early study funded by the National Science Foundation, MIT, and George Mason University found that knowledge workers who effectively use AI tools like ChatGPT accomplish their tasks 40% faster, with 18% higher quality on average. The workers in the study were generally using ChatGPT to perform open prompting - using a chat input, workers prompt the AI with questions or requests, and the AI responds based on the patterns it has observed previously in its large data set. For some queries this can be extraordinarily useful. 

For example, one member of the PowerNotes team volunteers at a non-profit in their free time; and the non-profit in question decided to make a video to show to potential financial sponsors. The non-profit called in a favor and secured the services of a well-known filmmaker, who agreed to provide the video for free during an upcoming family visit, IF the non-profit provided a script. One problem: the PowerNotes  team member, and the rest of the small non-profit, had little to no experience in script writing. So, they turned to ChatGPT. With a quick prompt, the AI provided a script for a five minute video, and within an hour, the team was able to edit that (very generic) script into something the filmmaker was happy to work with. Without AI, the team would have spent many hours just trying to figure out a script format; AI’s pattern-matching helped the team work dramatically more efficiently. In turn, that speed and efficiency let the team capitalize on an opportunity that would otherwise have slipped by.

PowerNotes provides open prompting in the form of an AI Assistant  / Brainstorming tool in the project outline. The AI Assistant gives you access to a variety of AI options, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT3.5 Turbo and ChatGPT4, Anthropic AI’s Claude v2 and Claude Instant, open-source options like Falcon LLM, and others. With the appropriate PowerNotes plan, access to these tools can be turned on at the organization and assignment levels to give educators granular control over which tools are used when, by whom, and how often.

Closed Prompting

While open prompting has incredible potential benefits, the possibilities of closed prompting are arguably even greater in an educational context. Closed prompting uses the same type of input field as open prompting, but constrains the results based on research you’ve already pulled into your outline and selected. For example, a student could select blocks of text that they have written, and ask the AI to suggest topic sentences that tie all of those points together. Or, a student could ask the AI to point out possible connections between quotes from a variety of sources, among many other options. In all cases, constraining the results to research you’ve already conducted improves both the accuracy and usefulness of the information requested; with closed prompting, the AI provides a refinement or improvement on work and learning the student has already done, rather than creating something new and only potentially useful. 

PowerNotes provides closed prompting as an option in the AI Assistant / Brainstorming tool. When you click into the open prompt, all of the research in your outline becomes selectable. Simply click the checkboxes next to each card you would like to constrain the AI to using as source material, and then type your prompt as usual.

Power Summary, Research Topics, and Q&A

PowerNotes also provides closed prompting options while gathering research using the PN extension. In the PowerNotes Discovery tools (accessible by clicking on the three green stars in the extension on projects for which Discovery is enabled), the user can apply AI to parse and expand upon the content they are currently viewing. The first tool, Power Summary, reads the document or webpage on their browser, and provides a concise, effective summary of the information contained therein. This is extremely helpful for quickly evaluating long documents to see if they are pertinent or germane to the subject of study, especially when those documents lack a useful abstract. 

The second tool, Research Topics, extracts five potential research topics from the document currently being viewed. If any of these topics are clicked, the selection expands and displays search results from a Google search or university library search (depending on configuration) on those topics. This is particularly useful for students who have found an excellent source, but are unable to find additional or complementary sources on the same topic. 

Finally, the Q&A feature extracts three relevant questions about the document being viewed, and provides answers drawn directly from the text. The user can pose additional questions about the text, which the AI will answer; if a question is not included in the text itself, the AI response will indicate that. This is an excellent resource for extracting a specific piece of desired information from a long text, confirming understanding of key vocabulary in a document, or gaining additional insight about a topic that is only partially understood. 

In Closing

By using open prompting and closed prompting effectively, AI tools can help students research more effectively and efficiently by leveraging pattern recognition, extend their own work and analysis through closed prompting, and quickly and incisively evaluate and research sources and topics using discovery tools. By so doing, PowerNotes helps teachers and students realize some of the dramatic benefits of AI.

In the next article, we’ll discuss how PowerNotes also protects teachers and students from the dangers of AI.

Read the next article in this series now!

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