💡 Introducing PowerNotes Insight: a NEW feature that gives educators control and confidence in an AI-enabled classroom. Learn more

GovTech: Pilot Program Asks Profs to Experiment With AI in Education

Aaron Gifford @ GovTech
Posted On
February 13, 2024
Featured In
February 13, 2024
Share this article

As part of the AI Unity Initiative by the school software company PowerNotes, professors are testing new applications for artificial intelligence in classrooms and research, then discussing the results with each other.

A cohort of U.S. universities are collaborating with each other and the ed-tech company PowerNotes to explore potential applications for artificial intelligence in higher education and research.The company's AI Unity Initiative, announced in November, gives colleges and universities free access to the academic integrity and research platform PowerNotes+ on the condition that they commit to implementing the technology, share results of their studies and pilot programs on AI with other participants in the initiative. Specifically, educators are supposed to experiment with open and closed prompting to create and evaluate student assignments, and participate in weekly discussions with the company's Teams community. So far, 10 higher education institutions have signed on for the pilot that continues into June, and there’s enough interest for a second cohort in the 2024-2025 academic year, PowerNotes founder and CEO Wilson Tsu said in an interview last week.According to the PowerNotes website, participating schools must have two faculty who will champion the program, get trained on how to use PowerNotes+ and incorporate it into their classrooms in conjunction with ChatGPT and other generative AI tools.

Tsu said the feedback has been mostly positive so far. Several participants expressed an interest in using AI for teaching and research, but they didn't know where to start because the concept is still so new.“Students are actually good at doing research — finding things and understanding what’s meaningful to them,” he said. “Getting started, getting away from that blank space, that’s what they struggle with, but AI doesn’t get hung up on those things. They just need a starting point, which reduces anxiety.”Tsu said pilot participants include professors of various subjects from first-year writing seminars to post-graduate classes. While more advanced students are using AI to narrow in on precise content that could help with a master’s thesis or PhD dissertation, an instructor for a freshman writing class might use PowerNotes to engage the students and help them find articles on topics they care about — “to inspire them to write, but not do the writing for them,” he said.

According to a demonstration video on the PowerNotes website, the tool builds a research outline for the user and saves citations for viewed websites. Once the user has the research, they can use PowerNotes to assess, combine and organize the content. The tool also has functions for note taking, submitting work to teachers and professors, and collaborating with other students.Tsu said he’s optimistic that participants in the AI Unity Initiative will begin developing best practices or even industry standards for student research in higher education.“We’d love it to go that way,” he said. “I think AI is going to force change. It’s interesting to see how people will adapt to change, and it’s really about giving people the tools to do that.”This is not the company’s first collaborative effort with colleges and universities. In September, PowerNotes hosted a virtual panel discussion with a handful of professors from the University of Arizona, Berkeley College, the University of Maryland, the University of North Carolina Wilmington and the University of Central Oklahoma. They asked for guidance on allowing students to use generative AI tools while emphasizing the importance of transparency and open conversations about the emerging technology.

Link to original article