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

[PODCAST] Listen or Read: EduTechGuys Interview with Wilson Tsu on PowerNotes & AI

Posted On
August 22, 2023
Featured In
August 22, 2023
Share this article

The guys talk with Wilson Tsu, founder of PowerNotes about his feelings on the changes in education, and his advice to schools on how to implement a policy that creates a culture of trust. PowerNotes is a great up and coming AI product that shows the transparency of work between students and teachers, plus automates credible citations.

📍Reminder to follow the EduTechGuys on Twitter or check out their website.

Full Transcription 📜

EduTechGuys:

This episode of Edu Tech Guys was recorded live at ISTE 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thanks for listening. This episode of Edu Tech Guys is brought to you by PowerNotes. PowerNotes can help your students create better research, stay organized, save time, and improve student writing and research by capturing content from across the web. Add work to projects on the fly, highlight text across the web to add to their project. Never lose track of a source with automatic source tracking. View your own library's content in tandem with Google search results and prevent plagiarism. With a source-based research framework, your students can tackle organizations managing their project outline, reordering snippets, topics and notes. And ultimately, they can finalize and export their project, assessing the work, downloading the outline, and exporting the project, allowing them to dive into more efficient and approachable analysis of their research. Get more information at powernotes.com.

EduTechGuys:

Hey, welcome back to ISTE 2023 with the EduTechGuys, we're really excited to have our next guest in the seat. We're gonna let him introduce himself, tell us who he is and what he does and all that kind of good stuff. So here we go.

Wilson Tsu

I'm the founder and CEO of PowerNotes. PowerNotes is a platform for the process ofreading, research, writing, and now AI. Oh, yeah. Wow. AI. You know, and that's the key, you know, AI last year, eh......this year, what <laugh> That's every, every conference we've been at, every school we talked to, that's what they talk about. That's right. Yeah.

EduTechGuys:

Last year it was like, AI, what's AI? We don't have to worry about that. And this year it's like, oh my gosh.

Wilson Tsu:

We were starting to hear about AI last year, but not as, nowhere near this year. It was just kind of on the radar. I was like, okay. Yeah. That's interesting.

EduTechGuys:

So let's talk about what PowerNotes does. You know, arena or aside from that or in conjunction with that. But primarily what is PowerNotes and what does it specifically help in the classroom?

Wilson Tsu:

Great. Great. So I'll start pre AI and then the AI piece will make a lot of sense when I layer it on. So PowerNotes is really a process platform. So it's a workflow where students can go through the entire kind of reading, research and writing process in its entirety. So we have a search integration - a student student can search Google and get to their library content at their school. They can go onto any content that they're viewing in their browser, pull anything that they want, pull it into PowerNotes, have it organized, have it cited, annotate anything, pull images, charts, diagrams, whatever it is. Then they can start to work with that content: they can reorganize it, we have analytical tools to help them do synthesis, a bunch of different things, and then they can start writing in PowerNotes as well. We're gonna do more of that in the future, but you can do some of that now. And then the key to that whole process is that we make it visible to the educator. So this is something that educators haven't been able to see in the past, because research is something that kids do at like 2:00 AM who knows what they're doing. They're off on the computer, and if they're doing it wrong, then that can be a problem. Because teachers don't know typically until way later in the process. You get a first draft or an outline and... 'this is all wrong.' It's a lot of rework - everyone's frustrated. We want to avoid that with PowerNotes. And so since we are that process tool, we've always been focused much more on the learning process rather than, and the production of the output rather than just the output itself.

And now AI feeds into that. So you think about AI and the output, AI can fake the output. It's pretty easy for AI to fake the output. AI can't really fake the process. Like if you're doing research, you're finding stuff, you're organizing it, you're putting in your own words, you're doing all that analysis to it. AI's not doing that. And so what we're do trying to do is really make that process visible and putting AI into that process now. So now in PowerNotes we're just rolling this out. We just rolled it out actually in about a month ago. We're launching it for K through 12 at ISTE is you can now use ChatGPT or any other AI platform inside PowerNotes.

And the key differences are, instead of the teacher not knowing what students are doing on open AI's website 'cause it's not visible - they're in PowerNotes and they're doing the same exact thing, but it's all documented. And so we also have cool, kind of prompting tools to help them incorporate real research into what they're asking AI for. And they're doing it in ways that kind of maximize what humans are good at - actually the research part and, you know, trying to minimize the thing that we know AI's bad at. Like finding sources - ask it to find sources it's gonna make stuff up. Yeah, and that's what out there. And so we have some cool tools to kind of, you do the research as a student, the professor can see it, exactly where you're pulling it, what you're pulling, how you're annotating, what you're thinking, how you're organizing it.

And then you can feed that into the AI and say: "Hey, can you help me word things this way?" or "write it in this sort of tone," you know, help me out in the things that I struggle with as a drafter. I mean, I was a lawyer for a long time and I, I still can't draft well, but I can edit like crazy. I need something to work with. But there's a ton of anxiety that comes along with that blank page. And that's, that's well documented K through 12 and higher ed, everything, even practicing attorneys. And so you know, I think there's a lot of benefits to AI, but a lot of drawbacks. And what we're trying to do is trying to, you know, maximize the benefits, have you actually be able to teach it in class and not having to worry about things like cheating.

And then trying to minimize the drawbacks, like hallucinations and things like that with a lot of our features. And then what we're trying to do in terms of detection isn't really even detection because the key is the whole process is there, it's documented, it's visible to faculty. What are the chances your students can cheat? And then even past that, we do have what we call an indicator, not really a detector, but we're trying to be able to discern between appropriate and inappropriate use of AI rather than just detecting AI. Which is what everyone else is doing. And the way that we're trying to make that connection is by taking all the work that they did in PowerNotes and then correlating that to their final paper because if, if those two things are correlated, it's much more likely they wrote that final paper.

We'll flag the sections that are like: this was nowhere near anything and just copy and paste like three minutes before the thing was due. You might wanna look at that. Yeah. Whereas like all the AI that's in PowerNotes we're scoring that appropriately. That's appropriate use of AI. And we have a lot of bells and whistles to let faculty decide what's appropriate and inappropriate depending on what their comfort level with AI is. So it's really an overall system of taking that process, including AI and making it visible to faculty.

EduTechGuys:

So there's a lot to unpack. Yes. <laugh>. So I'm gonna focus on one of the things that you just talked about. So the educator gets whatever the indicator flags or whatever that looks like, those reports. Does the student also get indicators so the system says, Hey, look, you might want to rethink this, or, you know, this, here's a better way to approach this. What, what would that look like?

Wilson Tsu:

Yeah. So we want to give them access to that too. So something they're gonna have. So the educator's gonna have both the score and this activity log, this activity log is everything you've done in this PowerNotes assignment. And then they can download that and take that into any conversation they wanna have with the student, but the student's gonna have that too. And so we have a lot of students that are like, Hey, I was accused of doing something and - Oh, just, just use this. Yeah. And bring it (their activity log) and be like, Hey, I did all this. So it works both ways. We're still working on building the score so that students can see it. One of the problems with it is right now it, it only calculates the final score once you turn in your final paper and stuff. For the students, it's too late. So one of the things we want to be able to do in the future is, Hey, put it in, see what your score is, and then finally submit it. Because we want the students to kind of understand like, Hey, I wanna make sure I do everything above board. My professor sees that and the whole thing, the whole kind of system is about transparency. We want everything to be transparent both for the teacher as well as the student.

EduTechGuys:

Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I'm gonna go in a different direction. Yes. Origin story.

Wilson Tsu:

Origin story is me being in grad school - being an older grad student in law school, and having to do research and writing first time with digital sources. 'cause I did undergrad like 10 years before that. I was an engineer in between, and it was all in print, and I didn't know what I was doing. I was like, what is this digital stuff? I don't even know how to read online. Like, I liked reading. I used to start printing everything out that was not feasible. And then how do I save stuff? Like the whole process was just not the process I learned with print. It's just different. And so for me, it was a lot of, as an engineer, if I had this or that this would be way better.

And so I went through law school, just kind of like building this thing in my head. Went to practice law for a little bit. It only got worse because the projects were just way more complex. And so, again, I struggled through that. And then I decided, Hey, you know what? I think I got a pretty good idea in my head to fix all of that stuff. 'cause when I talk to other people, they have the same problem. There was no good process for like saving content and tracking it and citing it and annotating it. And so that's really where PowerNotes came from. It's like, okay, I've gone through these problems and now I'm gonna build the solution.

EduTechGuys:

Sure. Well, you know, that's a, I have several students I need to introduce you to <laugh>.

Wilson Tsu:

Yeah. Do you have kids? We'll set them up!

EduTechGuys:

They think the same way and they're like, okay, wait. And you know, they're 18, 22, you know, and they're like, wait. And it's not necessarily law school. It could just be, you know, music education. They're like, man, I cannot get started.That's it. Get me started. Yep. Hey, it's a Rolling Stone tune. Rolling Stones. Start me up. Anyway, <laugh>. But yeah, I get that. That makes a lot of sense. And I can see how your experiences, you know from getting it and then from tactile to digital is just, it's very different. Yeah. It's really cool. So if our listeners want to know more about this, here's the big question. The rollout, like if you want to put this in a school, what's the timeline we're looking at? Like, how long does it take a teacher to figure this out or a student to figure this out?

Wilson Tsu:

It's pretty quick. I mean, the product's built for students - it's meant to be intuitive. Students can figure it out in like 20 to 30 seconds just by playing with it it takes a little longer for them to understand why they're using it. 'cause the, the benefit doesn't really click until later on. But for teachers, it's pretty easy to roll out. I mean, we're at 160 schools right now. We're mostly in higher ed, and we're really here to, to start to roll out stuff in K12. And right now we're, we're giving it for free for K12 - I mean, for ISTE. So stop by our booth. We're in the 300 row and you know, we're giving it away for free. We wanna see how you're using it, we've had people use it pre-AI down to like fourth grade. I don't know what they're doing down there, but it's great. But the key is that we want it to be easy for teachers to start to use. We've integrated with all like the higher ed LMS' and stuff like that. We're building a little LMS lite for K-12 which will let just a classroom start. Like we don't want to go through the whole, in higher ed, we do site licenses. And that's probably like problems down in K-12. So we want to make it as simple as possible just to get your class up and running, we'll do it for free. We have a bunch of resources that are ready to go for you to start teaching with AI in, in K-12.

And then we have scholars-in-residence that basically are there to help you integrate into your classroom. So how to use it is pretty easy, though, the why you're going to use it and what you want to teach, that's different. It's AI, it's all new, no one really knows what they're doing. And so the hope that we're trying to do with this free thing is that we wanna learn how you want to use it. We're gonna give you some suggestions. We want you to share that feedback. We create a community, everyone learns from everyone else, and we figure it out.

EduTechGuys:

Yeah. Well, one of the things that I like about your system is that if you've got a district who is doing whatever they can to try to prevent AI, you know, that type of AI. You know, the ChatGPT wild wild west type of AI from getting in. You can still do class notes and you can still use the bulk of what it offers. And not have to worry about that part. You know, you can still pull the resources, you can still -- the citing to me is the, that's the toughest part. My daughter just graduated college, so I can't tell you how much time we spent working through just freaking citations, man, <laugh>. I'm like too many, you know, this website and this format and this, you know, well this was a chart that we got from a website that was pulled from a book that it's like, what the, so yeah. That that alone is worth the price of admission. Whatever the price is. I can tell you that right now.

EduTechGuys:

So let's talk about if superintendents are listening, teachers, all that good stuff, what's the best way they can get in touch with you guys?

Wilson Tsu:

Just go to PowerNotes.com. We'll have a big teach with AI button there, or you know, AI buttons and you'll be able to contact us. Or again, if you're at ISTE, just come to our booth. It's, it's pretty simple, we're pretty responsive. We want to make it work for you. We put tons of customization into our products so that different teachers with different levels of comfort with AI can do different things. You know, some teachers are like, yeah, let's use it. My students are already using it and it's part of the future, so why hold them back? Some teachers are, you know, more reserved and so that's fine. That's not our business to decide what you are gonna do. It's just we want to give you a lot of flexibility in terms of like, everyone's gonna care about the research and writing piece, AI's, who knows? And so we're gonna give you, who knows, like we can, you can do whatever you want.

EduTechGuys:

That's Cool. Very cool. Wilson, thanks for coming on the show, man.

Wilson Tsu:

 Oh, thanks for having me.

EduTechGuys:

Thank you so much. Have a great rest of your ISTE here.

Wilson Tsu:

So, yeah, it was good. I just got in this morning and already people are talking about AI. They're like, yeah, this is a big concern for me. You're doing it differently. And so we're just, we're just happy that we're giving people an opportunity.

EduTechGuys:

Good. Good luck.

Wilson Tsu:

Alright. Thank you guys.

EduTechGuys:

This episode of EduTech Guys is brought to you by PowerNotes. PowerNotes can help your students create better research, stay organized, save time, and improve writing and research by capturing content from across the web. Add work to projects on the fly, highlight text across the web to add to projects, and never lose track of a source with automatic source tracking. View your own library's content in tandem with Google search results and prevent plagiarism with a source-based research framework. Your students can tackle organization managing their project outline, reordering snippets, topics and notes. And ultimately, they can finalize and export their project, assess their work, download the outline, and export the project, allowing them to dive into more efficient and approachable analysis of their research. Get more information at powernotes.com.

This episode of EduTech Guys was recorded live at ISTE 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Thanks for listening.