As you may have picked up from my recents posts, AI is for me one of the most exciting and thought-provoking areas of human advancement. I genuinely think it will be as transformational to our everyday lives and our professional lives as the internet itself has been. It will improve our efficiency and effectiveness across a range of professions. It may even replace some. It will improve our use of spare time, freeing us up to spend more time with friends and family, or just engage in our hobbies. It also has the potential to make a huge impact on education, both formal and informal.
One of the ways I try to ensure I retain what I’ve read is to make notes as I go along. The use of AI has sped this process up for me no end. Generally these notes will now focus on how I can make specific use of what I’m learning, rather than a broader overview of the book's content. Currently I’m working through Thaler and Sunstein’s “Nudge”. I know that I can focus on the implications of any concepts for my workplace and think about how I will apply them; I can rely on AI to summarise the general content of the book for me. Grammarly is an example of how AI can be used to proofread and edit the first draft of a document; as programmes such as Microsoft Copilot and others come online we will see better and better proofing and editing implements in use.
Like any tool, it is only as powerful as how we choose to use it. If your goal is to write an essay or blog post on any given subject, AI can probably do that already for you. But to what end? If your goal is to learn, retain and (crucially) apply useful information, I would query the use of AI for this. Having AI summarise a book is not the same as reading that book for yourself. Sure, I could use Chat GPT to summarise every book relevant to whatever field I’m interested in. But can AI pick out the nuances of each book; can it think for me about how to apply what can be learnt to my life and career? No - at least, not yet. Despite this, the summary does fulfil another function. If I am about to read a book on a subject about which I know very little (if anything), then the summary acts as a useful precis. This then provides me with a scaffolding that can support my learning and understanding.
Our culture of education in Britain tends to focus more on learning facts by rote than understanding how to apply the concepts. Just think of the hours spent learning times tables rather than the application of multiplication in real life. Learning does not exist in a vacuum. Similarly, it’s very well ‘reading’ dozens of books by asking for summaries that you can digest quickly. But what you risk missing out on is the opportunity to pick up on those elements the AI missed, to reflect on how the learning applies directly and specifically to you. Our brains do not encode the important information if we are handed summaries of the information and fail to actively engage with it. Such shortcuts may indeed help your learning; but they are no substitute for understanding.
I'm sitting at my Macbook, which is parked on my desk near my Windows laptop. I have an iPhone 12 charging next to my Samsung Galaxy, whilst my iPad sits under my desk shelf. At some point or other I have used all of them to make notes, whether they are to-do lists or the notes I take whilst reading non-fiction. I've used countless note taking apps, styluses and even some voice notes. Im very interested in the potential of AI to take minutes during online meetings. Yet time and again in find myself coming back to pencil and note paper. Why is this?
In a world that is rapidly trending towards the digital space, it's easy to see why people would rather make notes on a phone or use a stylus on a screen. With the whole world practically being just a tap away, it makes sense that taking notes via technological devices is becoming the norm. However, there are several benefits to handwriting notes on a book that make it an experience that is irreplaceable. In this blog post, we will delve into the benefits of handwriting notes in a book versus making notes on a phone or using a stylus on a screen.
1. Handwriting notes in a book improves retention memory.
A study done by the Association for Psychological Science shows that handwriting notes enables an individual to retain more memory than typing notes into a digital device. When you write notes by hand, it strengthens the neural pathways within the brain, which leads to better retention memory. This means that if you write down notes in a book, you are more likely to recall them from memory vividly when you revisit the material. Hence why unwilling continue making my own notes during meetings regardless of how powerful AI becomes. The tactile nature of note taking has a similarity to reading a physical book rather than an ebook.
2. Handwriting notes on a book reduces distraction levels.
Writing notes in a book is a way of self-regulating your focus levels. When you make notes on your phone or on a screen, you are at a disadvantage because the temptation to check your messages or scroll through social media is high. Writing notes in a book is an intentional activity that requires my complete attention, limiting the chance of getting sidetracked off the task at hand.
3. Writing notes in a book improves cognitive processing.
Taking notes on paper improves cognitive processing, which is essential in analyzing and synthesizing complex information. Writing notes in a book allows a person to engage in the content in their own way, make connections, and map out the various themes, all of which informs their higher-level thinking skills. This is why taking notes whilst reading non-fiction is more effective than voice notes, reading a summary, or even highlighting the text.
4. Writing notes in a book encourages creativity.
Writing notes on paper is a creative process that frees the brain of limitations. The act of doodling or jotting down extra comments unconsciously stimulates the brain, making it more creative. Creativity is essential when it comes to how one visually represents ideas, categorizes material, and comes up with unique ways of understanding complex ideas that may not be possible with digital tools.
5. Writing notes in a book is a personal experience.
Writing notes in a book is a personal experience that is unique to the individual. Writing out your notes for a particular topic, using your own symbols, and visually organizing them in a way that works for you make the experience intimate. Handwriting your notes is an act of care for yourself, your mental capacities, and the knowledge that you are committing to learning.
Writing out notes engages the brain, enhances retention and cognitive processing of information, limits distractions, encourages creativity, and gives a personal experience that cannot be replicated by digital devices. While there are still benefits to having digital note-taking options, there is something special about writing things down by hand. The next time you have the opportunity to handwrite your notes in a book, go ahead, and give it a try; you might be surprised at how rewarding it can be!
As a senior manager in social care I’m forever juggling multiple responsibilities at once. Over the last week or two I have been experimenting with chat GPT, a powerful AI language model, to see how I can automate certain tasks and improve efficiency. Here are the ten best ways I’ve found:
Producing documents: Chat GPT can be used to produce documents such as policies and procedures. By providing clear instructions and prompts, Chat GPT can generate a draft of a document, which can then be reviewed and edited as necessary. For example, asking “write me a GDPR policy for a children’s home in Wales” produces a useable policy within about 30 seconds. Not only that, but it can be used to produce sales copy or copy for websites.
Proofreading: Chat GPT can also be used to proofread documents, ensuring that they are free from errors and grammatical mistakes. This can help save time and ensure that documents are of high quality before they are distributed. Just city the document into the chatbot and ask the AI to proofread it. It can then be asked to offer suggested rewrites if you find you are unhappy with certain sections.
Responding to inquiries: Chat GPT can be used to respond to inquiries from staff, parents, and other stakeholders. By setting up chatbots that are programmed to respond to common questions and issues, you can save time and provide consistent, reliable information to those who need it.
Automating data entry: Chat GPT can be used to automate data entry tasks, such as entering information from forms or reports into a database. This can help reduce errors and free up staff time for other tasks.
Conducting research: Chat GPT can be used to conduct research on topics related to children's homes, such as best practices in child care or new regulations and policies. By providing clear prompts and questions, Chat GPT can generate a list of relevant sources and information. Chat GPT won’t conduct the research for you, but can be used to generate the questions you want to use. In the same way, Chat GPT can be used to generate staff/stakeholder surveys.
Analysing data: Chat GPT can be used to analyse data from various sources, such as surveys or assessments. By providing clear instructions and prompts, Chat GPT can identify trends and patterns in the data, which can then be used to inform decision-making.
Developing training materials: Chat GPT can be used to develop training materials for staff, such as quizzes or instructional videos that are engaging and informative.
Generating reports: Chat GPT can be used to generate reports on various aspects of your children's home company, such as financial reports or staff performance reports.
Personalizing communication: Chat GPT can be used to personalize communication with staff, parents, and other stakeholders. By analyzing data on each individual, Chat GPT can generate personalized messages and recommendations, which can help improve engagement and satisfaction.
Chat GPT can be a valuable tool for service directors of children's home companies in Wales. By utilizing its capabilities to automate tasks, generate documents, analyze data, and personalize communication, you can save time and improve efficiency, while ensuring that your children's home company is providing high-quality care to its residents.
As an example of how useful Chat GPT can be, the above post was generated in the chat. I have edited some portions of it (which I could have done in the chat if I’d chosen). I also find it useful for things like summarising documents (e.g. I can feed it meeting minutes and ask it to summarise the key points of the meeting with relevant actions). Currently the AI cannot as a matter of routine access documents on your PC/MAC and does not directly access websites. It cannot access data that has not been fed to it in “training” (development) and it does not access websites directly. As it stands, the AI is a hugely powerful tool for streamlining office and admin work. As it develops and is able to access the web, I see it changing the way we work as fundamentally as the web itself transformed society. If I was working in an admin or copywriting role I would be very concerned right now about the future of my employment. I think it would be wise for every organisation to make themselves aware of AI and conduct (at the very least) a SWOT analysis of its impact on them.
What do you think? Have you used Chat GPT? How do you find it? What risks and benefits do you see?
This is the page I'll update most often, with thoughts and opinions on management, writing, and what I've been watching or listening to. So dip in and see what takes your fancy.