One of the best use cases I have found for ChatGPT is as a learning companion. The tool is a blend between a professor’s office hours and a reading aide that can adapt to the learning experience that works best for you. Utilizing it in this manner has empowered me to overcome the lack of willpower to learn new material in a studious manner with the limited leisure time I have. By studious, I mean deep learning that involves note-taking, summarization, and repetition that develops knowledge and mastery. A process that involves a lot more time and energy than purely reading and grasping abstract ideas from the material. Given my busy personal and work schedule, deep learning previously wasn’t realistic, but ChatGPT has changed that sentiment. With its ability to remove a lot of the leg work required in preparing for a reading, distilling down notes into bite-size information, and expanding on the material, I have found myself more determined to learn more, while also absorbing more knowledge in a fraction of the time it previously had taken.
The Brick Wall: Converting Notes to Knowledge
The lack of willpower for deep learning as I previously mentioned is not due to interest in or reading the material, but rather distilling down notes and concepts into digestible and relationship-driven summaries that allow me to develop mastery. While some might be able to do this with notes alone, I struggle to piece it all together with just this action. Over time this observation has led me to use a three-step system that takes notes and highlights, distills them into summaries, and then creates visual maps and takeaways to develop more repetition with the material and create memory recall. This is not a new system to many, and one that I have recently learned is popularized under the name of progressive summarization, but the reason I mention it is so you can have my perspective to understand why ChatGPT has been valuable to my process.
ChatGPT: Tears Down the Wall
ChatGPT has been the perfect fit for my system because it has automated the tedious and mundane tasks that get me from distilling information to developing knowledge. One of my biggest blockers that previously had prevented me from following through in utilizing this system as intended. However, there is some passive monitoring required for quality assurance and careful observance of the token (character) limits that are present with ChatGPT today. There is also still the manual effort involved with piecing the chunked output from ChatGPT output, but is much more manageable than 80% of the process that ChatGPT takes care of at this stage.
ChatGPT: The Professor
The value generated from the tool doesn’t stop at note summarization. Like any approach to studying, there are material and concepts outside of what is being directly read that can help solidify the understanding and serve as a jump-off point for the exploration of relevant topics. The summary of my notes serves as the base for this exploration and given ChatGPT’s ability to reference the ongoing conversation in its generation process, it understands what I am looking for without having to provide a lot of additional context or back-and-forth conversation. An underappreciated quality that is valuable for material mastery.
ChatGPT: The Guide
The benefits I have listed so far highlight the value after reading material and in the studying phase, but ChatGPT is just as good as a reading companion. I tend to ask it,
“what are the concepts and ideas I should keep an eye out for as I read a x chapter in a y book that I am reading.”
which provides me with a nice summary with bulleted concepts. This helps me cut through the supporting content and be able to parse out the valuable information from the chapter as I read. However, as I previously mentioned about quality assurance, proceed with caution. I have found that even with a straightforward prompt like the one above, the output can sometimes provide a generic response that references concepts related to the chapter title but doesn’t actually reference content related to the material found in the book. Since the material is still related, you won’t be necessarily steered astray by the answer, but it is an important caveat to note because the value in reading the book in the first place is to understand the unique perspective the writer brings to the topic. If you wanted the abstract you could easily find it in a simple search on the web. This experience demonstrates that you can’t blindly trust ChatGPT for its accuracy in this circumstance. Something that I have also witnessed when utilizing ChatGPT as a paired programmer.
Empowered to Learn
Even with ChatGPT’s flaws noted throughout this article, the benefits of having this tool for learning purposes outweigh the cons. Prior to using it, it felt unimaginable to develop knowledge at such a pace without academic support, but now I can’t imagine the limitations. I plan to continue to use ChatGPT in my journey to develop my business skills and I hope this article provides you with encouragement to try and do the same.