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An Interview With Jon Chippindall, CEO And Co-founder Of TeachMate.AI

By Rachel Arthur

 

This week I had the pleasure of catching up with Jon Chippindall CEO and co-founder of TeachMateAI. We had an insightful conversation all about AI in education and what impact it is having in the classroom…

 

Rachel Arthur: So, let’s kick things off! How would you like to introduce yourself?

Jon Chippindall: I’m Jon Chippindall, the CEO and Co-founder of TeachMateAI. It’s a bit of a fancy title, but basically, I handle everything from emails to steering the company’s direction. Oh, and I’ve been teaching primary school in Manchester for over a decade, and yep, I still teach!

Rachel Arthur: That’s quite the resume! So, TeachMateAI, is it an app, a website, what are we calling it?

Jon Chippindall: Good question! It’s more like a platform, an AI platform designed specifically for teachers which is accessed online.

Rachel Arthur: Let’s break it down for those who might not be familiar. Can you give a brief explanation of what AI is for those reading this who may have heard a lot about AI but not actually understand what it is?

Jon Chippindall: Absolutely! About 18 months ago, AI, particularly generative AI, really started making waves. Before that, AI was mostly about classifying things, like identifying if something’s a muffin or a Chihuahua. But now, it’s gotten way more powerful. We’re talking about generating stuff, like text and even pictures. It’s all about using maths to predict what comes next.

Rachel Arthur: That’s fascinating! But AI sometimes gets a bad reputation for making mistakes or even presenting fiction as fact. What’s your take on that?

Jon Chippindall: Oh, for sure! AI isn’t perfect. It’s all about algorithms and maths. It might seem super smart, but it’s really just predicting based on what it’s learned. Sometimes it gets it wrong or even makes stuff up. We had issues in the past with it completely making up children to go on the class list, rather than using the list provided so we had to remove that feature!

Rachel Arthur: Oh wow, it would be worrying to suddenly have an extra pupil in my class! So, in your experience how has AI been shaking things up in classrooms?

Jon Chippindall: It’s been a game-changer! AI’s great at automating tasks, like creating lesson plans and worksheets. It saves teachers a ton of time, but it’s important to remember that teachers still play a crucial role in overseeing and tweaking these AI-generated resources.

Rachel Arthur: Teacher workload is such a big issue, its great that these tools are genuinely saving teachers time. Where do you see AI in education going in the future?

Jon Chippindall: The possibilities are endless! Imagine personalised learning resources tailored to each student’s needs, created in an instant. It’s all about freeing up teachers to focus on the human side of teaching, like connecting with students and providing that personalised touch.

So, if you look at that kind of process of ‘plan, teach, review’, you know that cycle that good teaching is based upon, at the moment we’re focusing on the plan stage and we’re really impacting there. There’s obviously discussions happening around what it can do in the review piece, the marking piece, the general consensus at the moment is that the technology is not there yet. It’s not reliable enough yet.

Rachel Arthur: Yeah, it sounds like there’s still some way to go. What’s driving the improvement then?

Jon Chippindall: Well, it’s one thing having a mistake, you know, like wrong dates in a worksheet with teachers checking that. It’s another thing having pupils’ marks and lives impacted on through AI error. But this is just the start of this technology. You know, it’s only going to improve and when computers continue to become more powerful in terms of processing that’s the main thing that drives the improvement.

Rachel Arthur: That makes sense. So, do you think AI will eventually handle more aspects of the teaching process?

Jon Chippindall: Absolutely. There will come a point where you can do the rest of the cycle as well, and then the teachers are offloading everything that can be automated and probably done better and focus on the bits that can’t be done by machines.

Rachel Arthur: That sounds promising! But what about fears of AI taking over jobs?

Jon Chippindall: Oh, I get it, but AI isn’t here to replace teachers. It’s here to support them, to handle the tasks that can be automated, so teachers can focus on what they do best—inspiring and guiding their students.

From my experience, much of the fear stems from a lack of understanding. Teachers often worry that AI will replace them, but in reality, it’s about augmenting their abilities, not replacing them. Banning AI outright doesn’t solve the issue either, as it’s challenging to detect its usage. Education is key here, helping people understand how to use AI responsibly.

Rachel Arthur: Absolutely. It seems there’s still much to learn about AI’s role in education. So, for teachers interested in exploring AI, where should they start?

Jon Chippindall: If you’re considering using AI tools in your teaching, it’s crucial to understand that when you’re using free online large language models, you’re not the customer, you’re the product. Your inputs are used to train the models, so caution is key, especially in educational settings. I’d recommend starting with TeachMateAI, which offers a range of free tools and is fully compliant with data protection regulations. Explore the platform, experiment with different inputs, and get a feel for what AI can do. Just have a play with it.

Rachel Arthur: And what could a teacher who’s never used any AI tools before do today after registering for a free account?

Jon Chippindall: Once you’ve registered for a free account, you can dive into the Activity Ideas Generator. Simply input the concept you’re teaching, and instantly receive 10 different activity ideas, including some that incorporate technology. You can also interact with the AI, asking for more ideas or further details on specific activities. It’s a great way to inject creativity into lesson planning and discover new approaches to engage students.

Rachel Arthur: So if I’ve got lessons to plan for next week, and I’m always using the same resources and activities. But this could give me that creativity and spark back while planning.

Jon Chippindall: Exactly. It’s like having another colleague beside you, offering fresh perspectives and ideas. Especially when you have themed weeks or special events, like World Recycling Day, but still need to cover core learning objectives, the AI can help generate relevant and engaging activities. It takes the pressure off and provides a wealth of ideas to explore.

Rachel Arthur: And if I have managed to get some budget from my school what do the pro features look like?

Jon Chippindall: One of the standout features in our recent update is the ability to link tools together. For example, you can start with a medium-term plan, inputting your curriculum objectives and time frame, and it will generate a comprehensive plan covering all necessary topics. From there, you can extract learning objectives for each week, and the AI will produce lesson plans, teaching slides, and worksheets tailored to your needs. It’s a time-saver, allowing you to plan an entire scheme of work in just 20 minutes, with the flexibility to refine and tweak as needed.

Another exciting feature is the refinement bar, which enables iterative discussions with the AI. If the output slightly misses the mark, you can request expansions or additional assessment questions, fostering collaboration with the AI to fine-tune materials.

Additionally, we’ve introduced tools like converting YouTube videos into educational content, including slides and comprehension questions, streamlining the process of incorporating resources into lessons.

Rachel Arthur: That sounds brilliant, I know I struggled to come up with questions from videos at the end of a long day, so if there’s a tool that can suggest some for me then that’s great!

Jon Chippindall: It’s all about efficiency and enhancing creativity. With our tools, you can generate quizzes directly from videos, which can be seamlessly integrated with platforms like Kahoot, saving you time and effort. We’ve also prioritised community collaboration, recently engaging with teachers interested in SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities). Their feedback has been invaluable in shaping new tools tailored to meet diverse learning needs.

Rachel Arthur: And how are teachers finding the tool? Are they seeing its making a difference?

Jon Chippindall: Absolutely! We regularly hear heartwarming stories from individual teachers who have found TeachMateAI to be a game-changer in reclaiming their personal time. Teachers often share on our ‘TeachMateAI Teachers’ Facebook group how the platform has allowed them to enjoy time with their families, like playing in the park or walking their dog.

It feels amazing to know that our tools have made a real difference for teachers, helping them balance their workload and rediscover their love for teaching. Lots of them have told us that having more time has stopped them from thinking about quitting their jobs, showing how much of a positive impact it can have to have more time in the classroom.

Rachel Arthur: That’s wonderful to hear! It sounds like TeachMateAI is not just about streamlining teaching tasks but also about fostering a healthier work-life balance for educators. With that, Jon, I’d like to thank you for sharing your insights and expertise on AI in education. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you today!

 

If you are interested in checking out Teach Mate AI and dipping your toe in the world of AI in education then head to www.teachmateai.com

This interview has been paraphrased and edited for publication.

 

You can read more articles by Rachel Arthur here.