The future of learning: AI Tutors in the classroom

One of the educators leading the charge in innovative teaching practices is Matthew Hains, a forward-thinking Computer Applications Technology (CAT) teacher at SAHETI School. Matthew is renowned for his tech-centric teaching methodology, he continuously challenges and redefines classroom boundaries, setting a benchmark for educators everywhere.

So we decided to catch up with Matthew, to see how he's amplifying his techy teacher-magic with Mindjoy AI tutors.

Letlhogonolo: Could you please unpack your innovative approach to teaching for us? 

Matthew: My teaching approach is far from conventional. It is mainly influenced by my passion for technology, a drive to connect with other people, and my innate ability to make them laugh. I continuously seek out ways to innovate and automate stuff in the classroom. Because I view failure as a learning opportunity, I tend to embrace taking risks as a way to improve oneself and avoid stagnation – the state of not progressing or learning new things.

Letlhogonolo:  I’ve heard that your teacher “super-power” is humour, which is very interesting. Do you have a favourite instance where this super-power has combined beautifully with AI?

Matthew: I don’t yet, but I'm optimistic about the future. Once I’ve been able to harness the phenomenal power of AI for teaching, I envision cloning myself so that ‘a version of me’ can do all the work and I can just watch from my hammock (which I’ve actually installed in my classroom!).
But, to be succinct, I think AI needs to be coupled with "the human touch”.

When I logged in and saw what Mindjoy had created for teachers and students, I was stunned. 

Letlhogonolo: Every educator has a turning point. What was that singular moment or experience that made you see the potential of AI in enhancing classroom learning?

It was actually a culmination of different experiences. From the explosive release of Chat-GPT, I slowly began to see the incredible potential (and possible disasters) of AI in education. The more I found out about it, the more enticing the technology was to me. I then decided to explore and investigate how I could integrate AI into my subject. This was when I discovered Mindjoy.

Allow me to share the details of that particular moment:

When I logged in and saw what Mindjoy had created for teachers and students, I was stunned. It was perfect! It was everything I was thinking to try for my own classes in the next academic year, only, I hadn't yet figured out how I was going to do it.

I saw the opportunity of having different tutors tailored to focus on specific subjects when given the right context; this convinced me that the technology would absolutely benefit my classes. And since then, I’ve used Mindjoy with my students consistently. I remain convinced of its long-term potential in classroom learning.

Letlhogonolo: That is so interesting. Could you please share some specific examples of what you’ve done with AI tutors in your CAT class?

Matthew: Well, thanks to the remarkable platform Mindjoy has developed, I've been able to create something I’ve only ever dreamed of doing, using AI. I created the most ideal Computer Applications Technology teacher I know! In class we call him Mr. H. 

Mr. H knows everything and anything that has to do with my subject. He is always available. He never gets tired and is always happy to help any student with any question related to practical or theory components of the curriculum. What I like is that Mr. H is able to engage with any student at their level, using their interests as a focal point to make understanding of concepts much easier. If a student is unsure of something we did in class, they can go back and ask Mr. H to elucidate, break it down into simpler blocks of knowledge and assist them by asking relevant questions to probe and confirm their understanding.

My students’ minds have been blown by how useful Mr. H is. I now find them using him more and more, especially to help clarify various concepts in a manner that each individual can understand, at a level they’re comfortable at, and all this without losing the validity of the content being explained. 

For one of my classroom tasks, I had my students engage with Mr. H on a topic of their choosing and asked them to have a proper, substantive, conversation with him on the topic. They then had to take screenshots of the conversation and submit that as a task for me to assess.

Both for me and my students, and indeed for CAT teachers (let's not even mention IT and ICT!), this technology has been a game-changer. It feels like I've cloned myself, thus enhancing my abilities in the process. I'm now accessible to each student around the clock, 24/7, catering to the entire class, and for every individual at their unique level of understanding.

A screenshot showing the Mr. H tutor assisting a CAT student wanting to learn more about computer viruses.
The level of engagement possible with AI presents an opportunity where personalised learning may actually become a tangible reality.

Letlhogonolo: In the broader context of education, there's so much chatter about AI being a game-changer. But for you, as a teacher on the ground, which top 3 opportunities from AI excite you the most?

Matthew:  Firstly, the ability to have access to an AI that can act as a source of knowledge within the context of whatever one is learning about, and then being able to meaningfully engage with that source.

Second, the exposure that students are now getting to AI, as it is here to stay and will be part of the careers they take on in the future.

And third would be the level of engagement possible with AI, where personalised learning may actually become a tangible reality.

Letlhogonolo: What standout moments have you had when using AI with students in your classroom?

For starters, seeing how the use of properly-crafted prompts, can produce astonishingly effective research and information collection, at a level that is perfectly suited to the person doing the research. In other words, whether it is the teacher or the student that is interacting with the AI, the relevance of the output is fantastic.

Another thing is when I see my students engage with a tutor I have created for them and how it helps them understand concepts through discussion instead of a mere Google search. That is a moment which truly stands out above the rest!

…copying and pasting will happen, but only after they’ve learnt something that they won’t forget too easily...

Letlhogonolo: Can you share insights into the fears and potential challenges teachers might face using AI, and your approach to resolving such matters?

The biggest and most common fear I’ve come across is that teachers are worried that kids will simply plagiarise and forget how to think for themselves. I don't really agree with this sentiment, and my reasoning ties in with what I mentioned in my previous response. When you begin to engage with knowledge by obtaining it through discussion and negotiation, and searching for it with meaning, then you are learning.

The way that Mindjoy has set up their tutors makes sense when you see that the students have to engage and apply some good old-fashioned critical thinking before they get to an answer of sorts. With that you realise that copying and pasting will happen, but only after they’ve learnt something that they won’t forget too easily as there has been a transfer of knowledge that would not have happened had it otherwise been a quick Google search with “cut and paste”.

The responsibility lies with teachers to guide their students on how to use AI and get the best out of it for the purpose for which it was intended. That is the secret, the key, that opens the door to allow students to step into a world that until now, only existed in our imaginations. 

There are many tools around to help teachers combat plagiarism, but the change must be a human change. This human change comes through knowledge and discussion that is underpinned by both discipline and inspiration. 

I believe it is important to show our teachers and students that this tool exists to help them, not to replace them - having access to an intelligence like this could potentially help us grow into remarkable human beings. 

Well, we couldn't have said it any better!

A heartfelt thanks to Matthew for his amazing insights! 🚀

Want to try out AI tutors in your classroom?
Mindjoy enables educators to safely introduce AI into their classroom so that their students can learn side-by-side with this powerful technology. Book a call with us and we'll help you get started!

Letlhogonolo Maloka

Letlhogonolo Maloka

Engineer with a passion for Education and Technology
South Africa