While the implementation of AI chatbots, by and large, is gaining immense popularity in numerous sectors, in the fields of pre-service teacher education and research, a chatbot as a learning-to-teach tool to support pre-service teachers’ professional development remains still in its infancy. Along this line, this study expands upon the nascent line of research by delving into pre-service teachers’ experiences of deploying, evaluating and building a chatbot. The interview and questionnaire data from a total of 16 pre-service English teachers with no prior experience with the chatbot development were collected in three different stages of learning: First, through the use of Mitsuku, a conversational chatbot, the participants were offered a chance to gauge the potential of a chatbot as a medium of interactive and participatory language learning. Second, the participants configured and tested Dialogflow, a chabot API, in order to build task-oriented chatbots. Finally, the participants created chatbots with conversation flow of ordering juice and interviewing students. The findings demonstrate that such hands-on chatbot building experiences that gravitated towards growth and exploration can drive pre-service teachers to harness their potential from the positions as teachers. In light of the results, this paper presents some practical and theoretical implications.