New alternative education mobile app beta testing in Austin


We’re excited to help spread the word about a unique opportunity for Austin families to help beta test Journey of Heroes, a wonderful new app for learners of all ages. Founder Tory Gattis and the Journey of Heroes team join us on the blog to explain what it’s all about, how it works, and how you and your family can get started using it and sharing your feedback to help make JoH an even more useful resource.

A new mobile app to help families discover and co-create learning adventures for kids is launching with Austin as its very first beta test city, and we’d love to get your input on how we can make the app better fit your family’s needs. The app is called “Journey of Heroes,” based on Joseph Campbell’s classic “Hero’s Journey”. We believe that students should see themselves as the protagonists of their own life stories (see graphic), especially when it comes to their lifelong education. The app is designed as a platform to help learners discover their passions and develop their own unique talents while acquiring knowledge and valuable skills, especially 21st-century skills like collaborative problem solving, creative design thinking, and entrepreneurship. And we want to enable this in a fun environment with learning adventures instead of classes, heroes instead of students, and guides instead of teachers.

JoH_Heroes Journey PNG_1200.png

The app was inspired by Tinder and Bumble, except that instead of swiping through potential dating matches, we wanted parents to be able to swipe through potential learning experiences for their children whenever they have a few minutes of downtime with their phone. We also wanted to make it as easy as possible for families to connect with other families seeking similar learning experiences for their children.


As you can see in this screenshot, the app functions as a deck of cards, allowing parents to swipe through different existing adventures or potential ideas for new ones, looking for co-creators. Using the app, you can scroll through or search for different learning adventures available in your area, save and show interest in attending your favorites (which will give you notifications about them), post ideas for learning adventures you’d like to co-create with other families, or even offer your own learning adventures for other families to join.

The app was inspired by Workspace Education in Connecticut, where a colearning community of nearly a hundred families co-create learning adventures for their children in an amazing 32k sq.ft. building that includes makerspaces, science labs, classrooms, performance spaces, and just about every other kind of learning space you can imagine in an environment that feels like a high-tech company campus. (Learn more about colearning communities at 

The app should be available on both the Apple and Google Android app stores by the time you read this or possibly in the very near future depending on their approvals. If you don’t see it there yet, please don’t give up—check back often!

We’re really looking forward to collaborating closely with Austin’s alternative education community to shape the app before we release it to the world. This is your chance to affect the very earliest stages of what we hope will be a transformative platform in education. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with questions, feedback, or thoughts on new features; we’d love to hear from you at Also, if you know a good source of Austin learning adventures that should be in our app, please let us know! 

Sincerest thanks for your time, consideration, and support,
Tory, Cade, Eloragh, and the rest of the Journey of Heroes app team

Media Monday: Apps for the budding naturalist

About this time last year, researchers from the UK and Brazil published an article lamenting the lack of great nature study apps. From their point of view, the powerful tools of phones and tablets weren’t being used to their best advantage for citizen science projects. The truth is, there probably are a million ways to take advantage of our devices’ abilities to measure location, light, altitude, and to take photos, videos, and audio—and there will be many new nature study apps in coming years. But right now, students of all ages can find a decent variety of apps to help us learn about the natural world.

There are apps for geology, astronomy, climate, zoology, botany—you name it. For this post, I’ve done a quick survey of some of the most fun and helpful apps for kids who want to study animals and participate in citizen science projects. Most are free—so give them a try!

WWF Together wins my vote for most adorable and irresistible of the animal apps. The app brings users stories about endangered species, with interactive features using origami and incorporating your own selfies. I used it on an iPhone, but I assume it would be even more stunning on a larger iPad screen.
FREE; iOS and Android

I was surprised to see how many apps in the app stores are labeled “Montessori.” Nature-oriented apps designed for little ones include two that look especially worthwhile: Montessori Approach to Zoology—Vertebrates and Montessori Approach to Zoology—Invertebrates. They include matching puzzles and help kids learn to categorize animals by characteristics.
$2.99-$3.99; iOS only (but other Montessori-based apps are available on Android)

Audubon, as you might expect, puts out a lovely range of apps for both iPhone and iPad, including its Audubon Bird Guide: North America, with stunning photos for over 800 species. Probably best for older kids, the app allows users to keep their own lists of sightings and listen to tweets, caws, and all kinds of other bird sounds.
FREE; iOS and Android

Merlin Bird ID is another great birding app, from the Cornell Ornithology Lab. It’s quite interactive, asking the user questions to help narrow down the type of bird, and includes bird sounds and photos.
FREE; iOS and Android

For kids, one of the first “citizen science” apps was connected to the online Project Noah, which allows users to share photos and video of plants and animals. Unfortunately, the app is only available via iOS and hasn’t been updated since 2012.

iNaturalist, on the other hand, also allows you to record what you see and share with others, and it looks great for older kids. What’s even better for Austin kids? The iNaturalist makers have also created Texas Nature Trackers, specifically focused on our state’s wildlife and plants. Check this one out for sure!
FREE; iOS and Android

Shelley Sperry