Digital Observation Technology Skills (DOTS)

To share information about the DOTS program with your group, download our DOTS Graphic Report and Summary today!DOTSGraphicReportThumbnail_opt_300px

Would you, or someone you know, like to explore the natural world using innovative and exciting technologies?
A mobile Digital Observation Technology Skills (DOTS) kit is designed to allow you to do just that!

DOTS Program Overview and Goals

DOTS LogoThe Digital Observation Technology Skills (DOTS) program is an outdoor Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) lesson that uses modern mobile technology tools to connect today’s students to the outdoors in new and innovative ways.  This inquiry-based lesson navigates the basics of the scientific method and focuses on the importance of good scientific communication and sharing discoveries with others.  Students work in groups to test simple hypotheses from the environmental and ecological differences across the local landscape using data and observations collected in the field.  Participants use the technology tools found in the DOTS kits to make observations, take measurements, explore the micro and macro details of their environment, and learn how to embrace their inner scientists.  They collect digital artifacts to test their hypotheses including both quantitative and qualitative data.  In addition, ‘Media Specialists’ are responsible for collecting photo and video evidence of each groups ‘scientific story’ that can then be used to present the results of the study to share with others.

Budding meterologists collecting weather data

Budding meterologists collect weather data using DOTS tools

The DOTS program lessons and tools are easily scalable to fit into a variety of indoor and outdoor laboratories.  Creativity and diversity of student interests could make the DOTS technology kits the perfect tools for almost any STEM lesson plan.

The DOTS Kits

DOTS box kit and tools

Contents of the DOTS kits including iPad, technology tools, and lesson worksheets

The DOTS kits provide unique, hands-on opportunities for students to explore details of their environment using modern technology tools that help to turn the invisible, visible. In 2017, 100% of educators surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that they “better understand how science, technology, [and] engineering can solve problems after using the DOTS tools,” and 100% of respondents indicated that they would like to use the DOTS kits again. 

Tools and Student Scientific Roles

Navigator (GPS unit)
– “Global” view of project, provides direction

Media Specialist (video/ digital camera)
– Captures the story to share with others

Meteorologist (pocket weather meter)
– Studies weather patterns

Microbiologist (digital microscope and iPad)
– Studies the details of the “small” world

Thermal Imager/ Investigator (infrared thermometer and imager)
– Searches for temperature differences in the study area

Trail Cameras
– Motion sensitive trail cams stationed at each waypoint capture animal activity 24 hours a day

Study Topics

The DOTS kit easily serves many study topics, including:

  • Scientist roles
  • Citizen science
  • Data analysis
  • Teamwork
  • Microclimate adaptations
  • Topography
  • Seasonality
  • Species dominance/competition

Design Considerations

The tools found inside the DOTS kits were each selected with specific criteria in mind.  Some of these important tool design considerations include:

  • Memory – the ability to store and easily transfer the data it collects to other platforms.
  • Power – powered by removable and chargeable battery sources
  • Portability – small, lightweight and cordless
  • Off-line – does not require internet connectivity to achieve full functionality
  • Dedicated device – each tool has a single data role and function
  • Platform neutral – tools not tied to a single computer operating system
  • Digital artifact – the ability to collect and save data imagery to limit the need to remove material from the field

Other Info

Here is a video showcasing a special kit for studying climate or microclimate.

If you would like to print out a flyer, or for more information about DOTS please see our flyer:
DOTS Info Handout or contact Justin Hougham at


DOTS In Action Photo Gallery

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