Technology Programs

Digital Observation Technology Skills (DOTS)

Program Overview and Goals

DOTS logo

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More details about the DOTS program, or recent program updates can be found by visiting the Environmental Education website

The Digital Observation Technology Skills (DOTS) program is an outdoor environmental education experiment that tests how using modern mobile technology tools connect today’s students to the outdoors. Our findings from DOTS provides the basis of technology integration into our curriculum at Upham Woods. The DOTS kits are used throughout our curriculum and every group that attends Upham Woods has the opportunity to use the field equipment and write a scientific story.


DOTS started as an inquiry-based lesson focused on navigating the basics of the scientific method and 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 hypothesis 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 meteorologists collect weather data using DOTS tools

While the DOTS program is perfectly adapted to the diverse and scenic landscape of the Upham Woods property, the program lesson 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 environmental education lesson plan. Specific DOTS programming is still available to your group. The feedback and results about DOTS have shown the program’s success in engaging people with nature and supporting the scientific process.

If you are curious as to what this looks like on the ground at Upham Woods, check out other schools’ experiences.

To be involved in upcoming DOTS technology professional development workshops at Upham Woods, please visit our adult education page.

The DOTS Kits

DOTS box kit and tools

Contents of the DOTS kits including iPad platform 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.

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)
– 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

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 interchangeable 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


 DOTS In Action Photo Gallery