Archdiocese of Chicago

 Digital Citizenship Certification for Schools Minimize

New criteria for 2017-2018!

There are new changes to the Common Sense Recognition Program for the 2017-2018 school year. From first-time educators integrating digital citizenship to administrators coordinating 1:1 programs, the Recognition Program is for all educators, schools, and districts who are harnessing the potential of technology for learning.


On this page:
Criteria for Schools
Educator Requirements


 Criteria for Schools Minimize

Our goal is to recognize those schools committed to creating a culture of digital teaching and citizenship. We've made one addition to the Common Sense School criteria for the 2017–2018 school year: one more hour of professional development with a digital teaching focus.

Common Sense Schools ensure their students have the skills they need to harness the power of technology for learning and life. If your school is integrating more technology in the classroom, receiving Common Sense Recognition demonstrates to parents your school's commitment to teaching students to use their devices in enriching and responsible ways. Further, Common Sense Schools support educators' professional growth by providing important professional development, the first step to earning recognition as Common Sense Educators. Benefits of being a Common Sense School include:

  • A digital badge you can display on your school's website or social media channels, and a digital image to print your own banner. 
  • A letter that you can send to your district superintendent notifying him or her of your school achievement.
  • A template of a press release you can complete and share with your local newspaper.

It's our hope that acknowledging your hard work will strengthen the reputation of your school in your community and inspire other schools to focus on digital teaching and citizenship!

What's the process?

This program recognizes schools that: provide digital citizenship and digital teaching professional development to all educators; integrate digital citizenship -- on at least two grade levels -- using the Common Sense Education Digital Citizenship Curriculum, Digital Passport™, Digital Compass, and/or Digital Bytes; and engage and educate parents about media and technology issues.

For your school to become a Common Sense School, the following actions must be completed:

  • Create a school vision including digital citizenship and digital teaching (new this year!).
  • Develop a Common Sense School Implementation Plan. You will be asked to enter the implementation details in the Common Sense School application. The implementation plan should include all criteria outlined in the following steps.
  • Provide professional development to all educators on digital teaching and digital citizenship. PD may be conducted in person (by school staff) or online, using Common Sense Education resources. In-person PD may be combined to cover both topics. For a resource list, see the FAQ below.
  • One or more educators leads digital citizenship instruction on at least two full grade levels using Common Sense Education resources. All students at those grade levels must receive instruction. Schools have two options to meet student-instruction criteria:
  1. On two grade levels, teach five lessons, modules, or storylines (two Digital Bytes),
  2. OR on three grade levels, teach three lessons, modules, or storylines (one Digital Byte).
  • Engage parents school-wide and educate them in three distinct ways. See the parent outreach question in the FAQ for more details and suggested outreach.
  • Save at least three pieces of documentation from your efforts implementing: professional development, digital citizenship student instruction, and/or parent outreach to submit with the Common Sense School application.

Congratulations, Common Sense School!

You should hear within four to seven days whether or not your application has been approved. Once it's approved, you will receive a badge and an image of a banner for your school to print with your congratulatory email.

Got Questions?

Please read through FAQ. 


 Common Sense Educator Requirements Minimize
Optional Recognition for Teachers:

Common Sense Educators make up a community of like-minded folks who believe in the power of technology to transform learning and who believe that digital citizenship is an essential foundation for effective digital teaching. The program is open to all educators committed to creating a culture of digital learning and citizenship and are asking educators to select digital citizenship and digital learning activities. Being a Common Sense Educator is an official stamp of recognition from Common Sense. 

Benefits include:

  • A digital badge that you can put in your email signature (among other places) so others know about your efforts. It's also a great addition to your résumé.
  • An invitation to apply to be a Common Sense Ambassador. This is a great opportunity to expand your résumé, expand your leadership, attend conferences, and be part of a network of fantastic educators, while also spreading the word about the great work you're doing with digital citizenship with Common Sense Education.
  • A letter to your principal acknowledging your work to earn recognition.
  • If you give permission, your name and school listed on the Common Sense Education website.

What's the process?

Check out the the detailed program requirements below. It's a two-step application process, and criteria should take approximately four to six hours to complete. Applications will be open in August, and educators must fulfill criteria during the 2017–2018 school year, but there are aspects you can begin now!


Step 1: CREATE YOUR PROFILE on Common Sense Education: If you haven't already, sign up as an educator on our membership page, and create a profile.

Step 2: JOIN THE COMMUNITY: Join the Common Sense Educator community on Facebook. As part of being a Common Sense Educator, educators can share and engage with each other. The community is a supportive place for you to connect with inspiring educators, Common Sense Educators, and Ambassadors. Please see  FAQ below if you do not use Facebook.


Here's the fun part! You have a personalized voice and choice in your own professional learning, how you'd like to implement or teach students, and what you find useful to reflect on and share. For each of the steps below, select one activity for digital citizenship and another for digital teaching. You get to determine which activities you want to complete.

Step 1: LEARN: Common Sense Education has many great professional development resources for educators, including webinars, tutorials, Teaching Strategies, and in-person trainings. Select two learning activities: one related to digital citizenship and another to digital teaching. Use our Facebook group to explore ideas or get recommendations. Resources can be found on our site for free. 

Step 2: DO:  In this step, you implement ideas from the LEARN step into your work or practice. This could involve teaching students a digital citizenship lesson, applying a digital teaching strategy in your lesson, facilitating a parent education event, designing a tech-rich lesson, creating an implementation plan, or more. Select two activities: one related to digital citizenship and another to digital teaching. The community can serve as a place to get support as you teach lessons or incorporate edtech tools into your instruction. Time commitment: 2 hrs. (estimate; time may vary depending on the nature of what you do!)

Step 3: REFLECT: Sharing successes (and failures) is an important part of the learning process and an essential part of professional growth. In this final step, you authentically describe your insights, weaving in ideas that you put into practice from the LEARN and DO steps. Time commitment: 1 hr. (estimate)

Use the following chart, which outlines all your options described above. Choose one activity per cell.

 **Available option to all BUT templates, examples, and additional support offered in Premium Services.









Write a reflection in which you explain your insights from the LEARN and DO activities you completed. Post your reflection in the Common Sense Educator community.

**Available option to all educators BUT templates, examples, and additional support offered in Premium Services.

Congratulations, Common Sense Educator! You should hear within four to seven days whether or not your application has been approved. Once it's approved, you will receive a badge with your congratulatory email.


 FAQ Minimize

What is the cost of becoming a Common Sense Educator/School/District?

There is no cost to becoming a Common Sense Educator/School/District or to using any of the educational materials on our website, including our professional development webinars, Teaching Strategies modules, and digital citizenship resources, including our Digital Citizenship Curriculum, Digital Passport™, Digital Compass, or Digital Bytes.

I am a returning Common Sense Educator/School/District. Is there a different application to use?

For 2017-2018, as we have new criteria, we do not have separate applications for renewing educators, schools, or districts.

How long is the application process?

We know that educators are busy people, and we'd rather have you teaching young people than filling out forms, so we made it pretty easy. The application shouldn't take more than 15 minutes to complete. It's mostly check boxes, with a few open-ended responses.

What are Common Sense Education's requirements to maintain status?

You will need to fulfill all criteria required to become a Common Sense Educator, School, or District every year and renew your certification by submitting an application during the current school year.

When can I apply?

You can apply to be a Common Sense School at any point during the 2017–2018 school year or early summer. The deadline for applications is July 1, 2018. We will open applications in mid-August.


Who is eligible to become a Common Sense Educator?

All educators are eligible if they work in a K–12 setting, including public, charter, private, or parochial schools, after-school organizations, community organizations, and so on.

If I am not teaching students directly, how can I become a Common Sense Educator?

If you are in an administrative or coordinating role and have led professional development or the planning of digital teaching and citizenship in your school, you are eligible to become a Common Sense Educator. New this year, you have a personalized voice and choice in your own professional learning, expanding criteria to those outside the classroom -- for example, creating a Digital Citizenship Implementation Plan, hosting a Connecting Families event, or creating a tech-rich lesson plan. Please see criteria above for all activities.

I was a Common Sense Educator last year. What do I need to do differently?

If you're a returning educator, please continue to implement digital citizenship! In addition, please add an hour of professional development dedicated to digital teaching topics and incorporate technology into your practice at some level. If you're teaching digital citizenship using our Scope & Sequence, you could simply modify or enhance the lessons using your favorite tech tool. Or, if you're not using technology in the classroom, host a parent event with a focus on digital teaching. Looking for other ideas, or want to hear from other returning educators? Post in the Facebook community!

If my school is applying to become a Common Sense School, do I need to submit a separate application to earn recognition as a Common Sense Educator?

We have streamlined this process. If educators have met Common Sense Educator criteria, the school project lead has the option to include his or her name, email, and activities completed in the Common Sense School application. The school project lead will be asked to input all the individual names directly in the application. We will not have the option of attaching an Excel spreadsheet to the application.

Common Sense Education will email all educators directly after the Common Sense School application has been submitted and reviewed. Educators do have the option of submitting their applications prior to and separate from the School application.

Can I combine the pathways in the steps? I.e., can I view one webinar that encompasses both digital teaching and citizenship or creating a tech-rich digital citizenship lesson?

Absolutely! Digital teaching and citizenship go hand in hand, so it only makes sense that you might want to "tech up" Common Sense Education's Digital Citizenship Curriculum or create an implementation or parent engagement plan that includes both. Please note: To meet criteria, you will need to teach at least two tech-rich digital citizenship lessons.

School leads also may create PD encompassing both topics for their educators. For support creating the PD, please contact

Where do I find the resources to complete the LEARN step?

All resources to fulfill steps can be found online via Common Sense Education (free). 

I don't have a Facebook account and do not plan on creating one. What should I do?

We do encourage you to participate in the Facebook group, as it's a valuable professional learning network, but we understand if you don't want to create a Facebook account. Please email prior to submitting your application if this will prevent you from meeting criteria.


Do all educators in the school need to receive professional development?

Yes. To become a Common Sense School, all educators need to participate by receiving professional development in digital citizenship and digital teaching. We believe that to create a culture of digital teaching and citizenship, all educators must further their understanding of the various resources to harness the power of technology for learning and life.

This step also helps provides the foundation (Step 1: Learn) for educators to earn recognition as Common Sense Educators. 

Criteria requires "all educators" to receive professional development. How do you define "educators"?

In this case we use the term "educator" to define classroom teachers, tech coaches, librarians, media specialists, homeschool teachers, preservice teachers, parent coordinators, administrators, and more! If an individual is working to support classroom learning, we feel they should be included in the professional development. Ultimately, it is the school project lead's responsibility to determine how "all educators" is defined and who should be included in this professional development.

Does the professional development need to be the same for all educators?

No. There are various ways to fulfill the professional development criteria. When considering options, educators should take into consideration the level of comfort educators have around digital teaching and citizenship. Schools may choose to host in-person professional development sessions and introduce digital citizenship and digital teaching topics. Schools also may choose from Common Sense Education's online resources, free webinars, and Teaching Strategies modules and ask educators to view a webinar and/or Teaching Strategies module by a specific date. This ensures that all educators, from novices to experts, will find a topic relevant to their teaching practice.

How do we verify that all educators have received the criteria PD?

When viewing the webinars on the edWeb platform, educators will receive a certificate of completion that they can share with the project lead. But we trust that the school project lead will complete the due diligence to ensure all educators receive PD.

Can I combine the curriculum with the student interactives (Digital Passport™, Digital Compass, Digital Bytes)?

Yes! You may decide to use both curriculum lessons and one of the interactives on the appropriate grade level. The lessons build on the concepts that students learn while engaging in the interactives. For suggestions on which interactive could accompany which lesson, view the recommended "onboarding" activity for grades K–8 and the "extended learning" activity for grades 9–12 in the Scope & Sequence.

Does it matter in which grades the Digital Citizenship Curriculum, Digital Passport™, Digital Compass, and/or Digital Bytes are taught to meet the requirement?

No. Common Sense Schools can work with students in any grade, kindergarten through 12th. The curriculum has differentiated lessons for K–12. Digital Passport™is recommended for use in grades 3–5, Digital Compass is recommended for grades 6–8, and Digital Bytes is recommended for high school students.

Do all students at the selected grade levels need to receive instruction?

Yes. To become a Common Sense School, all students on the grade levels you select (a minimum of two) need to participate to meet the requirements.

What are some ways to engage parents?

Schools are required to take a whole-community approach to digital teaching and citizenship by communicating with families and educating them about digital citizenship. You must do this in three distinct ways: One of these efforts must be the distribution of at least one Common Sense Family Tip Sheet or the Family Media Agreement to all parents/caregivers. You also must lead two additional activities. Examples include but are not limited to:

  • Host a school-wide parent education evening with a teen panel with materials, ideas, and best practices from the Connecting Families program.
  • Train Title 1 coordinators and/or PTA/PTO leaders to facilitate ongoing family engagement activities, such as informal discussion groups, using Connecting Families resources.
  • Publish an article about the importance of digital citizenship in the school newsletter.
  • Post a link to Common Sense on the school's website.
  • Embed the Common Sense parent advice blog widget on the school's website.
  • Give your parents easy access to advice on parenting in the digital age by adding our Making Sense blog widget for families to your school's site.

The Common Sense School application requires various pieces of documentation. What should I plan to submit?

  1. Details of the School Implementation Plan, including the professional development, student instruction and parent outreach conducted. 
  2. At least three of the following:
  • A professional development plan including the topics of digital teaching and citizenship for all educators.
  • Photos of students engaging in lessons or interactives in which it's clear that Common Sense resources are being used.
  • A lesson plan or course syllabus including mention of and/or links to Common Sense resources.
  • A sample of student work in which concepts learned from Common Sense resources are evident.
  • A screenshot of, or a link to, your teacher website showing a link to Common Sense and/or a description of work you're doing with students.
  • A screenshot or sample from Digital Passport™, Digital Compass, or Digital Bytes.

Do the educators leading the instruction need to submit a separate application to earn recognition as Common Sense Educators?

We have streamlined the process, and educators do not need to submit a separate application. Specifically, the school project lead can enter individual educators directly in the school application. This option is only for educators who have completed the new Common Sense Educator criteria. The project lead also can use this to enter his or her name if they have fulfilled Common Sense Educator criteria. The project lead must enter his or her name where indicated to receive recognition as a Common Sense Educator. If the educator meets these criteria, Common Sense Education will email the educator the Common Sense Educator badge directly.

Can the person coordinating the activities in the school, even if he or she is not working directly with students, apply to become a Common Sense Educator?

Yes. We have opened up the Common Sense Educator program to the administrators, facilitators, and coordinators who are working hard behind the scenes to implement digital citizenship but who may not be teaching in the classroom. Please review the NEW Common Sense Educator criteria. If the project lead would like to apply, please note this on the Common Sense School application where applicable (under the Teacher Worksheet). The individual should not submit a separate Common Sense Educator application.

If my district is applying to become a Common Sense District, do I need to submit an application on behalf of my school?

No. The district can apply on a school's behalf. The district project lead can enter the individual school's information on the Common Sense District application. Schools do have the option of submitting their applications prior to district application if they would rather not wait until at least 50 percent of schools in their district meet the criteria.



 Resources Minimize

What professional development resources does Common Sense Education have to help educators and schools meet the criteria?
The following online resources can be used:

What resources can schools use for digital citizenship student instruction?

What resources are available to engage families?
To fulfill Common Sense School criteria, we ask that schools take a whole-community approach and engage families in
at least three ways. You can find resources to assist in that effort using Connecting Families.