Common Questions About our Resources for Educators


Questions About Getting Started

Q: Your website is all new!  Has the content changed?

A: We still have the exact same materials that thousands of educators around the world have been using; they’re just organized in a more user-friendly manner.  Now you can easily browse our curriculum and parent education materials by topic or grade and bookmark your favorite resources to make them easier to find later. You can also view all of our videos in full screen or download them to play from your computer.

Q: I’m interested in implementing a media education program involving both students and parents.  Where do I start?

A: Start by signing up! Registering as an educator with Common Sense gives you access  to all of our resources for educators including our classroom curriculum and parent education materials. All of these resources are free, but we do require that you register as an educator to download the materials. There is no commitment associated with registering, and you are not obligated to do anything once registered.

Q: Who can sign up? I'm not with a K-12 school. Can I still register?

A: Yes! Our educational resources are appropriate and available for any educator that works with kids and their families. When registering, you will have be able to search for a school and if your organization is not listed, you can add it. Every educator should create their own username and password so that they can bookmark their own favorite resources, post reviews and comments, and personalize the site for their classrooms or families.

Parents that homeschool can also access the resources by clicking “I’m a homeschooler” on the registration screen.

Q: Can I get all of your resources in hard copy?

A: We sell flash drives of both the Parent Media Education Program and the Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum. The flash drives contain all of the documents in PDF and all of the videos in a format that can be easily played on a computer with QuickTime. Click here for more information and to order.  Keep in mind, everything that is contained on the flash drive is available online for free and you do not need to have a flash drive to implement our programs.

Questions about the Digital Literacy and Citizenship Curriculum

Q: What does “digital citizenship” mean?

A: Digital Citizenship is a relatively new term and concept that is being used by educators, policymakers, and thought leaders alike. It refers to the set of skills and behaviors that one must learn to be a safe, responsible, and respectful member of our 21st century society online. Common Sense Media defines a “digital citizen” as: Someone who is able to think critically about the ethical opportunities and challenges of the ‘digital world’ and makes safe, responsible, respectful choices. Our mantra: With these powerful technological tools comes great responsibility.

Q: How is the curriculum organized?

A: The curriculum is broken into strands -- Safety & Security, Digital Citizenship, and Research & Information Literacy -- and then into units – such as Digital Life, Connected Culture, and Respecting Creative Work, which are within the Digital Citizenship strand. Each unit contains between one and five lessons and parent resources that complement the lessons. Lessons contain a lesson plan, student handouts, and homework activities.

Q: How did you develop the curriculum? What research was involved?

A: The curriculum is based on sound research and testing with students, teachers, and parents. We conducted 20 focus groups across the country to determine what issues of online life held the greatest ethical promise and peril. We determined what messages and lessons would be effective with students, what topics were of greatest interest to teachers given their packed schedules, and which ones were most concerning to parents. Once the first iteration of the materials was developed, we tested the materials with 700 students at public, private, and parochial schools in the Bay Area and in Omaha, Nebraska. We then modified the materials based on the systemic feedback that we received through surveys, interviews, and direct observation.

Q: How does the Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum work with the Parent Media Education program?

A: The curriculum has parent resources, such as videos, tip sheets, and parent/kid homework activities, integrated into each unit. Schools may also choose to offer additional information to parents using the tip sheets, discussion guides, and presentations that are part of the Parent Media Education program. The parent program offers information on topics such as sex and media, advertising, and making media choices, which are not explicitly covered by the Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum.

Q: What does it cost to access the curriculum?

A: The curriculum is free to schools thanks to generous philanthropic support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Sherwood Foundation.

Q: Is the curriculum aligned to standards?

A: Yes. The curriculum is aligned to standards for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) NETS for students, English Language Arts (ELA) Common Core, and the American Association of School Librarians (AASL) Standards for the 21st Century Learner. View these alignment charts.

Q: How should my school implement the curriculum? Do we have to use the whole thing or can we use only some of it?

A: The curriculum is organized to have a natural progression through the units even though we designed lessons to be used as standalones. For instance, the Digital Life Unit and Privacy units are more focused on self-reflection, while the Connected Culture and Respecting Creative Work units ask students to reflect more on their place in the online community. Further, the lessons within each unit become more community-focused as they progress. We encourage you to pick and choose the individual lessons that will work best for your community.

Q: How do I assess what my students have learned from the curriculum?

A: The questions in the wrap-up section of each lesson provide clear direction about whether students are learning what is intended by the lesson objectives. Additional assessment tools will be made available prior to the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Q: What is your relationship to Howard Gardner and the GoodPlay Project at Harvard University?

A: The curriculum is rooted in the digital ethics framework developed by the GoodPlay Project at the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Project Zero. This framework points to the greatest points of ethical peril and promise on the Internet. It is the issues that they identified that became the basis for the topical units of the curriculum. Their framework emerged from a series of interviews with young people who were heavy media users, as well as scholars and industry leaders in the field of digital media and ethics.

Q: What does the copyright symbol on the materials mean?

A: Our print materials are offered under the creative commons license “Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike.” Learn about this license and how you may use our materials on our Terms of Use page.

Q: Does your curriculum count toward E-Rate compliance?

A: Yes. One of the requirements of E-Rate is that you provide education on topics that are covered by our curriculum. There are lessons on Internet safety and cyberbullying, which count toward E-Rate. The Connected Culture unit in particular is sufficient to meet the education requirement.

Q: Do you have lessons on media literacy?

A: Media literacy themes are included throughout the curriculum, but we do not yet have an explicit media literacy strand.

Q: Do you offer lessons that are SMART Board-ready?

A: Not yet, but we plan to create them. Sign up for our newsletter to be among the first to hear when SMART Board-ready materials are available.

Q: Do you have resources in languages other than English?

A: Our Parent Media Education program resources are all available in Spanish. Our classroom resources are currently only available in English. We are assessing how we might offer them in Spanish and other languages in the future.

Questions about Common Sense Media

Q: Are your resources really free? There’s no catch?

A: Yep – totally free for you to access online. We’re funded by a number of foundations and individuals that allow us to make these resources widely available to educators for free. We also rely on the support of individual donors, so if you’d like to make a donation to support our work, you can do so here.

Q: Are you affiliated with any political or religious groups?

A: No. Common Sense Media is a nonpartisan, independent organization.

Q: How do I link to Common Sense Media?

A: If you are providing a link to parents, link to If you are sharing a link with other educators, please link to

CyberSmart! and Common Sense Media

Q: Who is CyberSmart!?

A: CyberSmart Education LLC is a privately owned company founded and owned by Jim Teicher and Mala Bawer, early pioneers in the development of online curriculum to teach internet safety and foster 21st century skills. CyberSmart continues to be an independent company that now focuses on providing online facilitated professional development workshops that give educators hands-on experience in 21st century skills.

Q: What is the CyberSmart! Curriculum?

A: The CyberSmart! K-12 Student Curriculum is a set of 80 online lessons and student handouts organized into grade bands and 5 thematic units: safety + security, manners + ethics, research + info literacy, authentic learning and 21st century challenges.

Q: Why did you acquire the CyberSmart! Curriculum?

A: Common Sense Media acquired the CyberSmart! curriculum to expand our pioneering Digital Citizenship curriculum to a broad K-12 digital literacy program that includes safety and security, research and information literacy, and other 21st century curricular components.

Q: Did you buy the whole company?

A: No. Common Sense Media purchased the CyberSmart K-12 Student curricuum and only. CyberSmart! Education LLC continues to be an independent company and provider of professional development in 21st Century skills for educators at

Q: What are you doing with the curriculum?

A: Common Sense Media is adapting the CyberSmart! lessons and integrating them into our Digital Literacy and Citizenship framework by adding video, interactive components, and a rich complement of parent resources to create a truly integrated, whole community approach to K-12 Literacy and Citizenship education. We expect to complete this integration by the end of 2011.

Q: I’ve been using the CyberSmart lessons over the past few years, where can I access them now?

A: The CyberSmart grade K-8 lessons have already been integrated into the new Common Sense Digital Literacy and Citizenship curriculum at Educators that plan to use the CyberSmart! lessons in their original form during the 2010-2011 school year will continue to find lessons at

Q: Does CyberSmart! still offer professional development?

A: Yes. CyberSmart! Education still offers professional development on topics related to 21st century learning. Learn more at

Ongoing support and technical assistance

Q: Do you offer training on your site or in the field?

A: We are building a library of online trainings to help you learn to implement the curriculum. They can be found here. In-person training on how to implement the curriculum is available for a fee. A four-hour training at your school site is $3,500 plus travel and lodging for two people. This fee includes flash-drives with the curricular materials for up to 20 people; for additional flash-drives, there is a per-person fee of $25/flash-drive.

Q: Do you come out and do talks for parents and teachers?

A: We’re a small team, so the number of talks we can do around the country is limited. We are no longer facilitating parent presentations for only one school since speaking requests have grown beyond what our staff can handle. In order to maximize the impact of our presentations, we now only speak at select district-wide parent/teacher events. Please contact us at [email protected] to find out more.

Q: I’m not getting your newsletter. How can I change that?

A: Go to your “My Account” page and scroll to the bottom to change your email preferences. You should also add [email protected] to your email address book to ensure our messages make it to your inbox and don’t get trapped in spam.

Q: I have feedback or other questions that aren’t answered here, is there someone I can talk to?

A: Of course! We absolutely love receiving user comments, questions, solutions, ideas, and advice, and we’re here to help. Email [email protected] any time with your question and we’ll follow up as soon as possible.