Editor's note: This post is written by Chris Meaney, Director of ICT for Academies Enterprise Trust, the largest sponsor of academies in the United Kingdom.

With 42,000 students at 76 schools spread across the United Kingdom, we at Academies Enterprise Trust work hard to broaden access to information. However, some of our legacy technology made it cumbersome for students to share classwork and for teachers to share ideas for improving learning. Google Apps for Education and Chromebooks helps us come together as one large team— and they’re projected to save us £7.7 million in hardware and maintenance costs.

We began using Google Apps for Education in 2012, and soon after, brought 1,200 Chromebooks to many of our academy classrooms. We saw immediately that Google Apps and Chromebooks made learning more interactive and showed students the potential of learning with technology.

At the beginning of the school term in Maltings Academy in Essex, every student writes a 500-word story on subjects they’ll study for the rest of the year. They now write their stories in Google Docs, and use Google Drawings, Forms and Sites to add material like illustrations and surveys. Since they can share their stories with other students, they can edit each other’s work and offer suggestions.

We see similar collaboration across our academies and even between different schools. We’re using Google Sites and Google+ to create a storehouse of lesson plans and learning materials — a virtual support community that’s available anytime. One Google Site shows pictures of corridor displays to inspire teachers to use common spaces more creatively. The academies’ eLearning specialists regularly post ideas to a Google Group about digital learning and encourage other teachers and administrators to share their knowledge.

The easy setup of Google Apps and Chromebooks spared time and headaches for our ICT professionals. We moved nearly all of our academy websites over to Google Sites without hiring web developers or paying hosting fees — an easy move that’s already saved us £33,000.

In fact, we’re spotting significant cost savings in many areas, including maintenance, data storage and hardware. For example, by replacing traditional laptops with Chromebooks, we saved about £100,000. We expect to save millions over the next five years, which we’ll put into improving how students learn and how we teach them.

To learn more, read their case study here.