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Playworks Transforms more than Recess with Chromebooks and Apps

Posted by Richard Ng, IT director, Playworks

Editors note: Today’s guest blogger is Richard Ng, IT director at Playworks, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving children’s health and well-being through increased physical activity and play. See what other organizations that have gone Google have to say.

For more than 16 years, Playworks has been working with elementary schools in urban communities to help increase students’ physical activity during recess and throughout the day. We are the only organization in the country to send trained adult program coordinators into low-income schools, where they turn recess into a fun, positive experience that helps kids and teachers get the most out of their school day.

Headquartered in Oakland, California, Playworks has coaches and staff deployed at 380 schools, reaching 170,000 students in 23 cities across the country every day. In addition, our training staff serves another 400 schools each year all around the country. As the director of IT, my job is to make sure that every one of our staff has access to the resources they need to be successful at their schools. For our program staff, who visit 2-3 different schools every week the ability to get to their documents, and share and collaborate with each other is vital. Playworks relies on flexibility, mobility and access to information anytime, anywhere – Google is helping us achieve that.

In 2011, I attended Google I/O, where I had my first encounter with the Chromebook. I knew immediately that Chromebooks and Google Apps could be the answer our tech needs. We deployed a small, successful pilot program in early 2011, and today we have nearly 80+ Chromebook devices in use in the field, with more planned next year. With a simple two-page instruction document that we created internally, our team could work, share and collaborate from any of our 23 cities virtually overnight. Because Chromebooks don’t require manual software updates or an IT support staff to troubleshoot, my team can focus less on maintenance and more on strategic IT projects, and ultimately, the kids.

As a non-profit organization, cost is a major factor in every technology decision. The value that Google Apps and Chromebooks have delivered is unprecedented. Playworks has been able to save tens of thousands of dollars since we implemented Google Apps and deployed the Chromebooks. Based on estimates of what we previously spent on software and maintenance versus what we are spending now, I estimate we will save $50,000 - $70,000 per year. That translates to tremendous savings that can be redirected to improving our programs for kids.

At the end of the day, while we are working to improve the health and well-being of children by increasing opportunities for physical activity and safe, meaningful play, Google is helping our team access the technology they need to transform recess in the communities that need it the most.