The movement towards one-to-one computing is picking up steam, from Maine’s gutsy move towards giving laptops to all students to Project Inkwell (initially organized by my friend Mark Anderson to establish standards for one-to-one computing) to Nicholas Negroponte‘s $100 laptop project.
A few months ago I wrote a letter to Technology Review sharing some personal experiences about how students and teachers use computing resources under different conditions of scarcity. The main insight is that both average and peak productivity/benefit vary significantly with the availability of computing resources.
One topic I couldn’t address in the TR letter (because of word count limitations) is that of opportunity cost. PCs are the new boob tubes. They can be used productively or not. I believe that the marginal utility of an additional hour of computer time for a K-12 student can decline quite rapidly without appropriate education (how to make the best use of the machine), social foundation (let’s communicate and collaborate virtually in a meaningful way as opposed to become isolated or shallow communicators) and software (to engage students in relevant activities).