coffeechica: The concept of needing laptops at all for good education is questionable, I think.
The concept of needing anything/em> for a good education is questionable. The computer is a tool which is capable of good (through assisting the teaching of subjects), evil (distracting the students or supplanting the teacher), or pointlessness.
First, the tool has to be assessed, to see if it's suitable to assist in the teaching of a subject. The computer can be mighty flexible, and beside running Excel to actually do the accounting, it can present information, quiz students on topics being learned, and even make corrections based on incorrect answers. (And yes, I include properly done Powerpoint under the heading "present information." LibreOffice's Presentation tool qualifies too.)
Second, the tool may need to be tweaked to work for a specific purpose. The last two, quizzing and correcting, ride on the assumption that somewhere behind the scenes, someone in the school's employ is using a relatively simple scripting tool (LiveCode comes to mind) to create the lessons, and to further present on correct techniques when wrong answers are given.
Third, the tool has to be accepted and understood by the teacher. A tool unused is meaningless, but a tool misapplied can do more harm than good.
And fourth, the tool has to be accepted and used correctly by the students. Same principle as above: if they don't know how to get the information out of it, they won't larn nuffin'. A sweet UI and finely honed educational software stand no chance against a blithering idiot.
My mother taught learning disabled preschoolers. I watched with some horror as she sent one student after another back for "computer time" unattended, and they kind of puttered around with it. The worst was what I dub a "click-monster"—he might as well have been blindfolded and firing a machine-gun the way he was clicking. It was like recess, but nothing was being exercised except index finger and wrist.
With a little time, expense, and staff education, the computer can be a fantastic tool for teaching and learning. I can appreciate that without that time and expense, the tool isn't nearly as useful.