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Joanne Jacobs talks about a Mitt Romney initiative aimed at giving middle school/high school kids $100 laptops. She's skeptical about this, quoting the Boston Globe (of all papers) to the effect that Maine has shown no objective benefit to giving 7th and 8th graders laptops. She's also not sure a $100 laptop is possible.

Well, I agree with her on the former point, but on the latter point I'd say a $100 laptop isn't out of the question. The low-end Palm Zires go for less than $100, and can handle spreadsheets, calculators and text documents, and I think it would be quite possible to expand on that to come up with something like the Apple Newton from a few years back. As long as you're willing to settle for something that's on the trailing edge of technology and uses open source software, you could quite possibly come up with a laptop or palmtop with foldout keyboard for $100...because Massachusetts wouldn't be the only market for something like that. UPDATE: More about the $100 laptop project here at the Speculist (including a link to the FAQ). Via Instapundit.

However, the real question is whether this is going to increase test scores or even improve kids' base of knowledge, and I'm pretty sure it won't, unless the bright boys at MIT manage to come up with software that can drill kids in English and arithmetic until they have those skills down pat. Otherwise, you're just finding another way to throw good money after bad.