If my daughter would go to school next autumn I would purchase her some pencils, pens, eraser, ruler, pencil box and a Wlan internet tablet with touch screen.
Schools, public transportation (busses, metros, local trains), our home and offices at work are all covered with Wlan network. With Wlan we could be in touch with free Voip video calls for more than 90% of our daily life. From the presence information I would know where my daughter is and doing what, and she would know where am I, and what I am doing.
The Wlan Internet tablet would not be used only for communicating with parents. First at all it would be a learning tools, just like the pens and the rulers in the pencil box.
I would show her how to draw with the touch screen – actually she does this already. I would teach her how to use Wikipedia – actually she knows already what it is. I would add important RSS-feeds to the feed reader, so that she could follow news she is interested in. We would practice how to search and receive books that are available in a public library and how to check maps and bus timetables. We could also upload some e-books and audio books to the device.
The actually device could be the children’s machine ($100 Laptop/OLPC), which I start to like more and more every day. It is small, robust and designed for children. With the price of 450 USD I cold get one for my daughter and same time donate one for a child in a developing country.
Another option could be the Apple iPhone. It is very nice and I am sure the usability of it is just excellent. For some reason, it does not feel a right product for a 6 or 7 year old. It is a bit pricy (499 USD) and I am pretty sure it does not come with Voip.
Next autumn my choice would probably be the latest Nokia’s N880 or Nokia 770 Internet tablet. I am not sure if the children’s machine will be available, and there are several good reasons to claim that the iPhone is not that good idea anyway. With my daughter we already have played with the 770 and she is very fluent with the touch screen. The usability is “pretty good” Nokia quality. The N880 comes with a camera making the video Voip calls possible. The prices are for N880; 399 USD and for the 770; 359.99 USD. Very reasonable if compared to PCs.
If I would be the head of the Helsinki city department of education I would seriously consider to spend my PC/IT budget fully to these and put them to school libraries where children could borrow them. One Wlan device for each 5 children – at first.