While my oldest son wasn't a fan of the netbook form factor, my 15-year old has been using it all week to write final papers, put together a presentation, and take notes for his finals. He, like me, has small hands and is far more inclined to work sitting curled up on the couch than he is at a desk. He loves the Acer Aspire One and it has made it vastly easier for him to work, both in and out of class.
This particular 9th-grader has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, a form of high-functioning autism much like Asperger's Syndrome. While he is very high-functioning, one of the major manifestations of the disorder is in a complete lack of organization and handwriting that rivals mine in illegibility. Interestingly, like me, he manages to stay fairly organized on a computer (at least he can do a search for files), so the netbook that he can jam into an already overstuffed backpack has been a real asset.
He and I talked last night about his usage of the machine and he described how helpful it has already been in class. For him, it seems like a no-brainer to go ahead and pick one up that he can use all the time. Whether he's taking notes in class (he noted that he can type pretty quickly on the small keyboard) or have easy access to a computer while completing in-class writing assignments (that his teachers will now actually be able to read), he represents a perfect example of where a netbook can directly benefit a student and not just be another toy.
When I told him that we would go ahead and just buy one for him, he lit up. "Really, you're going to buy it for me?" he asked. He's not a gadget freak like I am, so I'm choosing to believe he was genuinely happy that he would continue to have a machine like this to use in class and at home.
The sense of ownership and connection to the computer is something that Intel has identified as an important factor in the success of their Classmate program. However, I think the same principal can apply with older students as well. Provide them with the right tools, teach them to manage the tools and use them well, and come as close as possible to 1:1, and the students will often respond much more viscerally than to a shared computer lab. It allows the computer to be as much an extension of the student as a pen and paper and hopefully inspires as much learning and creativity (if not more because of the increased capabilities).