The purpose of this study was to document typical use and configuration of 1:1 computing in two schools focusing on the added value and unique challenges these uses present. A qualitative case study design was used in two middle schools (sixth, seventh and eighth grade) in the south-eastern United States purposefully selected for their 1:1 computing programmes. Data were collected through formal and informal interviews, direct observations and site documents. Results indicated that online research, productivity tools, drill and practice, and eCommunications were the most frequent uses of computers in the 1:1 classroom. Moreover, the 1:1 classroom provided potentially transformative added value to these uses while simultaneously presenting unique management challenges to the teacher. In addition, the presence of 1:1 laptops did not automatically add value and their high financial costs underscore the need to provide teachers with high-quality professional development to ensure effective teaching. In order to create effective learning environments, teachers need opportunities to learn what instruction and assessment practices, curricular resources and classroom management skills work best in a 1:1 student to networked laptop classroom setting. Finally, researchers documented wide variation in fidelity to 1:1 computing, which suggests the need for further research exploring the conditions under which this variation exists.