A major challenge for students of international affairs is staying abreast of significant political and economic news in their subspecialty (diplomacy, security/intelligence, commerce, development) and specific geographic region of interest, as well as in the world writ large. Patterson School students report that the iPad offers particular value here, simplifying this complex task by providing ready access to breaking developments from sources major and obscure, in a multitude of languages.
Each student crafts his or her own personal mix of sources – print, radio, and video – to meet their individual needs. This typically includes a combination of individual news apps, RSS feeds, and subscription services. On occasion, it also includes using news aggregators or personalized magazines (with Flipboard and Zite being the most popular).
The entire Patterson School has access to PressReader from NewspaperDirect. This brings to the iPad over 2,000 full content newspapers and magazines from 95 countries in 51 languages (we will report more on PressReader later). For most students, this has resolved how to cover the more obscure. Whether, their interest is Belarus (Narodnaya Gazeta), Mauritius (Le Matinal), Sudan (Al-Raed), or Malaysia (The Borneo Post), this app and subscription service typically provides the newspaper coverage students need.
When it comes to more general apps for national and world news, our students have picked clear favorites. In a recent survey large percentages of Patterson School students identified regularly using the following apps as key sources for information:
Not surprisingly, The Economist, New York Times, and BBC were big winners. Subsumed under the “other” column above were apps focused on foreign developments such as Al Jazeera, Stratfor, and Foreign Policy; more general services like Reuters News Pro and AP; as well as apps that are directed more toward domestic politics like the Huffington Post and Drudge Report.
For news, the iPad appears to occupy a unique place between access by surfing the web and print media. Many of the news sources detailed above can be tapped with a laptop or desktop computer, but not exactly in the same way. Students declare that what sets the iPad apart is its portability, unobtrusiveness, and ease of use. Turning it on, collecting updates, reading and sharing information, all can be done on the fly – literally – without every slowing down for a plug, a desk or counter. Using your iPad is not a big deal, one student noted, it almost seemed nonchalant. Finally, they report that many iPad apps have been so well designed that they are far more functional and efficient than visiting the same media’s regular website on a computer.
Our students do not see the iPad as a replacement for their laptop. Indeed, they readily identify serious shortcomings in creating documents or presentations on the iPad compared to using their regular computers. Instead, they believe it to be a valuable supplement. This is especially the case in this key area: assembling and monitoring the information they require to become foreign policy professionals. For this purpose the device may in fact already be on the edge of revolutionary. It provides the information heretofore conveyed in newspapers, magazines, on radio and on television, in a form that is far more accessible, useable and affordable.
From the vantage point of school director, I have no doubt that the iPad is helping ensure that Patterson School remain at the top of their game.