The Diffusion of Innovation


This page provides a good introduction to the factors that influence the spread of innovation. It begins with a short gallery activity to introduce agricultural innovation. This is then extended through a worksheet on types of innovation. A theoretical context to diffusion is provided through comparing different types of agricultural innovation to Hägerstrand’s innovation curve as well expansion and hierarchical spread. This is developed through examples such as large scale dam construction, pesticide use and GM crops. The lesson concludes with a card sort with students examining the different geographical factors that act like bridges or barriers to innovation.

Enquiry Question

What human and physical processes explain how agricultural innovations spread?

Lesson time: 1 hour

Lesson Objectives: To describe and explain how technology innovation in agriculture spreads

Teacher notes:

Starter Activity- Photo Gallery_Synthesis and Processes_ Run through the gallery slideshow at the beginning and students should attempt to identify the factors that connects them. Once shown students should attempt to write down from memory the different factors they saw. Answer: Innovation in agriculture.

1. Human processes_Processes_Introduce innovation in more detail. Students can read the introductory text in the site on agricultural revolutions. Hand out the worksheet and students should attenpt to identify two examples of innovation for each category.

2. Lags in Innovation_Synthesis and Processes_Introduce Hägerstrand’s innovation curve and students should attempt to explain the different reasons that might explain the lag in adoption of innovation between Place A and Place B in the diagram.

3. Video Comprehension_Places and Processes_Then show the HOME video from 26 minutes for 5 minutes to show the types of economies of scale taking place with modern agricultural systems

4. Large Dams_Synthesis and Processes Then you can show the animation of the history of large dam construction and students can answer the question on the worksheet. you may need to show this lip twice.

Extending the example students can then refer to the compund line graph of dam construction over time in different continents. Students can attempt to explain how the graph can illustrate the diuffsion curve.

5. Knowledge and synthesis_Processes_then show the image gallery on types of diffusion that I've chosen because they work well with innovation. Once you've explained hierarcical diffusion and expansion diffusion show students the two youtube clips on deforestation in the Amazon and pesticide use in the USA.

Students should attempt to link each example either to hierarchical or expansion diffusion.

Note:You could highlight the compund bar graph showing pesticide use also demonstrates the innovation curve.

6. GM Crops _Processes and Synthesis - You can introduce the use of GM crops with the worlld map produced by The Guardian. Student can study the projected map and answer the following questions:

  1. Where do you think GM production began?
  2. Is there any clear pattern of diffusion?
  3. Why do you think Europe has developed relatively little GM crops?
  4. What other factors do you think have limited the diffusion of GM crops?

7. Diffusion_Human and Physical Processes - Then start to look in more depth at the factors that infleunce diffusion. You can start by showing the clip on deforestation, which is linked to road expansion. students can answer the following two questions:

  1. Identify the main factors you think led to deforestation and the expansion of farming into the Amazon.
  2. What barriers to expansion are identified?

8. Synthesis Card Sort - Barriers or Bridges?_ Processes, Spatial Interactions and Possibilities_Then hand out the card sort to either small groups or pairs. Students should attempt to categorise the factors under the headings, political, economic, physical, cultural, social. They should also categorise bridges and barriers to diffusion under the dame headings.

Starter Activity_ Synthesis and Processes_What factor Connects the Images?

Watch the gallery display below and try to remember every photo and what it shows. Once the gallery is finshed write down from memory what you saw and try and identify what factors connect them all, e.g each photo is an example of...

Student Activity_Processes_ Innovation in Agriculture

Agriculture has for millennia been modernised and innovated. In history, different regions of the world have experienced revolutions in agriculture that has led to a rapid increase in food production. In fact ancient civilisations such the Greeks, Mesopotamia and China all built their populations and development off the back of agricultural revolutions. More modern innovations relate to farming methods, technologies and farming inputs such as pesticide, seeds and irrigation.

Using the worksheet identify two specific examples of an innovation for each category.

Agricultural Innovation

Student Activity_Places and Processes_Home Clips

Watch the following clip of HOME from 36:00 for 5 minutes to ask students to note down the technology changes and characteristics of agribusiness. They also simply enjoy the stunning visuals! You have to watch this video in Youtube.

Student Activity_Synthesis and Processes_Innovation Diffusion

Study the following diagram which has been adapted from Hägerstrand’s innovation curve and shows the penetration rate of an innovation within two places.

Annotate the diagram to suggest reasons for the lag in innovation penetration between Place A and Place B

Student Activity_Synthesis and Processes_The Expansion of Large Scale Dam Construction

Watch the following animation, which shows the global history of large reservoir dam construction and answer the questions (based on the trend) on the worksheet provided.

Student Activity - Green Revolution - Places and Proceses

Watch the following video and note down the chronology of wheat production in India and the impact of green revolution techniques.

Discuss the other technologies needed alongside green revolution seeds for it to succeed

Student Activity_Synthesis and Processes_ Global Dam Construction and the Diffusion Curve

Study the graph below and explain how global dam construction can be used to illustrate the diffusion curve

Source: adapted from Lehner et al (2011).

Student Activity _Processes_Types of Diffusion

The following diagrams show how ideas and innovations can diffuse away from their point of origin.

Watch the the two youtube clips below and try to identify which type of diffusion is at work.

Deforestation (opening up) in Randonia, Brazil.

Glyphosate Pesticide Use 1992-2011, USA

Source: US Geological Society

Student Activity_Synthesis and Processes_Factors influencing the Diffusion of GM Crops

Study the map below, which shows the global production of GM crops by hectare in different regions.

  1. Where do you think GM production began?
  2. Is there any clear pattern of diffusion?
  3. Why do you think Europe has developed relatively little GM crops?
  4. What other factors do you think have limited the diffusion of GM crops?

Source: The Guardian

Student Activity_ Synthesis and Processes_Factors that Influence the Diffusion of Deforestation

Watch the following youtube clip on rates of deforestation in the Amazon.

  1. Identify the main factors you think led to deforestation and the expansion of farming into the Amazon.
  2. What barriers to expansion are identified?

Student Activity_Processes, Spatial Interactions and Possibilities_Barriers or Bridges?

Using the card sort attempt to classify the factors under the headings provided. For each heading identify the barriers and bridges to diffusion

Identify named examples that match up with each of the ideas presented in the cards

Barriers or Bridges Card Sort

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