I sadly watched the ads over the holidays: Mythbusters, the ever-original Discovery Channel series that used science to explain phenomena of pop culture, was starting its final season the first week of January. For fourteen years, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, the Sherman and Peabody of the popular science world, took us on journeys to explain whether culturally-held beliefs were based on demonstrable facts. Oh, and they blew up a lot of stuff.
At first it was urban myths – the 5-second rule, the question of whether you get wetter walking or running through a rainstorm – but then it developed into something else. The Internet grew along with The Internet grew along with Mythbusters, and viewers invented their own “myths” that frequently involved videos of impossible-looking stunts. Adam and Jamie took us through the story of how such a stunt could actually work. User involvement became a standard part of the program.
And when the myths did work (think Mentos™ and Diet Coke™) they developed and tested various hypotheses for why they worked. In some of their best episodes, they pulled back the curtain of movie or television special effects and showed us how it all happened. In doing so, they made us think.
We do much the same in learning. The most effective learning is a compelling story in which the learner discovers the truth. We show our learners how things work, and sometimes that requires us to bust a few myths along the way. Sometimes we even have to blow up stuff to make our points.
But fourteen years is a long time to do the same thing each week, and Adam and Jamie are ready to move on to something different. I hope you’ll join me in watching the final season of a series that makes you think. I shall miss them.