I have written about ideas for keeping track of NaNoWriMo several times.
And none of those ideas have exactly panned out.
Finally, I decided to seek some expert help.
I looped our building Technology Specialist into the problem.
He and I sat down and discussed what I needed, what I had tried, and what problems I had encountered.
I will spare you the techy details.
Anyway, he said he would work on it and we agreed to check in the following week.
Then something occurred to me.
Something that should of occurred to me MUCH sooner.
Now, I had spent a ton of time messing around with add-ons for Google Docs.
Nothing available seemed likely to help.
And I had spent time poking around the internet looking for tech-savvy solutions already developed.
Nothing I found was any real help, though the search gave me dreamy ideas I couldn't execute.
Our Technology Specialist explored some of those ideas.
It might not actually be possible to do what I wanted without some pretty sophisticated programming.
What finally occurred to me?
Look at add-ons for Google Sheets.
Like, seriously, how did I not think of this?
How did we invest so much time and energy without noticing this oversight.
One night, I was procrastinating by conducting random research on apps and add-ons.
I opened up Sheets.
By then, I had exhausted the possibilities of add-ons in both Forms and Docs.
It hit me in that moment:
What I wanted was a spreadsheet that collected information from a large number of Docs.
Maybe the solution could be found by starting with the spreadsheet.
Turns out, yeah, that was where I should have started.
There are two add-ons for Sheets that can compile the information I want.
When I revisited my project with the Technology Specialist and told him what I had found,
And what we had overlooked, his expression was priceless.
I think he felt even more chagrined than I did, if such a thing were possible.
He immediately volunteered to take a closer look at the possibilities to see what would work best.
Both have some minor limitations to work around.
One is Doctopus.
Which is kind of a "Duh!" idea, really.
The whole point of Doctopus is to assign Docs to students and then collect them again.
Plus integrate them with an embedded rubric system called Goobric.
Doctopus is now capable of pulling in assignments from Google Classroom.
It is perfect for giving me updated word counts with just a couple of clicks.
You're thinking, "That sounds great. What is the problem?"
Well, I need word counts each day.
I want to collect them so I can see progress over time.
Without having to write them down or cut and paste them somewhere else.
So, the other good option is Essay Metrics.
Essay Metrics is AMAZING.
Basically, it lets you ingest an assignment from Google Classroom and compiles a wealth of information.
Not just word counts, but sentence counts, words per sentence, paragraph counts, sentences per paragraph, sentences without a capital letter, and on and on and on.
Enough information to conference with students without repeatedly reading 100% of 112 novels.
I can't even imagine the appropriate expression of awesomeness for this thing.
Plus, you can run it in the same Sheet over and over again.
Each time it will create a new set of data in a new tab.
Perfect for collecting comparative data.
As incredible as it is, it isn't perfect.
There are some things it won't do.
One thing it won't do, create a master tab with just word counts every day.
That is easy to solve with a little formula knowledge.
I don't have that, but I have a Tech. Specialist who does
He made me a video.
If I can't figure it out, I can always go ask him to walk me through it.
The other things are program flaws.
When you ingest an assignment, the list to choose from is randomized.
If you only assigned five things, that is no big deal.
A few dozen assignments to scroll through, a bit of a hassle.
Worse, once the assignment is ingested, it doesn't always populate all the student names.
Some unknown number between none and most of the Docs.
There are two solutions to this problem, we think.
One is to go by the name of the document because that includes the student names.
Alphabetizing is impossible, but at least I can tell whose Doc is whose.
The other, more sophisticated solution, is to manually change the names in the totals tab and track the Docs by Doc ID, which doesn't seem to change.
If the Docs were in the same wrong order every time, it wouldn't be so frustrating.
Um, no, it is randomly different each time.
Except the unused Docs always come at the bottom.
Maybe they are organized by when they were accessed last.
That makes sense, but doesn't do me any good.
Regardless, once I get the Sheets all set up with the right formulas, it will work.
Let me repeat that:
It will work.
I will have the compiled daily data I need.
And I will have detailed data I can definitely use.
This is a very good thing.
It makes it so much more likely that I can manage our #NaNoWriMo adventure without killing myself.