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Four Tips for Untangling (Power Cords and More!)

By Alycia Zimmerman on November 21, 2012
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8, 9–12

One of the curses of our well-connected modern lives is that sometimes things get too well-connected — as in that jumble of extension cords nesting in my desk drawer. When every single device in our classroom comes with an assortment of snaky wires, the cord situation can quickly spiral out of control. While I'm not immune to tangledcorditis, I have developed some strategies for unraveling the mess. How do you keep the cords in check in your classroom?





Tip 1: It’s in the Bag! Stashing Headphones

I used to keep headphones at each desktop computer in my classroom, and the rest of our headphones in a bin, ready to be used with laptops, iPods, and iPads. I showed my students how to neatly coil the wires around the headphones and tuck in loose ends during cleanup time. Despite my patient modeling, I would invariably find a snarled mass of headphone cords in the bin, and we’d risk garroting ourselves with the cords stretched across the computer desks.

Now, I ask each student to bring their own headphones to school with them in September. I stash each student’s headphones into a labeled snap-top plastic bag, and students store their bag in their cubbies. Each student is responsible for taking out their headphones when they need them to use with a device — and for storing their personal headphones back in the bag afterwards.


Tip 2: No Skeletons in My Closet Just Laptops!

We used to use clunky carts to store our laptops in my school — metal hulks that supposedly made laptop storage secure and organized. The problem was that nobody had room to park these decidedly un-child-friendly technology tankers in their classrooms. As our laptops have aged, we’ve tossed the Fort Knox security in favor of space efficiency.

My superstar colleague Deb was the first to try stacking laptops in a classroom closet (a closet that locks). With a hole drilled in one corner to snake an extension cord into place, plenty of tape to secure the power strips, and colorful circular labels to mark the “parking spots” for each laptop, this is a charging solution easy enough for our students to maintain.


Tip 3: Magazine File iPad Storage

I am a huge fan of magazine files — I use them in my classroom to hold everything from photocopies to Scholastic Book Club order forms. When I received some iPads in my classroom last year, I was relieved to realize that iPads fit rather neatly into magazine files, too!

I use the sturdier plastic magazine files to store our classroom iPads; we can fit two iPads per file. I feed the charging cord through the opening at the back of the magazine file, and the wider tip on the end prevents the cord from falling out of place.


Magazine files store iPads upright in a cabinet and keep the charging cords in place.


Tip 4: Tag 'Em, Wrap 'Em, and Bundle 'Em Up!

Growing up in a sailing family, I learned at an early age about the importance of neatly stowing lines (i.e., “ropes” to landlubbers). I still have a need to keep the cords in my life in shipshape condition — although my twenty-eight students sometimes have other ideas.

Locking Cords Into Place

I don’t keep the USB wire for my SMART Board plugged into my laptop all the time. There are plenty of times when I don’t want the SMART Board to be a touch-screen. And I hate it when my extra-long, extra-expensive USB cord falls to the floor and is trampled by my students. Yes, you can buy nifty plastic cord clips to anchor USB wires, power cords, and more. But I find that magnet clips hold cords in place just as well, and I already have plenty of these clips in my classroom. (Clothespins also work in a pinch.)


Magnetic clips work as well as store-bought "cable drops," and you probably already have some on hand.

Stack and Store Unused Cables

I recycle old plastic CD spindles and use them as cord organizers. I particularly like to use these spindles for larger, unwieldy cords like Ethernet cables and extension cords. I keep labeled spindles stacked in a closet in my classroom.

Empty CD spindles store coils of cables neatly and can be stacked.

  • For more tips on managing the hardware, cables, and cords in your classroom, check out my blog post "My Top Four Tips for Computing With Kids." 
  • Don't forget to keep your classroom technology clean and germ-free. Christy Crawford shares some useful tips for cleaning your computers and more in her blog post.

How do you manage to store the cables and cords in your classroom? Share your solutions in the comments section below!    

For updates on my blog posts and for other classroom ideas, follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Comments (2)

In a pinch, toilet paper tubes can be used to hold / organize folded up wires. I also purchase inexpensive cloth pencil pouches on clearance racks to hold the charger wires for my laptop and camera in my backpack. Thanks for your great ideas!

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