As tempting as it is to have them all filed away, if you are at a stage like i am, and only have 1 of each type of a number of ICs, connect up a heap of bread boards, and put almost every IC you own on the board.
In a folder have an A4 sized pin out diagram for each, and the data sheet if its an IC you know you will always be working with, (eg for me a mega328)
As obvious as this sounds, its very important as things will very quickly get complicated when you start intergrating the ICs with each other. If the IC isnt in front of you, its less likely you are going to identify its suitability for what you are prototyping.
Assuming that the students already have some electronics training then you are looking at a correct idea.
I still prefer the breadboard instead of individually mounted boards. Only have the components as needed. Also get them using Fritzing to draw out their connections.
I guess it is what you are trying to teach them that needs to be known. Planned circuits with expected results would be best for starters. Later you can integrate some design.
Interfacing between IC's can be complicated if you don't know the theory.
i have done alot of math and am certainly in a specific branch involving set theory, discrete sequences and series,number theory, all of these seemed to help me get a relative grasp quickly albeit feeling as if i need to catch up after only really overcoming an anxiety i had towards electricity.
one of the projects im doing is basically an freeware circuit simulator based on processing that runs with an uno + "proto 1.0 X" shield, and allows the user to build a CMOS based circuit with a selection of basic analog components available in the software interface, run a virtual simulation for the circuit or return an error explaining why they should not be wiring the way they are by highlighting the node/s where the short circuiting arises (or the pot/s that are cooking :-P)
i just think in terms of learning digital I/O & multiplexing it would be handy for lecturers/post grad helps because it allows the students to get an "organic" feel for making digital circuits without, as you say, knowing the theory, because i will have loaded all of that onto the shield's read only memory. and cost reducing too, the legs on MOSFETS arnt built for much endurance for example.