DIYode, a nonprofit organization in Ontario, Canada, has released an add-on board for Arduino (called a “shield”) that takes the work out of configuring electronics in order to help teach the code behind microcontrollers in general and Arduino in particular. The CodeShield is basically a board that includes all of the most common inputs and outputs, actuators, and indicators on one PC board, all connected correctly. This means students don’t have to struggle to get this part right in order to try out their code. In this sense, it’s similar to the LEGO Mindstorms kits, which give you a standard set of parts and allow you to write your own code more quickly. However, this goes one step further in that all of the parts are already connected together, focusing the learning right in on the code and how to write it.
This seems like a great tool for the high school classroom. I briefly helped out teaching a robotics class using the Mindstorms kits, and the students spent a week just assembling the base robot and getting it running, The advanced students were completely bored, and the students who had never encountered LEGO were completely flummoxed. The Codeshield would remove this barrier, although for robotics the building is an important part of the learning up front. Certainly one could use the Codeshield to teach electronics and electronic design down the road, too, once the fun part (making stuff happen!) has been experienced and the students are more engaged.
The site linked above also contains curricula for teaching with the Codeshield, sample projects, and instructions for soldering the kit (which is currently available in unsoldered form).