Total Apps has published a nice guest post from Sal Soghoian, Apple's Production Manager for Automator, intended for teachers. He describes how educators have a limited amount of instruction time with the kids, and even less for maintenance tasks like making sure the proper software is installed, that students are on the proper web page, and so on.
Sal wants to help, and points out a number of links useful to anyone (not just teachers) who wants to automate these repetitive and often time-consuming tasks. Best of all, he shares a link to The Teacher's Helpers (scroll down a bit), which is a free collection of Automator actions specifically written to assist teachers with Macs in their classrooms.
If you've been put off by AppleScript, give Automator a try. Its drag-and-drop interface is much easier to use.