So, I did my research on preparing a cart of 20 iPads for deployment in our school. One thing that I definitely realized is that noone seems to be doing it the exact same way. I believe my story is no exception.
I have not started to actually install apps on the iPads, but I have begun the readying process and have made some strides. The process is certainly time consuming, and I still wish there were an easier way. Perhaps my experience will help others as they embark upon this arduous process.
I was able to create a configuration file using the iPhone Configuration tool. One of my first concerns was to get our incredibly long WEP key entered on each iPad so they can access our network. Fortunately, the iPhone Configuration tool has a configuration option for wifi. It was suggested (and for now I agree) to create separate configuration profiles for different actions, one being the wifi. In theory, you can set up a number of configurations in one profile and send them all to the iPads, but in this case, I stayed with just seeing the network settings through rather than getting overly ambitious.
This process was not as bad as I feared... Simply click on Configuration Profiles in the Configuration Tool and name the profile in the Identify Section of the General tab. Then click on wifi and enter the settings for your Network. Once the configuration profile is created you need to install it on each iPad. The list of iPads shows up on the left. I was hoping I could install it on all with one click, but I couldn't figure that one out. Has anyone?
The image below shows the wifi screen for this profile: