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This paper puts forward a framework for the integration of pedagogy and software design to support educationally valuable discussion within the primary curriculum. In order to illustrate and to evaluate this framework, two educational programs were designed to be used in conjunction with a series of lessons to coach the use of ‘exploratory talk’ in small group work. Evaluation of the first item of software, in the area of citizenship, focused upon the difference that off-computer lessons in exploratory talk made to the way it was used. Evaluation of the second program, in the area of science, focused on the effect of the overall approach on learning outcomes. The results of these two illustrative studies support the value of the proposed framework. The first shows that combining software design with the off-computer coaching of exploratory talk can enhance the quality of interactions at the computer. The second shows that, with this pedagogical framework, computers can be used to stimulate collaborative learning and to direct it towards curriculum goals.