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Hiller Spires

Professor, Senior Research Fellow, Literacy Education

Alumni Distinguished Graduate Professor

Friday Institute 223



Dr. Spires, who has been on the NC State faculty since 1986, is a Professor of Literacy and Technology in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences. She received her Ph.D. in literacy education with a cognate in English from the University of South Carolina. She served as the founding director of The William and Ida Friday Institute for Educational Innovation from 2002-2006 and currently serves as FI Senior Research Fellow. Dr. Spires received NC State's Outstanding Alumni Award in Outreach and Service for providing professional development seminars for K-12 teachers in NC.  In 2011 she received NC State’s Jackson A. Rigney International Service Award for her work with Chinese teachers and students. In 2012, she received NC State's Alumni Graduate Professor Award, and in 2015 she received NC State's Centennial Campus Partnership Award for her international work with Centennial Campus Magnet Middle School. Dr. Spires studies the integration of emerging technologies in order to illustrate research-based, best practices for digital literacy learning. Her publications have appeared in Journal of Educational Psychology, Cognition & Instruction, Journal of Educational Computing Research, Literacy Research and Instruction, Computers and Education, and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, among others. She conducts research in the area of game-based literacies and learning on the NSF-funded project, Crystal Island, and co-directs the Friday Institute’s New Literacies Collaborative ( She also coordinates the New Literacies & Global Learning program, including the K-12 Literacy Cohort. She is currently helping create a state-of-the-art school in Suzhou, China. See

Research Description

Dr. Spires' research focuses on new literacies and related theories and practices that are being prompted by emerging technologies (e.g., game-based learning, video as textual production, and project-based inquiry & teacher education). She co-directs the New Literacies Collaborative (

Curriculum Vitae


Selected Scholarly Publications

  • Edited Book
    • Spires, H. (2018). (Ed.) Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education. Hershey, PA: IGI Global Publishing.
  • Articles and Chapters
    • Spires, H., Paul, C., & Yuan, C. (in press). Project-based inquiry: Professional development with Chinese EFL elementary teachers. In P. Roberson & T. Huber (Eds.), Inquiries into literacy learning and intercultural competency in a world of border tensions. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
    • Spires, H., Green, K., & Liang, P. (2018). Chinese parents’ perspectives on international higher education and innovation. In H.A. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education (pp. 272 – 287). Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
    • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Wang, L. (2018). Connecting to the future: Designing a state-of-the-art high school in Suzhou, China. In H.A. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education (pp. 191-210). Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
    • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S. & Zheng, M. (2018). Creating a community of inquiry with teachers in China: New literacies, new complexities. In H.A. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education (pp.100 – 118). Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
    • Spires, H. A., Paul, C., & Kerkhoff, S. N. (2018). Digital literacy for the 21st century. In M. Khosrow-Pour (Ed.), Encyclopedia of information science and technology (4thed.) (pp. 2235 – 2245). Hershey, PA: IGI Global.
    • Graham, A., Kerkhoff, S., & Spires, H. (2017). Disciplinary literacy in the middle school: Exploring pedagogical tensions. Middle Grades Research Journal, 11(1).
    • Pruden, M., Kerkhoff, S., Spires, H., & Lester, J. (2017). Enhancing writing achievement through a digital learning environment: Case studies of three struggling adolescent male writers. Reading and Writing Quarterly: Overcoming Learning Difficulties, 33(1) 1–19.
    • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Wang, L. (2016). Cross-cultural inquiry in science. Educational Leadership, 74(4), 72-74.
    • Spires, H., Himes, M., & Lyjak, E. (2016, July). Connecting classrooms to the future: Developing cross-cultural understandings through project-based inquiry. Literacy Today, 34(1), 26-27.
    • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., & Graham, A. (2016). Disciplinary literacy and inquiry: Teaching for deeper learning. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 60(2), 51-61. To download go to:
  • Spires, H., & Kerkhoff, S. (2016). New literacies. In S. B. Mertens, M. M. Caskey, & N. Flowers (Eds.), The encyclopedia of middle grades education (2nd ed.). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Spires, H. & Lester, J. (2016). Game-based learning: Creating a multidisciplinary community of inquiry. On the Horizon, 24(1).
  • Kerkhoff, S. & Spires, H. (2015). Getting close to close reading: Teachers making instructional shifts in early literacy. Journal of Language and Literacy, 11(2).
  • Spires, H. (2015). Digital game-based learning: What's literacy got to do with it? Journal of Adolescent and Adult Learning, 59(2), 125-130.
  • Spires, H., Zheng, M., & Bartlett, M. (2015). Digital gameplay: Effects on young adolescents' science content learning. In K. Malu & M.B. Schaefer, (Eds.), Research on teaching and learning with the literacies of young adolescents (Vol. 10, pp. 75-95). Handbook of research in middle level education. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • Lee, J., Spires, H., Wiebe, E., Hollebrands, K., & Young, C. (2015). Portrait of a one-to-one learning environment within a new learning ecology. International Journal of Learning, Teaching, and Educational Research, 10(3).
  • Zheng, M. & Spires, H., (2014). Fifth graders' flow experience in a digital game-based science learning environment. International Journal of Virtual and Personal Learning Environments, 5(2), 73-91
  • Lester, J., Spires, H., Nietfeld, J., Minogue, J., Mott, B., & Lobeni, E. (2014). Designing game-based learning environments for elementary science education: A narrative centered learning perspective. Journal of Information Science, 264, 4–18.
  • Spires, H., Hervey, L., & Watson, T. (2013). Scaffolding the TPACK framework with literacy teachers: New literacies, new minds. In C.A. Young & S. Kajder (Eds.). Research on English language arts and technology (pp. 33-61). Greenwich, CN: Information Age Press.
  • Spires, H., Morris, G., & Zhang, J. (2012). New literacies and emerging technologies: Perspectives from middle grade teachers in the US and China. Research in Middle Level Education, 35(10) 1-11.
  • Spires, H., Hervey, L., Morris, G., & Stelpflug, C. (2012). Energizing project-based inquiry: Middle grade students read, write, and create videos. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(6), 483-493.
  • Meluso, A., Zheng, M., Spires, H., & Lester, J.C. (2012). Enhancing 5th graders' science content knowledge and self-efficacy through game-based learning. Computers and Education, 59(2), 497-504.
  • Spires, H. A., Wiebe, E., Young, C. A., Hollebrands, K., & Lee, J. K. (2012). Toward a new learning ecology:Professional development for teachers in 1:1 learning environments. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 12(2). (Reprint of the Friday Institute White Paper. NC State University: Raleigh, NC.)
  • Spires, H., Rowe, J.P., Mott, B.W., & Lester, J.C. (2011). Problem solving and game-based learning: Effects of middle grade students' hypothesis testing strategies on science learning outcomes (link is external). Journal of Educational Computing Research, 44 (4), 445-464.
  • Spires, H., Oliver, K. & Corn, J. (2011). The new learning ecology of 1:1 computing environments: Preparing teachers for shifting dynamics and relationships. Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, 28 (2), 63 -72.

Courses Taught

  • ECI 546 New Literacies & Media
  • ECI 541 Content Area Reading
  • ECI 545 Theory and Research in Literacy
  • ECI 803 Advanced Seminar in Literacy Research
  • ECI 655 Internship in Reading

Research Areas