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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

  • Recent Chapters
  • Kerkhoff, S. N., Spires, H., & Wright, S. J. (2019). A world of difference: Teaching global citizenship through inquiry in a rural junior high school. In A. Cordova W. Reynolds (Eds.) Educating for social justice: Field notes from rural communities. Rotterdam, The Netherlands: Sense Publishers.
  • Spires, H., Green, K., & Liang, P. (2018). Chinese parents’ perspectives on international higher education and innovation. In H. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education. 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. 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. Spires (Ed.), Digital transformation and innovation in Chinese education. Hershey, PA: IGI-Global Publishing.
  • Spires, H., Paul, C., & Yuan, C. (2018). 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. 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.
  • 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., pp. 282-286). Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.
  • 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.
  • Spires, H. & Bartel, J. (2015). Digital literacy and engagement in business education. National business education research handbook (pp. 211-225). 2015 National Business Education Yearbook. Reston, VA: National Business Education Association. (Invited Chapter)
  • Recent Refereed Articles
  • Spires, H., Himes, M., Paul, C. & Kerkhoff, S. (2019). Going global with project-based inquiry: Cosmopolitan in literacies practice. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. Early release. Doi:org/10.1002/jaal.947
  • Spires, H., Eagle, J., Johnson, L., & McHugh, S. (accepted). Project-based inquiry (PBI) global in the kindergarten classroom: Inquiring about the world. Early Childhood Education Journal.
  • Spires, H., Medlock Paul, Himes, H. & Yuan, C. (2018). Cross-cultural collaborative inquiry: A collective case study with students from China and the US. International Journal of Educational Research, 91, 28-40.
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., & Fortune, N. (2018). Educational cosmopolitanism and collaborative inquiry with Chinese and US teachers. Teaching Education. DOI: 10.1080/10476210.2018.1506431
  • Spires, H., Kerkhoff, S., Graham, A., Thompson, I., & Lee, J. (2018). Operationalizing and validating disciplinary literacy in secondary education. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 31(6), 1401 – 1434.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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), 78-101.
  • 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. Information Sciences, 264, 4-18. 

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